Tribal instinct – a fancy way of saying group membership – does a lot to make us who we are. Many of our preferences, opinions, beliefs and actions aren’t based on any kind of careful thinking and intelligent choice. Instead of analyzing, investigating and independently reasoning, too many of us believe what we say we believe, and behave the ways we behave, because the people we identify with do the same.
That thought dogged me through seven days of driving a Volvo V60 Cross Country, a weather-hardened all-wheel-drive station wagon.
As a station wagon, the V60 gives up to five riders a comfortable seating area, integrated with a tall, broad and spacious cargo space immediately behind them. The Cross Country is the all-wheel-drive variation of Volvo’s V60 front-drive wagon. Therefore the V60 CC – as the Cross Country version is abbreviated – adds the extra security of four-wheel traction. That’s a valuable asset right now, while we’re still recovering from the early snow storm that arrived six days ago and dumped about 20 inches of snow on our roads (and everyplace else).
The V60 CC gives you a lot more than that, too. The Swedish-flavored V60 is styled with both elegance and flair. It emphasizes personal comfort and surrounds passengers with pleasing design. It scampers with authority, due to a peppy engine, an intuitive automatic transmission, and suspension, steering and braking tailored for assuring and assertive road control.
Add to those qualities the abundant advanced technology installed in the car, the copious layering of high-grade materials and finishes, the noticeably solid construction, the distinction of driving a standout model that you don’t see parked in many driveways, and you have every ingredient for what could be a highly popular luxury car.
I mean popular within the luxury market, that is. The starting list price of the five-passenger Volvo V60 Cross Country is $46,740. It can run to about $60,000 when you slather on all the optional packages and extra features – excluding only a few peripheral items that Volvo offers with the car, like a $115 dog harness and $95 neck cushion. Clearly the V60 Cross Country is a luxury car. And a worthy one at that.
That’s where my musing about tribal instinct came from. I wondered, why don’t more luxury-car drivers buy this car?
A big reason is because luxury-car buyers are psychologically no richer than people who shop in the mass market. Tribal instinct drives them to better known, higher profile brands that are more widely associated with upper-crust motoring. In other words, they buy what most other people in their group buy, which is BMW and Mercedes-Benz models.
While I test-drove the V60 CC, a foremost thought was, as nice as they are, those more populous luxury models have nothing on this Volvo.
Like the front-drive V60 that it’s derived from, the V60 CC is re-imagined and re-made. The next-generation V60 wagon arrived early in 2018. The V60 Cross Country version followed it late in 2018. Thus the modernized model is only about a year old.
Volvo gives the high-traction wagon a smooth and quiet, 250-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, attached to an equally smooth eight-speed automatic transmission. I found that the wagon zipped smartly when I needed quick bursts of speed, and glided serenely at high steady speeds.
My only disappointment in the propulsion department was the V60 CC’s fuel usage, which stuck me as a tad high. After I drove it about 350 miles over seven days of mixed freeway and in-town travel, my model’s fuel economy averaged a bit under 28 miles per gallon. That’s better than the model’s advertised rate of 25 mpg in mixed driving. But I like to see higher gas mileage in a middle-sized auto.
But then, superior fuel economy has never been a primary aim for Volvo. Instead it has placed a big emphasis on safety. You have to sacrifice some fuel economy for that, because superior safety requires solid and stable, heavy cars.
With the V60 CC, the company augments the car’s structural protections with advanced safety aids that aim to assist the driver. The model comes with Volvo’s City Safe obstacle detection and avoidance system. It uses automatic braking and other avoidance measures to try to prevent front-end crashes. According to Volvo, City Safe is the only technology on cars today that can detect pedestrians, cyclists, and moose and deer.
In addition to the V60 CC’s underappreciated luxury-car status, it also suffers from today’s widespread rejection of station wagons and sedans in favor of crossover sport-utility vehicles. Crossovers are unmistakably the current car-ownership trend. And what else drives a trend but tribal instinct?
But with the V60 CC, you gain the same benefits that people perceive from sport-utilities, while picking up some added assets that crossover SUVs can’t deliver.
The Cross Country comes with a capable all-wheel-drive set up, while four-wheel traction is most often an extra-cost option on crossovers. Its large rear cargo area is easy to load through a back hatch, and it expands substantially when the wagon’s back seats are folded forward.
In fact, when you compare the V60 CC to Volvo’s XC60 crossover in the same medium-sized, five-passenger range, the station wagon wins in cargo space. Its maximum luggage capacity – at 51 cubic feet with rear seats folded flat – is a cubic foot greater than the max cargo space in the XC60 sport-utility. If you’re hauling four people and need to use the back seat, the cargo space in the V60 CC is a cubic foot and a half greater.
The ground clearance of the V60 CC wagon is all but identical to the ground clearance of the XC60 crossover. But in total vehicle height, the XC60 sport-utility wins handily, standing six inches taller than the station wagon.
But is that high roof really an advantage? Its taller, upright posture gives the XC60 the less graceful, top-heavy appearance that is unavoidable in a sport-utility. By comparison, the V60 CC is elegantly elongated and stylishly streamlined.
What’s more, its lower height enables the V60 to cut, pivot and curve more adroitly than any vehicle that carries its weight higher. Therefore it’s more entertaining and engaging to drive.
If a person thinks about it, instead of just opting for models that appear more often in other peoples’ driveways, the Volvo V60 CC station wagon becomes an intelligent choice.
Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.
2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country
Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, all-wheel-drive station wagon
List price: $46,740 to $59,675 (plus options)
Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles basic warranty; 12 years/unlimited miles corrosion warranty; 3 years/36,000 miles free schedule maintenance
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4
Power: 250 horsepower at 5,500 rpm; 258 lb-ft. torque at 1,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 113 inches
Length: 188 inches
Width: 73 inches
Height: 59 inches
Weight: 3,713 pounds
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons
Turning circle: 37.1 ft.