When Volvo called and asked if I wanted to fly to the Arctic Circle in the middle of winter to test the new 2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country on the frozen Baltic Sea, the answer was of course “yes.” I was enthused not only because we’d be sideways in Sweden’s newest wagon on a frozen major body of water—with ice more than 30 inches thick thanks to subzero temps and barely six hours of daylight this time of year—but also because I own a 2016 V60 and was eager to compare old and new. My car has treated me well, with Volvo’s long-running, 251-hp turbocharged inline-five under the hood. It also comfortably fits four suitcases, three humans, and two sets of skis. In essence, I am the target market for the new Cross Country.
We landed in Luleå, Sweden at midday, with barely two hours of sun to spare and a thermometer reading -18 degrees Celsius—that’s 0 in Fahrenheit-speak. Volvo wagon taxis with rally-style auxiliary lights abounded at the airport, and we were whisked off to the island of Gråsjälören in the middle of Luleå’s harbor. The surprise was to find it surrounded by publicly maintained ice roads packed with ice skaters, pedestrians, and mothers pushing baby carriages, plus a couple dozen brand-new Volvo wagons equipped with Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 studded winter tires, heated steering wheels, and seat heaters.
Gråsjälören is a popular weekend destination for locals, but we don’t dawdle there and head out onto the harbor. There, the Finnish-made winter tires perform admirably, although our speed is admittedly low as there’s a strictly enforced limit on the ice. Once across, we head out onto the back roads of Swedish Lapland.
The Swedish-assembled V60 Cross Country is only available with Volvo’s T5 powertrain, a 250-hp, 258 lb-ft turbocharged four-cylinder that mates to an eight-speed automatic and drives all four wheels as standard. This setup is familiar from most of Volvo’s other offerings, although many of those models also allow one to upgrade to the super- and turbocharged T6 or plug-in-hybrid T8. The standard V60 has the T6 on its menu.
As is typical with Volvo’s Cross Country wagons, the V60 version rides higher than its regular sibling, by 2.4 inches in this case. It also gains protective and SUV-aping cladding, plus a few off-road-friendly features like hill-descent control and a softer suspension tune. Volvo’s typical Momentum and Inscription trims are gone; this one is offered in just one spec.
If there was any bare pavement on our drive, I don’t remember it. Winter tires are de rigueur here, and everyone is naturally acclimated to driving in the slippery conditions. Cruising along backroads at the posted 80-kph (50 mph) speed limit is serene and uneventful. The Cross Country is comfortable and capable, and the T5 engine provides ample grunt for day-to-day use. Being a snow-and icebound drive, however, there wasn’t much opportunity to evaluate its handling except to say that is easily controllable, the steering is as accurate as the regular V60’s, and the ride is cushier but not at all sofa-like. A stint on a frozen ice course was amusing but didn’t illuminate much more beyond that.
The car is, in short, what we expected it to be. But Volvo’s Euro-spec headlights were a bit of a revelation, as they automatically dim portions of the left-side beam to avoid blinding oncoming traffic but leave the right side at full brightness to keep watch for marauding moose. It was my first experience with such technology—similar lights are offered overseas by Audi, among other makers—and while they were constantly at work due to traffic, after a while I got used to the flickering and bemoaned the terribly outdated NHTSA regulations that keep such intelligent lights from our market. That may change soon, and Volvo and other European automakers are eager to offer the tech in America.
The Cross Country’s interior is all but identical to those of the S60 and V60, diverging only in the adoption of some unique accent pieces in the Cross Country. The seats are fantastically comfortable, as we’ve long come to expect from Volvo, and the giant, portrait-orientation Sensus touchscreen looks pretty. Start fiddling, however, and you might notice it’s a touch too slow to respond, and that the labels on the “buttons” can be a bit hard to read.
As with all modern Volvos, the Thor’s hammer light signatures serve as a trademark up front, and the exterior design is overwhelmingly Scandinavian and nicely tailored. If you like the XC90, S60, or any of the other Volvo cars launched since 2016, you’ll like this one. Exact options, packages, and pricing for the U.S. are to be determined, but expect the Cross Country to start somewhere in the low to mid $40K range.
Beyond spending time in the pleasant V60 Cross Country—it just may be time for an upgrade—the highlight of the trip comes when trying to set the navigation from the middle of the Bay of Bothnia, with the confused GPS warning us that our “vehicle is located beyond the map.” What a place.
2019 Volvo V60 Cross Country Specifications
|ENGINE||2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve inline-4, 250 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD wagon|
|EPA MILEAGE||25/31 mpg (city/highway)|
|L x W x H||188.3 x 72.8 x 59.0 in|
|WEIGHT||3,900 lb (est)|
|0–60 MPH||6.5 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||130 mph|