For Volvo, the last five years have been a bumpy ride. In 2010, the Swedish carmaker was off-loaded by Ford and taken over by Chinese automotive conglomerate Geely Holding Group. Since then, the company has been busy retooling for the future and building up to an ambitious plan that will see an entirely new line-up by 2019.
In essence, Volvo is setting about taking its brand back — not from its Chinese owners, but from the abyss that resides outside the spotlight.
The 2015 Volvo V60 Cross Country is not one of the vehicles that will lead this charge; it’s a throwback to the past, a stopgap measure to lure erstwhile customers into showrooms - it'll hit Aussie showrooms later this year - until the new era begins. This estate car is a mix of classic Volvo qualities (which are good) and some outdated features (which are, well, outdated).
This doesn’t mean to imply that the V60 CC isn’t a good car (because it is), but rather that it’s the proverbial answer to a question no one is really asking. Allow me to muddy the waters a little. The V60 CC is not based on the V60 platform, but rather on the XC70 platform. It’s essentially an XC70 raised by 65 mm that looks like a V60 with off-road body cladding slapped on.
The V60 is available with three different types of chassis: Touring, Sport or Dynamic. The V60 CC is only available with the Dynamic Chassis, which brings a more rigid body and improved suspension for a more, well, dynamic driving experience. The XC70 is available with only the Touring and Sport chassis, so it’s clear that the V60 CC, in every respect except outward styling, should have been called the V70 CC.
(A further word on Volvo nomenclature: Cross Country (CC) is part of the new naming system, while the “XC” designation will be reserved only for crossovers and SUVs in the future.)
This begs the question: Why is a V60 with more ground clearance and brawny accessories needed when people who want this type of vehicle normally just buy a crossover or SUV? The slightly rhetorical answer: The original V70 Cross Country, which first appeared in 1997.
The V70 Cross Country was a very influential vehicle that went on to become an unabashed automotive icon. It also helped pave the way for a subset of crossovers that look more like tall estate cars than SUVs — a subset that continues to resonate with enthusiasts.
In producing a car that harkens back to the past, Volvo is announcing its intention to maintain brand integrity, even after ceding control to a Chinese company and while undergoing a massive product push that has already begun with the largely wonderful 2016 Volvo XC90.
So, yes, the V60 CC is technically a “new vehicle”, but it is not a new vehicle under the skin. For example, this Volvo features a turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol engine, not one of the next-generation four-cylinders that is set to revolutionise the entire fleet.
With 184kW of power and 361Nm the turbo five-pot is a decent engine with reasonable intestinal fortitude and a nice growl, though it suffers in terms of overall efficiency compared to what one finds in the new, high-tech XC90. Indeed, the V60 CC is a thirsty, with claimed fuel use of 10.6 litres per 100 kilometres.
To make matters more challenging, the engine is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission, not exactly what one expects in 2015 from the typical luxury car manufacturer (we're used to seeing dual-clutch or seven/eight-speed transmissions). Cap this off with the fact paddleshifters are not available and the V60 CC driving experience feels very 2010.
The Volvo comes standard with an all-wheel drive system by Haldex, the Swedish company that knows a thing or two about winter. Unseasonably warm weather in Lake Tahoe prevented any true testing of the system’s capabilities in adverse conditions, but we did rip around a pylon course in an empty airfield. During this exercise, the Volvo showed natural but slightly slow steering and good balance.
The V60 CC is fitted with a torque-vectoring system that brakes the inside wheel to aid in cornering and a network of active safety systems that bring the vehicle to a grinding halt before loss of control can occur. The emphasis here is definitely on stability at all costs and not on tail-happy driving enjoyment.
The cabin is a familiar and comfortable environment, but as with the mechanical underpinnings, there are signs that things are getting dated. The 7.0-inch screen set at the top of the dashboard is tiny compared to the current standard, and the array of tiny buttons stands in stark opposition to the minimalist approach taken with the new XC90.
The 2015 Volvo V60 Cross Country is a strange animal. It’s a decent car, a car very much in keeping with the manufacturer’s “Swedish luxury” ethos and it performs as expected. Nevertheless, it feels so dated in comparison to the XC90, it’s as if different manufacturers developed the two vehicles. And, in many respects, the “old Volvo” and the “new Volvo” are different manufacturers.