Old Dog, New Tricks: The Volvo S60 Cross Country Drive Review

Volvo Cars have always been known for a certain demeanour. Elegant and self assured, a quintessential Volvo usually appeals to the liberal, educated, well heeled sorts, who value safety and refinement over flashy show of wealth. Lately however, the brand has been making a conscious effort to break away from these stereotypes. It has stepped out of its own comfort zone by aggressively reaching out to a younger, free spirited, tech savvy audience globally; connecting with them through music, sports, digital and less traditional marketing campaigns. It has also been hard at work developing a new range of cars focussed on progressive design, human centric technology and driver oriented performance. The Volvo V40 and the S60 Polestar, along with a few new concepts that have been unveiled globally over the last few months are a step in that direction.

Volvo’s latest addition to its India portfolio is the new S60 Cross Country. We had it in our fleet for a few days and it came to us in the lovely Rich Java paint option. While we had reviewed the Volvo S60 R-Design earlier, the S60 Cross Country happens to have a mind and heart of its own. What seemed like a marketing gimmick at first glance, was actually a sizzling package that pleasantly surprised us with its mild audacity.

Half car, half soft roader, the S60 Cross Country is a ‘crossover sedan’ combining coupé-like styling with rugged capabilities. Volvo calls it “Swedish luxury with a spirit of adventure”. At first glance it is deceptively similar to the standard S60, barring a few subtle changes on the exterior that only a fanatical Volvo fan can spot. It isn’t such a bad thing though, as Volvo’s entry level luxury sedan is undoubtedly one of the best looking cars in its segment. The design is extremely well balanced, sporty and aesthetically appealing when compared to competition. Add to it the rugged appeal of an urban utility vehicle, and the S60 Cross Country is in equal parts sophisticated and brawny.

The honeycomb grille in the front, the cladding around the wheel arches, large 18″ alloys, black mirror & window trims, front, side & rear scuff plates, and an integrated set of tailpipes give it a daunting presence, back to front. But the real deal is its incredible ground clearance and an AWD that makes it capable of indulging in some serious off road antics. Standing tall with a clearance of 201mm, it is a good 65mm higher than the standard S60 and beats some of the compact luxury crossovers like Audi Q3, Mercedes Benz GLA and BMW X1 at its game. In terms of overall dimensions, the S60 Cross Country is just a fraction longer than the S60 at 4638mm, but the width of 1899mm gives it 74mm additional space which makes a considerable difference. It means generous space and elbow room at the front and comfortable seating for three at the rear, with a relatively low transmission tunnel running through the middle. The overall height of 1539mm makes the S60 Cross Country about 55mm taller than the standard S60, but headroom at the rear can still be a bit tight for tall adults due to the sloping roofline. Overall, these dimensions give it a bold, muscular and imposing exterior stance that is both intimidating and reassuring, setting it apart from the rest.

The interior of the S60 Cross Country is extremely well put together with a high level of detailing. The dashboard with the familiar floating center console in piano black, brushed aluminium and silver accents remains pretty much the same as the regular S60. The dual tone sport seats are done in a combination of offblack & beechwood brown with charcoal headlining and contrast stitching, which considerably brightens up things. The electronic front seats are well bolstered, ergonomically fashioned with body hugging contours and offer great side and thigh support. The seats can be heated or cooled, and the memory function for the driver’s seat ensures that you get back to your favourite position even after someone else has driven. They are meticulously designed and yet again prove Volvo’s tradition of crafting the best seats in the business.

The driving position is unlike a sedan and more SUV-ish, with a commanding view that makes you feel well in control. The digital display cluster for the driver has a single round instrument flanked by two smaller dials that can be customized in terms of colour and themes like Elegance, Eco and Performance. Access to information related to vehicle and trip status is fairly easy and what shows up can be further personalized as per the driver’s requirement.

The equipment list in the S60 Cross Country is high, as the vehicle is available in a single fully loaded variant. There is a sunroof, rain sensing wipers, a personalized dual zone automatic climate control with rear air vents neatly integrated in the pillars, and a 7″ infotainment screen that integrates navigation and a reverse parking camera with assisted parking. The system seamlessly connects with your smartphone for calls and notifies/ reads out messages. Media compatibility includes DVD, USB, iPod, HDD, Bluetooth and AUX. Streaming music is a breeze and the sound system is quite brilliant. A high quality remote allows you to control the entire system from the back seat. Another unique feature is a compass embedded elegantly in the frameless rear view mirror which is a nice touch for a vehicle that boasts of an all weather, all terrain drive experience. There is also a ‘Clean Zone’ feature that restricts particulate matter, odours & pollen from entering the cabin.

The S60 Cross Country comes with the detuned D5 2.4L 5-cylinder diesel engine, which produces 190bhp and 420Nm of torque. The numbers are exciting and the drive is quite brilliant and engaging. The quick shifting 6-speed automatic transmission makes for a great time behind the wheel. You could even engage the sport mode and flick the manual paddle shifts for more awesomeness. The engine is extremely refined and produces most of its power in the lower RPM range of 1500 upto 3000. And the lack of turbo lag means that the S60 Cross Country can comfortably exploit any gap.

