This would never happen in a Subaru Outback. As handmade gnocchi was delivered to our 2021 Volvo V60 Cross Country, the Italian restaurateur congratulated us on driving such an attractive car. And the wagon really is gorgeous. So many design details converge in the V60 to create a style that’s distinctly premium but not showy, sleek but not boring. Now a few years removed from the S60/V60 earning a spot as a MotorTrend Car of the Year finalist, we’re taking another look at the Cross Country version. Volvo has been building wagons for decades, but is the 2021 V60 Cross Country any good?
What Makes the V60 a Cross Country Model?
Just as the Subaru Outback is a lifted wagon with aesthetic updates to make it look more rugged, Volvo’s Cross Country subbrand applies a similar treatment to V60 and V90 wagons. Standard V60s are up to 2.5 inches lower and come with FWD only, whereas the V60 Cross Country costs $4,500 more and includes standard AWD, updated suspension tuning, a unique front grille, and different wheel arch trim. There’s also a long silver trim piece running the length of the front and rear doors. Volvo tells us that 70-80 percent of all V60 buyers make the jump to Cross Country.
If you’ve got a previous-gen V60 Cross Country, know that the new one is 5.7 inches longer, 1.6 inches lower, and 1.0 inch wider. The result is far more premium proportions that make the current V60 Cross Country a better match for the Audi A4 Allroad. Both the Audi and Volvo lifted wagons start around $46,000, and the Subaru—with its mainstream badge and different brand image—tops out around $41,000.
How Does the Volvo Drive Compared to the Audi and Subaru?
As with standard V60s, the Cross Country model is powered by a 250-hp 2.0-liter turbo I-4 that’s good for 258 lb-ft of torque and mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. We most recently described this T5 powertrain as “acceptable,” and that impression remains true for the 2021 test car. When we tested a 2020 model, that lifted wagon reached 60 mph in 8.0 seconds, an adequate performance. It’s worth noting, however, that the Volvo’s two closest competitors are both significantly quicker. An Audi A4 Allroad reaches 60 mph in only 5.5 seconds, a surprisingly quick sprint that’s largely made possible by the way its dual-clutch automatic pairs with the AWD system. The Volvo is also slower than turbocharged Subaru Outback XTs like our one-year Onyx test car, which reaches 60 mph in 5.9 seconds.
You’re not here for 600-hp wagon performance, though; otherwise, you would have bought one of these. So the Volvo’s relative slowness isn’t actually a big deal. Neither is its suspension tuning, which, like the 250-hp T5 engine, could be described as adequate. Like almost every other new car sold today, the Volvo doesn’t ride nearly as well as the Subaru. Like the Audi, it exhibits a little too much rebound over bumps and freeway expansion joints. Our loaded 2021 V60 Cross Country test car rode on 19-inch wheels ($800 extra); it’s possible the ride would improve on the standard 18s.
None of these three wagons will deliver canyon-carving joy like a good luxury sport sedan, but the Subaru offers more steering feel than the Volvo. And to be honest, all three have minor transmission tuning issues. The Volvo’s eight-speed auto delivers shifts that are sometimes too rough for normal, everyday driving, leading to slightly more head toss than should occur. The Audi’s dual-clutch transmission responds with lightning-quick reflexes but can feel a little awkward at low speeds. Then there’s the Outback’s CVT. Especially on more powerful XT models, the Subaru’s CVT is sometimes smoother than both luxury-branded alternatives, but it’s saddled with tuning that can best be described as lumpy in other driving situations.
Has the Volvo’s Interior Tech Aged Well?
Volvo’s unmistakable style is evident inside, too. A 9.0-inch touchscreen is framed by tall air vents, which are themselves surrounded by beautiful matte wood trim that juts out from the dash. This premium layout has impressed us the past few years, and it will still feel like a refreshing change to anyone cross-shopping a German car.
Unfortunately, our issues with the infotainment system haven’t changed, either, and that’s more troubling now that we’ve spent thousands of miles with Subaru’s 11.6-inch vertically oriented touchscreen. Even during the months we’ve been driving our one-year 2020 Outback test car, we’ve seen the automaker make updates that meaningfully improve its functionality. Volvo has updated its system over the years, too, but Apple CarPlay still only takes up a portion of the bottom of the screen, which may be a regular irritant to drivers who get in the habit of using CarPlay or Android Auto before setting out.
We also wish the temperature controls were easier to use—and automatically disappeared after a few seconds of inaction, like Subaru’s do. The Subaru’s grainy front-view camera is easier to use, as well: Just hit one physical button, and the display changes. In the Volvo, the 360-degree camera system requires swiping to a car functions display and hitting the feature’s on-screen button.
We had more appreciation for Pilot Assist, which bundles adaptive cruise control with a lane centering aid to make long highway drives easier. As we found in our time with a one-year 2019 Volvo S60 test car, the combination of these technologies works well. The other nifty piece of technology lives at the intersection of convenience and cleverness. As with so many other Volvos over the past few years, pressing a button in the infotainment touchscreen folds the rear-seat headrests automatically. It’s a great luxury, allowing you to improve rear visibility without having to leave the comfort of the driver’s seat.
What About Safety and Value?
You expect a Volvo to deliver on safety, and the V60 does. Among the lifted wagon’s safety features are key technologies such as automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure warning (which can nudge you back into your lane). In NHTSA testing, the Volvo wagon achieves an overall five-star rating out of a possible five stars. That score includes a four-star frontal crash rating with five-star side and rollover ratings. In IIHS testing, the non-Cross Country version of the V60 is a 2021 Top Safety Pick+, the highest rating available.
Value is tougher to judge. Against a loaded Outback, the Volvo and Audi don’t stand a chance, even with their basic warranty’s additional year over the Subaru’s three. But we’re guessing you’re here for a reason—you crave a wagon with a more highly respected badge.
If that’s one of your goals, a Subaru won’t cut it. That leaves you with the Volvo and the Audi A4 Allroad. The Audi is significantly quicker, but that’s not a make-or-break advantage for a luxury wagon, is it? The Audi’s user-friendly infotainment system—featuring knobs and more physical buttons as well as a 10.1-inch horizontally stretched touchscreen—is. Also awesome and uniquely Audi in this group is the Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster, included on two of three A4 Allroad trims. The system is more versatile than the similar tech Volvo offers. Where the Volvo pulls ahead is with its less popular FWD version, the non-Cross Country V60. If you can do without the Cross Country visual updates and don’t need AWD, you can put that $4,500 toward options. Neither Audi nor Subaru offers that entry-level option.
The XC60-Sized Elephant in the Room
If, to you, driving a wagon is purely about practicality, we strongly suggest considering the XC60. That SUV costs about the same and delivers some of the V60’s visual charm with a more spacious cabin that’s easier to get in and out of. Then again, those with wagon tunnel vision are probably already planning a trip to the dealer. If the wagon speaks to you because there are too many luxury SUVs on your block, know that although the V60 could improve in a few ways, it’s still an attractive option. In a loosely defined segment of three cars, the Volvo is unquestionably the one most likely to inspire compliments.
Looks good! More details?
|2021 Volvo V60 Cross Country T5 AWD|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door wagon|
|ENGINE||2.0L/250-hp/258-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,050 lb (est)|
|L x W x H||187.4 x 72.8 x 56.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.0 sec (MT est)|
|EPA FUEL ECON, CITY/HWY/COMB||22/31/25 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||153/109 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.77 lb/mile (est)|