by Ian Wright
Volvo became a successful global automaker mainly through its station wagons, but we now live in a world where crossovers and SUVs reign supreme. Yet, Volvo still insists on making sure it has some wagons in its lineup, and we love the Swedish brand for it. The Volvo V60 is the automaker's smaller wagon compared to the V90, and the Cross Country trim is where Volvo gives it a lift and an all-wheel-drive system to give it the ability to go, well, cross-country. Not off-roading, just cross country for the outdoorsy types with at least one dog. What Volvo hasn't done with the Cross Country trim is cut down on its elegance and status as a premium wagon; the Cross Country is also the only gas V60 in the stable now.
For 2023, the V60 as a whole gets a light styling refresh and Volvo's new Google-based infotainment system. The V60 Cross Country is powered by a spritely 250-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an unnoticeable mild hybrid assist and all-wheel-drive for when you want to get the dog out into the countryside.
See trim levels and configurations:
While the 2023 V60's styling refresh is light, it's effective and mainly in the new wheels and reworked front and rear bumpers. We liked the additional dose of road presence while retaining the sophisticated understatement common through Volvo's range. Even adding plastic body cladding doesn't damage the V60's understated presence and style. It's not showing off because it doesn't need to show off, and that gives you a big clue to Volvo's key demographic - people with some money that don't need to shout about it. There's no massive grille, no oversized wheels, just perfect proportions, and elegant lines.
One thing about Volvo's V60 interior that shows it's a cut above is the carpeting your hand brushes when you clip the seatbelt into place. It's a small thing, but the kind of thing that's missed by so many automakers charging premium money for cars and crossovers. You can put all the expensive wood across the dashboard and stick flashy badges everywhere, but the moment the back of your hand brushes plastic, somewhere deep in your brain, it registers that you just touched cheap materials in your expensive car. And yes, that's a whole paragraph on the carpet between the seat and center console rather than the crystal gear shifter by Orrefors. That's how critical small touches are to the premium experience in a car. Add that to things like the excellent air purification system, genuine leather, and Driftwood inlays, and you have an interior that feels more expensive than it is. The interior as a whole has something to it that's best described as being in an unpretentious but classy coffee shop.
Despite being the smaller Volvo wagon, everyone has plenty of space, including enough room in the back for a six-foot adult not to complain about. Then, if you think a crossover will have more cargo space, that's not the case; the 35.2 inches of rear passenger legroom doesn't come at the cost of its 60.5 cubic feet of cargo space.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder B5 engine produces 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, which is plenty for the car. Less would do it a disservice, and more would be wasteful. However, like all of Volvo's four-cylinder engines, it's a little more unrefined in the noise department than we expect - even with its 48V mild-hybrid system. We know Volvo has leaned into downsizing its gas engines and would rather use a supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder than a V6, but the brand should look into some sound deadening under the hood and extra along the firewall.
It's a minor quibble, though, as the driving experience is smooth, and the V60 Cross Country feels effortless to drive. Even when going cross country, where the all-wheel-drive system keeps everything balanced. After some heavy desert rain and with on-road tires, we had a chance to test the Hill Descent Control. We didn't slide down the hill, so we'll call that a successful piece of engineering.
There is a learning curve to using Volvo's infotainment system residing behind its vertically-oriented nine-inch touchscreen, and that's mainly down to the HVAC controls being accessed through the screen. The rest isn't a big deal to pick up on, and the new Google-based system is a step up over the old system. You can add apps, but the most important one, Google Maps, is baked in and works excellently whether you link your Google account or not. You can also put the map and navigation onto the digital gauge cluster, and it all comes together as a slick user interface. Apple CarPlay and Android are standard but less necessary than before. More necessary is the onboard Wi-Fi hotspot using a 4G LTE data connection.
If you like music at all, do option the Bowers & Wilkins system, as it's as immersive as it is impressive. Seriously, you have to tread into Bentley or Rolls-Royce money to find a better factory audio system.
Despite its minor lift, the V60 Cross Country drives like a sedan - a purposeful sedan with compliant suspension and a lack of body roll in corners. The steering is light and easy but not light enough to encourage jerky inputs. The engine has pulling power for freeway entries and overtaking painfully slow traffic, aurally supplemented by intake noise from the engine. When cruising, the engine noise goes away, and the Volvo becomes a stress-free environment that can only be invaded by other drivers acting erratically.
The Cross Country model drives just about as nicely as any other V60, but it has that extra ride height, all-wheel-drive, and software that helps optimize traction and grip. We took the V60 Cross Country onto dusty and wet, slippery ground, and found its controllability close to our benchmark, which is the soft-roading Mazda CX-50 in its upper trim levels. Mazda's tuning for off-road is better, but the V60 Cross Country feels just as accomplished unless you start pushing it around.
The Volvo V60 Cross Country starts at $50,095, and manages to justify its cost, but we would add the Bowers & Wilkinson sound system. Seriously, it's the cherry you want on the cake of the V60's interior. The one criticism is that the V60 deserves a more refined powertrain, whether that's hybrid or a larger engine that doesn't need to rev up to get to cruising speed. Otherwise, it's one of the more pleasant ways we can think of to spend over $50,000 in one hit and does everything a crossover does just as well, if not better. For people more interested in having fun while driving, the same money gets you to the top of the range of the Mazda CX-50, which is our yardstick for the soft-roading segment. However, as nice as the Mazda's interior is, it doesn't have carpet between the seat and the center console. Just bear that in mind.
The most popular competitors of 2023 Volvo V60 Cross Country: