The problem with the common sport-utility is that it's more than 80 percent truck, when you probably need a truck less than 20 percent of the time. This can lead to a bad case of SUV-itus. Symptoms include a jarring ride, uncertain handling, and a wallet-emptying thirst for fuel.
Volvo has the cure, or maybe we should say antidote, or just anti-SUV. The Cross Country isn't a truck; it's a car, based on Volvo's versatile V70 station wagon. Yet it boasts an elevated chassis for ground clearance, no-dent body armor to brush aside trail debris, and all-wheel-drive traction on the ground.
Cross Country can plow down rough routes to reach a backwater fishing hole or favorite camping hideout. Yet on pavement, Cross Country displays the sophisticated traits of a refined road car, with agile handling and a smooth ride quality. It's nimble, while coddling passengers in luxurious comfort.
Volvo's traditional focus on active and passive safety carries over to the Cross Country, with its safety-cell body structure and seats that react to collision forces to thwart whiplash injuries. Occupants are shielded by airbags ahead, beside and above. It's still better to avoid the crash, however, so the Cross Country provides quick steering, traction control, and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist.
As a bonus, this go-anywhere wagon comes with a flat and generous cargo bay. An optional third-row seat may be added. A second-row bench splits and folds in three sections to vary the mix of passengers and gear. Most important, an electric cooler is available that plugs into the center seat section to chill your road food or beverages.
The Cross Country arrives in a single body style, spun off of Volvo's mid-size V70 wagon. V70 itself is offered in all-wheel-drive, but Cross Country adds a higher ground clearance, unique appearance, and a longer list of standard equipment. The only available drivetrain is a 2.4-liter inline five-cylinder with light-pressure turbocharging, linked to Volvo's five-speed "Geartronic" automatic transmission.
Pricing begins at $36,500, a figure that includes just about everything most folks would need: power glass sunroof, Dolby cassette stereo, and dual-zone automatic climate control, dual-mode front airbags, dual side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags, and traction control, and anti-lock brakes with emergency brake assist and electronic brake distribution.
If you must spend more, Volvo offers leather upholstery ($1350); a Touring Package ($1110) that includes laminated side windows, 12-volt power outlet, HomeLink transmitter, trip computer and more luggage-bay accessories; a premium audio system with in-dash four-disc CD player ($1,200); and Volvo's pop-up navigation system.
During 2002, Volvo will offer Cross Country in a limited edition Ocean Race model, painted Ocean Blue with silver cladding and wearing special Ocean Race identification.
Like the V70 that fathered it, the Cross Country stretches long over a wedge-shaped shell that's cocked high at its boxy tail but slammed low in front for a tapered nose. An exceptionally wide track spreads the body across a broad platform.
Protective cladding rings around the base of the body, uniting deep front and rear bumpers, wheelwell flares and door sills. The molded cladding contrasts with the painted metal upper surfaces to create the illusion of an even higher stance. The plastic compound used for the protective cladding is tinted a dark shade so off-road scrapes and scratches will not be obvious.
In front, the cladding rises above a massive bumper to surround a rectangular chrome grille, distinguished of course by Volvo's signature diagonal slash bar. Stepped creases in the bowed hood taper inward from the broad base of the windshield to the sides of the grille, and thrust it forward as the leading edge of the wagon. Long horizontal headlight clusters, shielded by curving polycarbon lenses, tuck into notched recesses on each side of the grille, while round fog lamps cut into the thick bumper.
Above the Volvo's rolled shoulders, body-colored roof pillars and dark window glass bend inward to reach the roof panel, softening hard corners and diminishing the visual massiveness of the wagon's rear bay. The rear liftgate also bows slightly but maintains an essentially vertical plane to maximize cargo space. Composed of steel-reinforced polyresin fiberglass, the top-hinged gate mounts between rear pillars capped by long and narrow vertical taillights.
On the roof, a pair of rails linked by two sliding cross braces form a flexible car-top carrier for extra cargo or sports equipment such as bicycles and kayaks.
The leather seats in our Cross Country were plush and luxurious. Their dark brown color is very appealing to some people, not appealing to others. While some of us prefer some of the lighter shades, others loved the dark brown in the Cross Country. Judge for yourself.
The seats are anything but conventional: They are extremely comfortable. They are intelligent seats, loaded with technology designed to enhance safety. The front seatbacks incorporate mechanisms to guard against whiplash from a rear-end impact. During such a crash, the seatback moves rearward to reduce acceleration forces on the rider's back and neck, as the headrest pushes forward and upward slightly to meet the neck and head as they are thrust backward.
The broad rear bench fits three adults comfortably, and features three-point safety belts for all three positions. It splits into three sections of 40/20/40 percent, and each individual section of the seatback can be flipped forward to form an extension of the flat cargo floor to the rear. Also, the smaller center section may be removed entirely, creating either an aisle for access to the rear bay or space for an accessory, such as a removable softside gear bag or small electric refrigerator for stashing snacks. You'll need to spend some time reading the owner's manual to fully appreciate versatility of the rear seat design.
The rear bench also provides anchors for securing two different types of rear-facing child's safety seats. Both types use a base frame to house a cradle-style padded seat with integrated straps. One style fits infants weighing up to 20 pounds and another suits a toddler up to 40 pounds.
The generous cargo bay can be fitted with convenience items such as a container for shopping bags or an third seat sized for children. The third seat is included in a Versatility Package ($1,175) along with an integrated booster seat.
