Admiring Volvo's refined SUV alternative.
by Nick Twork
Lars Eric Lundin is just the type of person who Volvo would like to have as an owner of its new Cross Country. He is an active, youthful and adventuresome individual who enjoys such activities as flying and automobile racing in his spare time. However, Volvo will not be hard pressed to sell him on the Cross Country; he is the project manager of the latest iteration of Volvo models, the V70 wagon, Cross Country and soon to debut S60 sedan.
After spending time with the all-new V70 based Cross Country, we were left with the impression that Lars Eric did an admirable job steering the development of this vehicle. It represents a quantum leap improvement in nearly every area compared to its predecessor.
When it first debuted in 1997, the changes made to the V70 to make it a Cross Country were relatively minor in comparison. The new one has quite a few more differences. The new Cross Country sits higher than a normal V70. Its increased height nets better ground clearance for adverse road conditions and more importantly, a higher seating position for the occupants of the vehicle. But the most noticeable difference between the new V70 and new Cross Country at first glance are the Cross Country's unique dark colored bumper fascias and fender flares. Sixteen-inch wheels wrapped with aggressive Pirelli Scorpion tires augment the rugged appearance of the bumpers.
Rugged and capable
And while Volvo makes no claims that the Cross Country is optimized for off road performance, its rugged appearance is not all show. From our experience with the vehicle on a mountain trail in Manchester, Vermont, we can say with surety that this vehicle is more capable off paved roads than one might expect. With all-wheel drive coupled with four-wheel traction control and 7.6-inches of ground clearance, it is more capable than a good many of the all-wheel drive competitors in its category.
Enough about off-road manners though, because that is not the point of this vehicle. The Cross Country is meant to provide versatile, safe, luxurious and interesting transportation for its passengers. With this in mind, Lars Eric and his cadre of colleagues at Volvo ensured that the new Cross Country was a more useful vehicle all-around, not just off road. As an example, they gave the car the world's first 40/20/40-split rear seat in a wagon. It not only provides more cargo carrying flexibility; it can be made into a cooler. There is also a shopping bag holder in the luggage compartment, integrated child-booster seats and a waste-paper basket on the rear seat. Not to mention they did not forget to include the plastic clip on the lower left corner of the windshield that we have come to expect with Volvos. If those features are not enough versatility for you, than your Volvo dealer can supply a wide variety of accessories ranging from a rooftop luggage carrier to a picnic table that attaches to the rear of the vehicle.
The new Cross Country has much better road manners than the old. The brakes feel better, the suspension more sorted and the powertrain smoother. The 2.4-liter light pressure turbocharged engine under the hood has been significantly updated. It now produces 197 horsepower and 210 lb. feet of torque. The best part is that nearly all of that torque is available throughout the rpm range. This car feels just like it should, and the turbocharged engine is pure Volvo.
The only complaint we have about the powertrain is minor. From a stop, when the brake is released and the accelerator is not immediately depressed, there is a slight hesitation while the transmission reconnects to the engine. This minor gripe is due to one of the first applications of an energy saving computer controlled transmission disconnect Volvo calls neutral control. We applaud Volvo for having the guts to use this feature on a production car before anyone, but it could use a bit more refinement.
Luxurious and safe
Speaking of refinement, the Cross Country has plenty, despite the minor flaw previously mentioned. Besides having the most comfortable seats we have ever come across in a production car, the interior of the car is a quiet, relaxing place to be. Heated seats, an excellent audio system and controls for the audio and optional navigation system on the steering wheel further enhance the car's comfortable nature.
And, since it is a Volvo, there is no doubt that a great deal of attention was paid to safety during the development of this car. Naturally, Volvo's WHIPS whiplash protection system is included. In addition, several other acronyms are also standard, including an IC (inflatable curtain) and SIPS (Side impact airbags), not to mention ABS (anti-lock brakes) and 4WTC (four-wheel traction control).
With its improved refinement, more attractive styling, legendary safety and full complement of acronyms, Volvo has a winner on its hands with the new Cross Country. If you are considering an SUV, and you are not crazy about the truck-like ride and handling of many of today's offerings, the Cross Country should definitely be on your shopping list.
2001 Volvo V70 Cross Country
Base Price: $38,500 (est.)
Engine: 197-horsepower, 2.4-liter turbocharged four
Transmission: electronically controlled five-speed automatic with neutral control
Wheelbase: 108.8 in
Length: 186.3 in
Width: 73.2 in
Height: 61.5 in
Weight: 3699 lb
Fuel economy: 19 combined EPA (preliminary)
Major standard equipment:
Side impact airbags
Four-wheel traction control
16-inch aluminum wheels
40/20/40 split rear seat
© 2000 The Car Connection