2023 Volvo V60 Cross Country Review: Unconventional Appeal

  • Smooth on-road manners
  • Comfortable and beautiful interior
  • All-weather friendliness
  • Not another SUV
  • Stop/start system has rough edges
  • Coarse engine noise
  • No Android Auto compatibility

Wagons are a dying breed; stop me if you've heard this one before. Yet at the same time, the few wagons that remain in the US market are better than they've ever been, with appeal that extends well beyond their lovable longroof shape.

The 2023 Volvo V60 Cross Country is an exemplar of the do-it-all wagon. Handsome, efficient, nicely equipped and moderately off-road capable, Volvo's high-riding V60 repackages the well-to-do competencies of the company's larger XC60 SUV into a vehicle that's all-around more attractive, and asks you to make very few compromises along the way. Plus, the V60 ups your street cred with loyalists — the true believers of wagon goodness. The first time you get a thumbs-up at a gas station while refueling your Cross Country, you'll know you made the right choice.

What's new for 2023?

Aside from barely noticeable styling tweaks, the biggest change for the 2023 V60 lineup is that Volvo's culled the number of variants. If you don't want a Cross Country, your only choice is the high-performance V60 Recharge — aka the Polestar Engineered — which has racy good looks combined with a plug-in hybrid powertrain that offers 455 horsepower, 523 pound-feet of torque, and up to 49 miles of fully electric driving range. With a starting price of $71,845 including $1,095 for destination, however, the all-wheel-drive V60 Recharge is a niche within a niche: a super thin slice of an already small piece of automotive pie.

The V60 Cross Country, meanwhile, takes a more mainstream approach. Its sole underhood offering is Volvo's B5 powertrain: a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 with 48-volt mild-hybrid assist and standard all-wheel drive. Output is modest, with 247 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, which Volvo claims can leisurely accelerate this wagon to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. There is a $1,400 Polestar Engineered tune available, which improves midrange torque and increases the max twist to 280 lb-ft, but again, niche within a niche. For the overwhelming majority of Cross Country buyers, the base configuration will be just fine.

On-road pleasantries

Indeed, "just fine" is an apt descriptor of the V60 Cross Country's on-road manners. Power delivery is smooth and linear and the 48-volt mild-hybrid tech allows for increased use of the engine's stop/start system, though the startup part could stand to be smoother. Sophisticated adaptive dampers are no longer available for the V60 Cross Country, but the fixed suspension setup is nicely tuned. The V60 is comfortable yet balanced, and its lower center of gravity compared to the taller XC60 SUV results in better cornering composure.

What few complaints I have are minor in the grand scheme of things. The steering is numb and over-boosted, and the B5 powertrain sounds like buzzy garbage when you increase throttle application for freeway merging or passing. The 48-volt system doesn't drastically alter the V60 Cross Country's fuel economy, either; the wagon gains 1 mpg city but loses 1 mpg highway for 2023, with EPA ratings of 23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined.

All told, the V60 Cross Country is a nice car, perfectly adept for running errands or logging hundreds of miles on the highway. This is an easy-to-like daily driver.

Off-road possibilities

The Cross Country's butch updo isn't just for show, but this wagon's go-anywhere credentials are mostly limited to snowy treks to the ski lodge or the occasional dusty trail. There's an Off-Road drive mode that adjusts the throttle and transmission mapping, and hill-descent control can better manage the V60's braking on steep grades. But the biggest boon for adventure-readiness is the Cross Country's 8.1 inches of ground clearance, giving it the ability to drive over plenty of obstacles, and improving the Volvo's approach, departure and breakover angles, as well.

Somewhat counterintuitively, my test car rides on large 20-inch wheels with fairly low-profile Pirelli P-Zero all-season tires — a $3,200 upgrade on top of the $5,300 Ultimate pack, which normally comes with 19-inch wheels. The 20s don't ruin the Volvo's ride quality, but a rugged wagon really begs for smaller wheels and tires with more forgiving sidewalls. I have to recommend sticking with the 19-inch wheels, or even the Cross Country's base 18s, if you don't need the Ultimate package's other goodies (Harman Kardon stereo, cooled seats, head-up display, etc.).

Google software is an infotainment blessing

Despite being one of the first automakers to fit its cars with a vertically oriented, tablet-like infotainment screen, Volvo's had a decidedly rocky history with its onboard software. The original Sensus Connect tech didn't have adequate processing power, but the new, Google-powered system seems to have righted many of the automaker's past wrongs. The tiled home screen layout is easy to navigate, and the 9-inch display itself is bright and colorful. Apple CarPlay works perfectly, but Android Auto is not available. The Google Assistant is linked to the native infotainment system, at least, and easily understands most natural language voice commands.

The V60 Cross Country comes standard with a digital gauge cluster, but it's not nearly as pretty or feature rich as what you'll find in other luxury cars. The design could either be described as drab or minimalist, depending on how you look at it, and the only bit of reconfigurability seems to be the option to turn a map overlay on or off.

Happily, safety tech is a Volvo hallmark, so it comes as no surprise that the V60 Cross Country is stacked with active and passive assistance systems. Blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, low- and high-speed collision mitigation, lane-departure warning, a lane-keeping aid and more are all included at no extra cost. Ditto Volvo's Pilot Assist suite, which combines the adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist functions to make highway driving a little easier.

Comfort and style abounds

Volvo's modern interior design language was first introduced with the second-generation XC90 SUV in late 2014, and even without many changes, it's aged extremely well. I love the small attention to details; notice the real metal knobs on the air vents or the elegant use of open-pore wood. Of course, who could forget the crystal shift knob, or the little Swedish flags on the beautifully contoured seats? Volvo has always knocked it out of the park when it comes to its cars' cabins, and the V60 Cross Country is no exception.

Compared to a larger XC60 SUV, the V60 Cross Country lacks some headroom, though the standard panoramic sunroof nevertheless lends to an airy vibe. Legroom for both front and rear passengers is adequate, and the cargo area offers a sizable 22.5 cubic feet of space. Fold the rear seats flat and the wagon gives up almost nothing to the XC60 in terms of carrying volume, either. Oh, and should you need to, the V60 Cross Country can tow up to 2,000 pounds.

2023 Volvo V60 Cross Country verdict

Pricing starts at $50,095 including destination for the standard V60 Cross Country, putting it slightly above its sole luxury competitor, the Audi A4 Allroad. (The Audi A6 Allroad and Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain compete with the V60's big sibling, the V90 Cross Country.) Fully loaded with extras like four-zone automatic climate control, Nappa leather seats, a Bowers and Wilkins stereo, power tailgate and more, my test car stickers for a more substantial $63,585, but again, I wouldn't spec a Cross Country so heavily, and I don't recommend that you do, either.

Perhaps the more apt pricing comparison is with the Volvo XC60 SUV, and in B5 AWD spec with a similar level of equipment, the monetary difference is pretty much negligible. Choosing the V60 Cross Country is really just a matter of personal taste. And come on, how good would one of these look in your driveway?