For the adults, Cross Country appointments include power controls for virtually all equipment and an automatic climate system. Deluxe audio equipment is available, including one kit with an in-dash compact disc player for four CDs ($1,200). But learning to use it is a challenge, and it is fussy in operation. Most of us don't need to save 20 stations.
On pavement, the Cross Country behaves like an agile European touring car, with a plush but firm ride quality and quick steering responses. Its stiff structure helps, anchoring its MacPherson struts up front and multi-link rear end.
Away from the pavement, the Cross Country changes character and acts more like an off-road vehicle, thanks to its elevated chassis, nubby Pirelli Scorpion tires and an all-wheel-drive system that automatically channels engine torque to the wheels with the best traction.
We steered up a rugged two-rut trace on Mount Manchester in Vermont, maintaining steady progress, despite rain-slick rocks and tire-sucking mud traps. With the higher suspension we cleared all bumps and debris without incident, and the automatic traction control kept the tires rolling making driving easy. Volvo's all-wheel-drive apparatus normally directs about 95 percent of the engine torque to the front wheels, but its viscous coupling can send more to the rear when necessary. It's seamlessly automatic in operation, so the driver never needs to make a conscious decision to shift into four-wheel-drive.
A traction controller for all four wheels operates in conjunction with the all-wheel-drive system to brake a spinning wheel. ABS works when needed to help maintain stability and steering control on pavement as well as dirt. Four-wheel disc brakes do a good job of slowing the car, and electronic brake distribution ensures shorter stopping distances by directing the braking forces to the tires with the best grip. Brake assist helps the driver maintain full braking in an emergency stopping situation even if the driver makes the mistake of relaxing pressure on the brake pedal.
For muscle, the Cross Country draws from a 2.4-liter inline five-cylinder light-pressure turbo-charged engine that generates 197 horsepower. This unit produces strong torque at relatively low engine speeds without annoying turbo lag. It offers fast off-the-line starts with still enough power at faster highway speeds to facilitate a quick pass around slower traffic.
The engine mates to a five-speed electronic automatic transmission equipped with Volvo's Geartronic mode, allowing shift-it-yourself maneuvers. Simply slap the gear lever to the left and lock it in the gate, then push the stick forward to move to the next higher gear or tip it rearward to drop to a lower gear. It's useful for working through heavy traffic or undulating terrain.
All mechanical aspects of this vehicle work together to create a stable stance and proficient manners, whether on the road or on a gnarly trail. The Cross Country is easy to maneuver. It's surprisingly frisky when running down a winding country road. Yet it still feels like a luxury car when cruising along, a benefit of its long wheelbase and refined suspension. Aggressive Pirelli Scorpion tires make slightly more noise than a regular all-season tire, but are well within acceptable limits.
Based on Volvo's V70 station wagon, the all-wheel-drive Cross Country comes with body armor and a tall suspension for easy off-road forays. Yet on pavement it delivers the plush ride of a refined European touring car. It features luxurious appointments in a spacious passenger compartment.
Volvo Cross Country delivers many of the sure-footed benefits of a rugged sport-utility, but without an SUV's poor ride quality and sluggish handling traits.
|Model Line Overview|
|Model lineup:||V70 Cross Country ($36,500)|
|Engines:||2.4-liter dohc 20-valve turbocharged inline-5|
|Safety equipment (standard):||dual-stage front airbags, side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags, side-impact door beams, 3-point front seatbelts with adjustable anchors, front seat Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), rear seat ISO-FIX child restraint anchors, ABS, Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD); Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Traction Control System (TRACS)|
|Safety equipment (optional):||N/A|
|Basic warranty:||4 years/50,000 miles|
|Assembled in:||Torslanda, Sweden|
|Specifications As Tested|
|Model tested (MSRP):||V70 Cross Country ($36,500)|
|Standard equipment:||electronic climate control, central locking system with keyless entry, security system with battery back-up siren, exterior approach lighting with mirror puddle lamps, fog lights, roof rails, power heated exterior mirrors with memory, power windows, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, AM/FM/CD/cassette with six speakers, power sunroof, eight-way power driver's seat with three-position memory, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob|
|Options as tested (MSRP):||leather seating surfaces ($1350); Touring Package ($1110) includes auto dimming interior rearview mirror, trip computer, HomeLink transmitter, 12-volt power outlet, laminated security side windows, cargo protection net, grocery bag holder; Premium audio system with four-disc in-dash CD ($1200)|
|Gas guzzler tax:||N/A|
|Price as tested (MSRP):||$ 40,785|
|Layout:||front engine, all-wheel drive|
|Engine:||2.4-liter dohc 20-valve turbocharged inline-5|
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm):||197 @ 6000|
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm):||210 @ 1800-5000|
|Transmission:||5-speed Geartronic automatic|
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:||19/24 mpg|
|Track, f/r:||63.4/60.9 in.|
|Turning circle:||39.0 ft.|
|Head/hip/leg room, f:||39.3/55.0/42.6 in.|
|Head/hip/leg room, m:||N/A|
|Head/hip/leg room, r:||38.8/54.8/35.2 in.|
|Cargo volume:||37.5/71.5 cu. ft.|
|Ground clearance:||8.2 in.|
|Curb weight:||3699 lbs.|
|Brakes, f/r:||disc/disc with ABS, EBD, Brake Assist|
|Fuel capacity:||18.5 gal.|
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of September 17, 2001.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-550-5658 - www.volvocars.com