Volvo adds the jacked-up Cross Country model to the delectable V60 mid-sized estate family and, as you might expect from the revitalised Swedish company, it's another utterly glorious creation. Possibly even the best thing the company makes right now, if we're honest, and that really is quite some accolade.
In the Metal:
We think the regular Volvo V60 is just gorgeous, a near-perfect rendering of an estate car's physical form and a machine that makes the otherwise-fabulous V90 look a trifle overblown and gawky. That being said, our first glance at the V60 Cross Country - the latest model in a dynasty that has already given us the V90 Cross Country - makes us think this is how the more compact Volvo estate was always meant to be.
It just looks so, so right. Oh sure, it doesn't do anything particularly innovative in terms of the aesthetics, as these off-road wagons go; in fact, it's along the usual lines - ride height puffed up by 60mm, roof rails, cladding around the sills and wheel arches, different bumpers, skid plates and its own design of diamond-cut alloys. But the net effect of a Volvo V60 in Cross Country guise and, preferably, white paint is love for its form that's to the point of exultant adulation. Seriously, why go for a lumpen and bulky SUV when you could have this beautiful thing instead?
There's not much else going on with the car visually, certainly in terms of changes to the regular V60's cabin - but as that's spacious enough, luxurious enough and downright attractive enough to have you denouncing anything Audi can cobble together as substandard, this is no bad thing. The V60 Cross Country offering in Ireland should also be simple, because it will be offered with the 190hp/400Nm D4 2.0-litre turbodiesel drivetrain and all-wheel drive alone; a 250hp T5 petrol engine will join other right-hand-drive markets later in the year, but that's unlikely to be taken up here, where our tax laws would ensure it'd remain a hyper-niche purchase.
Let's get the negatives out of the way first - or, should we say, negative? Because there's only one - the handling is only 'very good'. The V60 Cross Country is by no means bad in the cornering stakes, and nor is it even merely adequate, but you'll still get a sharper drive from a rival German machine, if grip and lack of understeer and throttle adjustability are all your main priorities.
Why you'd be looking at a Swedish off-roader if you want those sorts of things, though, is beyond us and so, in all other regards, the V60 Cross Country is quite simply wonderful. That 60mm taller suspension is comfort-oriented for its tuning, which makes the ride quality of the Volvo second-to-none in this class. It soaks up everything a road surface can throw at it with barely any murmur of discontent, the suspension so quiet in operation that it only adds to the whole unruffled, relaxing air of the Cross Country. Its tyres don't add anything to the outside noise contributors trying to seep their way (unsuccessfully) into the cabin, which means travelling in the tallest V60 is an unmitigated delight. If anything, it even rides and rolls along better than the XC60 SUV.
If that's not enough to have you rushing down to your local Volvo dealer, credit card in hand and ready to spec up a decent Cross Country, maybe its off-road prowess might help. Volvo laid on a reasonably tricky off-road route for the V60s and it managed to plough its way round with some serious skill. The all-wheel-drive system is the main contributor, the Cross Country being a crossover estate that actually backs up its rugged appearance with the necessary hardware - we're looking at you, here, Ford Focus Active - but the addition of Hill Descent Control (HDC) and an 'Off-Road' setting in its Drive Mode menu also help matters.
This latter function operates at speeds below 40km/h and calibrates all of the engine, gearbox, throttle and AWD to suit, as well as switching on the HDC automatically. It also ramps up the power-assistance for the steering, to make it lighter, and alters the instrument cluster to show a compass and the speed limit. All told, the Volvo can go much further into the rough stuff than owners would ever need it to, provided you avoid the deepest of muddy bogs (it is only an estate car, after all), and perhaps of more interest will be its 2,000kg braked-trailer towing capacity. At any rate, with 300mm of wading depth and approach/departure/breakover angles of 17, 18 and 23 degrees respectively, the Cross Country has more than enough technical ability to live up to its name.
And the performance? Well, it's a D4 Volvo, isn't it? The engine is smooth and muscular, and perhaps a trifle on the coarse side when revved out to peak power, but more than capable of shifting the 1,862kg Cross Country around with decent alacrity on its meaty midrange torque alone. Teamed to the near-seamless eight-speed auto and the AWD traction, the Volvo is a sprightly on-road performer and one that should also be pretty decent on fuel. All in all, it's a glowing dynamic report card to back up a vehicle that looks as good, outside and in, as the Volvo V60 Cross Country. That's a strong package, then, we think you'd agree.
What you get for your Money:
We haven't got the exact pricing for Ireland as yet, but going by the cost of a V60 D4 in decent specification, plus the premiums required for the Cross Country styling and the AWD system, we'd be very surprised if the latest Volvo started at anything less than €50,000. Its lofty status within the V60 family - Volvo sees it as an analogue for an R-Design - means it will get a generous equipment list for that money, including the nine-inch touchscreen infotainment and satnav, LED headlights with active high beam, a powered tailgate, the 12.3-inch TFT display, part-leather seats, front parking sensors (as well as rear) and dual-zone climate control, among more.
Plush ride, stunning looks, a decent dose of off-road ability and all the usual tremendous Volvo V60 Mk2 attributes - in reality, aside from the marque's so-so handling manners, there's precious little to find fault about with the latest Cross Country creation. Volvo, as a brand, has an incredibly talented product line-up right now, but this thing might just be the jewel in the crown. Magnificent.