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Volvo S60 Cross Country India review, test drive

7th Mar 2016 6:03 pm

The first ‘cross sedan’ to hit the Indian market might seem like a niche too far, but somehow, it just works.

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  • Make : Volvo
  • Model : S60

What is it?

Traditionally, in the car world, the word ‘crossover’ refers to a monocoque SUV that’s usually front-wheel-drive biased, not so great off-road, but relatively more spacious and easy to drive than a traditional ladder-frame 4x4. Strictly speaking though, crossover can mean the combination of any two contradicting ideas, and when you think about it, we’ve had several of them over the years. There have been crossover estates like the Fiat Adventure, crossover MPVs like the Tata Aria and, of course, so many crossover hatchbacks. But a crossover sedan? That seems a step too far, right? Volvo doesn’t think so, which is why we have this – the S60 Cross Country.

Unlike the V40 Cross Country, where the differences from the standard car are purely cosmetic, the S60 Cross Country has also had its suspension lifted. The ground clearance is now a proper 201mm which, Volvo is happy to point out, is more than what any of the current crop of compact luxury SUVs offer. It also gets all-wheel drive as standard, and of course, there is the usual smattering of rugged add-ons – black plastic wheel-arch cladding, silver scuff plates and a rather nice-looking honeycomb grille. The look actually works surprisingly well, and the S60 CC comes off as purposeful, rather than awkward. What really helps are the larger wheels and tyres, which add some much needed bulk to fill up those wheel arches. They’re attractive 18-inchers with 50-profile tyres, and that means ride comfort should also be well catered to.

Volvo is pitching the S60 Cross Country as a car for those who like having a sedan and don’t want to buy a second car (an SUV) just to drive out to their farmhouse or factory where the roads are less than desirable. Is that stretching the crossover idea too thin? That’s what we aim to find out.

What’s it like on the inside?

Pretty much identical to the standard car, and while that’s no bad thing from a luxury standpoint, we would have liked to have seen some differentiators on the interior. This cabin is also really starting to show its age now, and doesn’t feel quite as special as something from BMW, Audi, Mercedes or even Jaguar. The Cross Country is available in only one fully loaded trim, and so what you see on this test car is what you get. It’s pretty substantial – electric front seats, driver’s seat memory, sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera are all on the list. I am a big fan of the digital instrument cluster, but I’m less of a fan of the infotainment system; it’s functional, but feels a little old school. Volvo has made sure to give the S60 Cross Country a space-saver spare wheel, which is nice, but the cradle this wheel sits in is so massive, it takes up half of the boot, which is not really saving any space at all, is it?

The front seats, as ever, are very shapely, comfortable and supportive, as are the ones at the back, except here, you’re sat a little low and the windows are small. Still, space and comfort are pretty decent no matter where you’re sat. You barely notice the slightly higher step you have to take into the cabin, but it actually makes ingress a little easier. Similarly, from the driver’s seat, you don’t get the sense that you’re sitting higher off the ground; it feels like a normal S60. You actually have to remind yourself that you have the extra buffer of about 60mm more ground clearance, and that you can drive this car with reckless abandon over rough roads.

 

What’s it like to drive?

The only engine you get in the S60 Cross Country is the 2.4-litre D4 – a detuned, 189bhp, 42.83kgm version of the five-cylinder diesel you get in the standard S60; we were hoping for one of the new four-cylinder Drive-E motors, but it’s not on the cards. It puts its power down through a six-speed automatic gearbox and standard all-wheel-drive, in keeping with its soft-roader USP.

It’s not a thrilling motor, but it’s actually pretty quick. We clocked an 8.2sec 0-100kph time, which is really not too bad for this sort of car. It’s very refined at idle, but the moment the revs climb to about 1,800rpm, you get an ugly diesel clatter. At full chat, the five-cylinder thrum is quite unique sounding, but of course, it’s not what you’d call sporty. Similarly, the car doesn’t leap off the line ferociously when you punch down your right foot, but instead, builds its speed in a smooth and measured manner. The gearbox can be a bit slow to react in kickdown situations, but because of the lack of urgency from the motor, it’s pretty easy to manage.

As you might have expected, Volvo has had to stiffen up the suspension with the ride height increase, and yes, you can definitely feel an inherent firmness as you go over a poor patch of road. However, it’s not as bad in the ride department as you might think, and it’s got a really nice soft edge to it. That might have something to do with the generous 50-profile tyres. So yes, while it can bounce you around a little bit over particularly rough sections, overall, the ride is actually quite good. Moreover, the benefits of super flat high-speed cruising composure can’t be ignored. No, AWD hasn’t transformed this inherently front-wheel-drive car into a handling legend either, but it’s tidy enough going around a corner. Where this car actually feels at home is on a dirt track, which is what Volvo expects many of the S60 Cross Country’s customers will have to encounter often enough, and you can even feel the AWD kick in to pull you back into line from time to time.

Should I buy one?

Unlike its competitors, Volvo doesn’t currently have a compact SUV in its range; its most affordable one is the XC60, which rivals the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, not the X1 and Q3. However, while this is no direct solution to that gap in the line-up, some potential buyers might just consider it. So, what is this oddball car, and what’s it for? Honestly, it seems like a contradiction of ideas that shouldn’t work, but somehow it just does. The awkward height is made up for by the rugged details and it has this strange, rally-car-like coolness about it – people initially thought the BMW X6 was weird too, remember? The S60 CC really does serve up the best of both worlds – the comfort and prestige of a sedan with the rugged appeal and more practical ground clearance of an SUV. More than anything, it’s a truly unique proposition, and that alone makes it worth checking out. If that's not reason enough for you, its knockout price of Rs 38.9 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai) surely should be.

GAVIN D’SOUZA

 

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