2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country first drive review: A sedan for going cross country and off pavement

2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country

2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country

So let’s say you really don’t want a wagon. Really really don’t want a wagon, you know, for whatever reason. Not even a crossover/SUV kind of wagon. Maybe it’s too domesticated, too close to a minivan, and how are you going to pick up chicks with that?

But what if you really need something with all-wheel drive and ground clearance. And for good measure, Scandinavian style. That rules out the Germans. Audi has the Quattro A4, and the Q3, but the one doesn’t have the clearance and the other is a crossover/wagon. And BMW has the Grand Turismo, but is shy on the ground clearance, still a hatchback and not a sedan, and there’s still that Swedish thing.

2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country interior

The 2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country interior is sculpted Scan design. (click to enlarge)

Subaru had a high-ground clearance four-door sedan a few years back, the Outback SUS (for Sport Utility Sedan), but it proved unpopular. And you know, it was a Subaru. Good luck with that, Earl.

So there’s the 2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country. It is, as its name suggests, an S60 sedan, but with the running gear set up to go cross country. That’s maybe out to the south 40 to check on the pedigreed Angus, then plug a quail or two before heading into town to catch dinner and a show. Rock crawling with the Jeep Wrangler crowd? We think not.

But for this very specific niche, there’s only the 2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country.

The S60 Cross Country is a new model for 2016, and it’s easily noticeable by its 7.9-inch ground clearance stance (versus 5.4 inches for the standard S60). Volvo also adds also a honeycomb grille and lower skid plate that we’d be reluctant to skid on anything. The sides get black fender extensions and rub rails over the rocker panels, which we have a reluctance for rubbing. There’s a skid plate at the rear, too, but you’d have to go through the muffler to use it, so we’d limit the Cross Country to crossing fields rather than running rocky roads, at least other than those at the ice cream parlor.

Volvo restricts model designation to the rear bumper only, with “CROSS COUNTRY” debossed almost across the rear of the car.

2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country insreument panel

The 2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country instrument panel in sport mode has a large tachometer/digital speedometer in the center. Switch to ECO or default for an analog speedometer. (click to enlarge)

Don’t look form Volvo’s new Drive-E engine used in the V70 in the S60 Cross Country however. The 2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country comes only with Volvo’s five-cylinder turbocharged engine mounted transversely under the hood. It’s rated at 250 horsepower at 5400 rpm, but has maximum torque of 266 lb-ft spread over 1800 to 4200 rpm, giving the S60 Cross Country a responsiveness around town and solid acceleration for merging into fast-moving traffic.

For better or worse, the five has that distinctive five-cylinder dual-tone siren-like moan as it accelerates at full throttle. Love it or leave it, it’s part of the S60 Cross Country persona. It’s the only five on the American road since Volkswagen dropped their 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated 5-cylinder engine used the Passat, Beetle and elsewhere.

2016 Volvo S60 Cross Countr

2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country (click to enlarge)

The five-cylinder turbo in the Cross Country is available only with a six-speed automatic and Volvo’s “All-Wheel Drive with Instant Traction,” a full-time system that reduces power to a slipping wheel and sends it to the wheels with traction.

Speaking of traction, the S60 Cross Country has traction control of course, but also includes corner traction control with torque vectoring, helping push the car around a corner by transferring power to the outside wheels, front and rear, reducing understeer, according to Volvo. It’s not something that’s really felt, at least not without shutting it off, and that’s not possible, so just trust and enjoy.

That doesn’t replace stability control, which is standard. The Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) also has a sport mode to allowed controlled slip for “performance driving,” which most drivers really won’t need unless they engage in pro rally.

2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country

“CROSS COUNTRY” ia writ large across the rear bumper of the 2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country. (click to enlarge)

Because it’s a Volvo, the 2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country is loaded with safety features, all standard. Full auto brake detects other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists via a camera and radar-based system, and brakes automatically if they move into the path of the car and the driver doesn’t take action to avoid hitting them. Also standard is adaptive cruise control with queue assist, which extends cruise control down to a standstill. Other standard features include collision warning with full auto brake, driver alert warning (detects when a driver is operating the car in a way—drifting, etc.—that suggest the driver is falling asleep), distance alert, lane departure warning, and active high beam.

Volvo qualifies as full luxury, and does so with a Swedish accent. Interior styling is elemental and elegant, sculpted where Audi and BMW are machined. If the interior looks familiar it’s because, of course, it’s a Volvo S60, but more outdoorsy with strap-like additions to the upholstery. On our test vehicle, the interior was finished in a gray matching the exterior, offset with stitching in camel. Very classy.