Quite remarkably for a vehicle with a raised suspension, the S60 Cross Country remains stable at high speed cornering, thanks in part to the permanent all-wheel drive system. There is no evident sign of body roll and it has tonnes of grip while cornering, with the sturdy construction and high profile tires making the car that much easier to drive, and extremely fun to push beyond limits. The electronic tilt & telescopic power steering wheel is nifty and speed sensitive, firming up at high speeds and light and easy to handle when slow. The turning radius at 11.3m could have been better though, considering the size of the car. The steering comes mounted with cruise control, voice command and buttons to control the infotainment system & volume controls, for a relaxed and stress free drive.

The cabin is well insulated and does not allow any engine or road noise to sneak in. But negotiating big potholes or rough patches can be a tad noisy. The bumps get amplified thanks to a stiff suspension, but barring a ride quality that feels a bit harder than usual on those challenging occasions, it quickly adapts itself back to offer a fairly decent and pliant ride.

The S60 Cross Country’s party trick remains the AWD system and its unusually high ground clearance. The electronic management system monitors and throws more power behind the wheels with the best grip under changing driving conditions, and that gives this vehicle a go-anywhere attitude that is rarely seen in luxury sedans. Extremely well suited for Indian conditions we would say, as it lets you stay sure-footed and in-control even in the most unpredictable conditions. Though we didn’t push it too hard off-road and would have loved to test it a bit more, it was amply clear to us that light off-roading is not a worry for this one. It dares to go where no other sedan goes.

All in all, the S60 Cross Country is an extremely able crossover which excels dynamically. There is an enhanced sense of SUV-like control and sportiness, with sedan-like creature comfort.

Volvo continues to impress with its safety features. The S60 Cross Country has two-step airbags, curtain airbags, whiplash protection, Dynamic Traction Stability Control, Auto Start/ Stop, Electronic Parking Brake, Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist. The ‘City Safety’ feature, which is an autonomous emergency braking system reduces collision risks and accidents at low speeds. Then there is the ‘Active Bending Lights’ feature, that follows the steering direction allowing clear vision around corners. The ‘Active High Beam’ function on the other hand, automatically dims the beam when it senses oncoming vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. This avoids blinding them and reduces the chances of any fatality. There is also an auto tilt option for the ORVMs which can be activated while reversing, to get a closer look at any ground obstructions. Very thoughtful.

The S60 Cross Country is a unique offering that is unlike anything else in its segment. Depending on how you look at it, its immediate competitors remain the Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class and the BMW 3 Series on one hand, and the Audi Q3, Mercedes Benz GLA and BMW X1 on the other. However, none of these can boast of the ‘go-anywhere’ attitude that this one has. Its handsome presence, calm and confident demeanour, feature rich equipment and uncompromised focus on safety puts it in a league of its own. Add to that class leading ground clearance, a well balanced all-wheel drive system and a powerful engine, and Volvo has a winner at hand. All it needs to do is reach out to more prospective consumers on ground, get them to touch, feel and experience the vehicle through test drives and experience zones, and get them to engage with the brand.

Touch and feel is important, and so is the drive experience. With all honesty, we have to admit that even we didn’t think much of this variant until we actually drove it. That made all the difference, as we started to appreciate the dual utility and purpose that this one offers.

The downside of the S60 Cross Country was the low mileage figure we clocked. Without pushing it too hard and driving mostly in normal city conditions, we managed to achieve 9.8 km/l. Our vehicle was a brand new one which had just clocked 2000 odd kms, so things may just improve a bit with time. In-cabin stowage and boot space remains another issue with the S60 Cross Country. While there are no bottle holders in the cabin, the boot capacity is just 380L. The spare wheel in this one thankfully sits in a niche with a cover that makes the available space flat and useable, though very less. But that’s still better than the S60, where the wheel is just thrown inside the boot making it almost unusable.

Priced at INR 38.90 lacs (ex-showroom Delhi), the S60 Cross Country is more affordable, when compared to the top end variants of competition. When we drove the S60 a few months back, we felt that the car had a lot of untapped potential. With the S60 Cross Country, Volvo has managed to exploit that. It has taught an old dog some brand new tricks, which no one would have even thought of. What makes the S60 Cross Country stand out from the sea of entry level luxury sedans is its new take on an existing concept. The ‘crossover sedan’ adds a dash of life into the segment and would most certainly make the rest of the pack go back to the drawing board.

The S60 Cross Country doesn’t disappoint either as a sedan or as a light off-roader. As an overall package, it gives most crossovers a run for their money and the fact that it does not have a direct competitor puts it in a unique position. It is a solution to a problem that we never seemed to notice, but now that it has arrived, it makes us fairly convinced that the problem existed.

We’d say go for the S60 Cross Country for its sheer uniqueness. A Volvo never disappoints, and this one shows you a few moves that you never thought it was capable of.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top