5 Pioneering Crossover Sedans and Wagons that inspired the Volvo S60 Cross Country

At first glance the 2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country might seem like a bit of an outlier on the crossover scene. At its core, the S60 Cross Country shares almost everything with the standard S60 sedan – its mechanical bits, interior, and all of its sheet metal – with a few notable exceptions. Most obvious is the boost that's been given to the Cross Country's ride height, which offers you 7.9 inches of clearance should you elect to take the all-wheel drive Volvo off the beaten path. You'll also notice the car's flared fenders and skid plate up front that's designed to protect the engine, all of which together serve to ruggedize the European four-door's visual presence.

It's a familiar formula for Volvo, which has been applying the 'Cross Country' moniker to its family of wagons for well over a decade now. On the long-roof side it's been a success, with Volvo even replacing its traditional full-size V70 family offering exclusively with a Cross Country edition for several years. On the sedan side, the brand has taken a more measured approach: only a small number of these jacked-up S60 models have been allotted to the U.S. market, as the company tests out a 'niche' strategy designed to energize customer interest while keeping development costs low. It's a philosophy that has worked well for the German rivals in Volvo's luxury crosshairs, particularly BMW.

Check out our First Drive review of the Volvo S60 Cross Country

Out on the road, the 2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country feels almost identical to the standard version of the car. The turbocharged five-cylinder motor in the T5 edition I drove offered a nice snarl from its 2.5-liters of displacement, and 250 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque were more than enough to motivate the mid-size model. Handling wasn't noticeably compromised by the Cross Country's taller stance, and from several angles the sedan's beefier profile added a touch of aggression missing from the regular S60.

The S60 Cross Country might be a new addition to the Volvo line-up, but it comes from a long line of crossovers that didn't stray too far from their passenger car roots. Let's take a look at the history of the car-based crossover and check out the pioneers who paved the way for Volvo's latest model.

1980-1987 AMC Eagle

With its available wood paneling and aggressive 4x4 stance, the AMC Eagle is an unmistakable icon of thinking outside the automotive box. Available not just in sedan form but also as a coupe and a wagon, the AMC Eagle snagged its platform from the automaker's Concord sedan and ran with it all the way into the deep woods. Although largely uncelebrated except by enthusiasts and AMC brand diehards, the Eagle was unquestionably the first 'crossover' vehicle before the term had ever even been coined, and remains one of the few AMC automobiles to still linger in the public memory 30 years after the company was absorbed by Chrysler.

1995-present Subaru Outback

The Subaru Outback is considered to have kicked off the modern crossover trend when it first hit the scene in 1995. The strategy was very similar to that still used by the S60 Cross Country: take a regular production car (initially a Legacy wagon, although a Legacy-based sedan followed at the end of the decade and remained available for several years), add aggressive body cladding suggestive of an off-road mission statement, and raise the suspension system several inches to complete the package. Drivetrains were directly ported over from the Legacy, and all-wheel drive was of course standard across the board. Later Subaru Outback models would gain a few extra all-terrain tricks, like hill descent control (also available in the Volvo S60 Cross Country) and a special X-Mode for the AWD system.

1998-present Volvo XC70 (Cross Country)

Volvo was quick to seize on the potential demonstrated by the Subaru Outback and a few short years later debuted its first Cross Country model, known as the Volvo XC70. For all intents and purposes the XC70 was a V70 that had been to the gym: bulky plastic adorned the bumpers and side doors in place of traditional brush bars, AWD was highlighted, and the entire wagon rode taller off of the ground. Over time Volvo, too, would evolve its Cross Country concept, adding ground clearance, smoothing out body work, and eventually extending the name to the smaller V60 Cross Country wagon and the new S60 Cross Country sedan.

1999-2005 Audi Allroad

Not wanting to be left out of the crossover party, Audi realized that its long history promoting all-wheel drive would serve it well in marketing a tall wagon of its own. The Audi Allroad was a bit more involved, technologically, than any competitor of the same era, boasting an air suspension system that could further raise the wagon's ground clearance, as well as available low-range gearing for its quattro AWD system. Based on the A6 sedan and wagon, the Allroad developed a reputation for cantankerous reliability, due in part to the presence of a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 engine as standard equipment for North America.

2013-present Audi Allroad

No, that's not a typo – after several years of hiatus Audi decided to take a second crack at the wagon-based crossover market and kill two birds with one stone by replacing its slow-selling Audi A4 Avant with the almost, but not-quite identical Allroad. This time, Audi played it safe: the new Allroad abandoned the gizmos and gadgets of the original and instead slapped on some body cladding, added the familiar suspension lift, and borrowed the A4's turbocharged four-cylinder drivetrain.