Depending on who you believe, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort claims either the fourth- or sixth-tallest vertical drop of any ski resort in North America. Earlier, looking up from the valley below, the mountainside certainly looked shockingly vertical. Now, from the gondola station at the top, the valley is undeniably a long drop down.
And Volvo wants me to drive down there in one of the V60 wagons incongruously clustered around the gondola station where they’ve been drawing bemused stares from hikers and mountain bikers after another group of journalists had driven them up to the top.
None of this is quite as harebrained as it seems. The V60 in question is the new Cross Country, a quasi-SUV version of the new-last-year V60 wagon (unlike the previous generation, there’s no CC version of the S60 sedan).
Perhaps because the basic body is longer, wider and lower, the new V60 CC T5 looks more car-like than its predecessor. If the CC wasn’t identifiable by the black-plastic body armour on the rockers and wheel arches, it would be easy to miss the 63 millimetres of additional ride height compared with the regular V60 (also 10 mm higher than its predecessor).
Nonetheless, the resulting 211-mm ground clearance is right there alongside typical compact SUVs. All-wheel drive is standard (the regular V60 T5 is front-drive), and underbody protection is available as an accessory. The other main concession to “off-road” (or, more realistically, rough-road) duty is an Off Road mode for use below 40 km/h, which among other things activates Hill Descent Control for really steep descents. Standard tires are 215/55R18 all-seasons, with or 19-or 20-inchers optional.
Of course, the descent from the top of Kicking Horse wasn’t a straight plunge down. While the overall 1.25-km vertical drop was not your everyday trip, the rough and stony track descending in a series of traverses and hairpin turns wasn’t that far removed from the terrain typically tackled by SUV/crossover owners en route to the cottage, trailhead or canoe launch. It’s rough enough that you wouldn’t want to inflict it on a regular passenger car, but no real challenge to a typical AWD crossover SUV or to wagon-on-stilts rivals such as the Audi A4 allroad or Subaru Outback.
The Volvo rode comfortably and kept its bottom clear of all ruts and rocks encountered along the way. Back on pavement, it drove like a really nice car – reasonably quick, refined, comfortable and with unexpectedly agile handling.
While regular V60s offer a variety of trim/powertrain combos, the Cross Country comes only as a T5 with the base 250-horsepower 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder. It’s decently well-equipped at its $48,900 MSRP, featuring a standard panoramic sunroof, 10-way power seats, power tailgate and 120-volt outlet. Premier or Premier Plus packages add more luxury, convenience and driver-assist features (including Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive), while stand-alone options include bigger wheels, leather, metallic paint and fancier audio systems.
In the era of the crossover, the V60 Cross Country provides most of the same benefits, along with the elegant looks and the driving pleasure of a European sport sedan. Your local ski hill probably won’t let you drive to the top, but it’s a practical and pleasing way to get to the resort.
- Base Price: $48,900
- Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged
- Transmission/drive: eight-speed automatic, AWD
- Fuel consumption (L/100 km): 8.5 litres/100 km highway
- Alternatives: Audi A4 allroad, BMW 330xi Touring, Mercedes-Benz C300 Wagon, Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
Despite being based on a front-drive architecture, Volvo’s 60-series cars have the “premium” dash-to-axle proportions typical of rear-drivers. The long, low and wide stance of the basic car help disguise the Cross Country’s 63-mm suspension lift.
The driver enjoys great at-the-wheel adjustability, ensconced on cossetting seats and with clear sightlines. A standard portrait-oriented nine-inch touch screen is the interface for most secondary controls – arguably too much so for those of Luddite inclination. A digital instrument cluster comes with the Premier package, which also adds a Navi plus heated steering wheel and rear seat-heaters. Backseat room and comfort are competitive with other compact-luxury wagons and crossovers.
Volvo claims 0-100 km/h in 6.8 seconds, somewhat slower than the low-six-seconds claims of alternative German compact wagons. Subjectively, it’s a pleasant engine to drive behind, decently refined and with minimal turbo lag, although sometimes the transmission shifts a touch abruptly. The Cross Country’s softer suspension delivers a supple ride, and although it may lean more in curves, we were surprised by the athletic handling of our test car, which turned out to be on optional 20-inch Pirelli P-Zero performance tires.
Standard active driver-assist tech includes lane-keeping aid plus automatic forward emergency braking that can react to pedestrians, cyclists and large animals. The Premier package throws in blind-spot information and cross-traffic alert, while Premier Plus adds semi-autonomous Pilot Assist with adaptive cruise and lane following. Apple Car Play, Android Auto and satellite radio are standard.
The seatbacks fold flush with the rear deck and seats-up/down cargo volumes of 657 litres and 1712 litres are respectively a little less and a little more than the Audi allroad’s. They’re also in the ballpark with many more SUV-like alternatives.
The verdict: 8.0
A safe choice if you want the capability of a crossover, but would rather be driving a car.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up today.