SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyer's Guide
What combines the comfort and handling of a premium luxury car with the all-weather ability on anything remotely resembling a road associated with an SUV? The 2001 Cross Country, Volvo's newest and perhaps most versatile vehicle.
SUVs are popular, and very useful especially in those parts of the country where inclement weather is a fact of daily life. But they don't handle like cars on the road, and, at the luxury level, few are ever used in serious off-road situations. The Cross Country is a car, with the ride and handling of a European luxury car, but it also has all-wheel drive and over eight inches of ground clearance (more than many SUVs) for use on any sort of road, in any reasonably sane conditions.
The Cross Country name is not new, having been used since 1997. Previous models were modifications of existing wagons. The new version was developed in parallel with the latest V70, for its extra abilities, and features a slightly longer wheelbase, wider track, and all-wheel drive. I've been driving one for the past week, and it's a true European luxury car, with all of the ride comforts and handling abilities that implies. Yet, it also works remarkably well in deep mud and on rutted dirt roads. For cross-town or cross-country drives, in any passable condition, it works very well.
APPEARANCE: At a glance, the Cross Country looks like a V70 on stilts, with extra SUV-like cladding on the nose and fenders. Except for minor details, that's correct. While it does share the sleek edgily-rounded shape of the V70, the Cross Country has slightly different front fenders because of its wider track, and a very different front fascia and grille. The styling gets its SUV look from the increased ride height and the dark plastic front fascia with matching cladding around the wheel arches and on the lower sides. The Cross Country is further differentiated from the V70 by trim pieces at the front and bottom of the rear quarter windows, which help raise the visual center of the car. Standard roof rails and large spoked alloy wheels complete the look.
COMFORT: There's plenty of European luxury car and no truck inside of the Cross Country. The standard equipment level is very high, with an 8-way power-adjustable driver's seat with memory and tilt and telescope-adjustable steering wheel ensuring a safe, comfortable driving position. Dual-zone climate control, power windows with both fronts being one-touch up and down, remote keyless entry, and heated power outside mirrors add convenience. The interior design is Swedish Modern as applied to an automobile - uncluttered, functional and comfortable. The optional leather upholstery is gorgeous, with a very trick stitching pattern, and Volvo's front buckets are among the most comfortable in the business. Comfort does enhance safety.... The rear seat has a three- way split, 40/20/40, for extra versatility. An optional cooler fits into the center space, as does a special storage bag. An available rear- facing third-row seat allows two more children to fit.
SAFETY: Like all Volvos, the Cross Country is designed for maximum safety. All passive safety features, including the chassis structure, interior design and materials, harnesses, and air bags, are designed to work in harmony for maximum protection in case of an accident. The suspension design and electronic aids including standard antilock brakes and traction control aid active safety - the ability to avoid an accident.
ROADABILITY: Premium European ride and handling AND 8.2 inches of ground clearance? Absolutely. On pavement, the Cross Country feels like the upscale European car that it is, with a firm but comfortable and well-controlled ride. Its cornering abilities aren't quite up to V70 T5 standards, but should please its target buyers and are far superior to those of any SUV. The fully independent suspension is similar to that of the V70, but has been modified for extra ground clearance and travel. The all-wheel drive system operates as front-wheel drive in normal conditions, for familiar handling characteristics. When needed, torque is transferred to the rear wheels via a viscous clutch. Volvo's TRACS traction control system works on all four wheels to reduce wheel slip. During the press introduction in Vermont, I had the opportunity to drive a Cross Country on some Class IV "legally passable" dirt roads near Mt. Equinox. They were rutted, muddy, and very slippery. The Pirelli Scorpion tires felt like they grew paddles, and the Volvo "mere wagon" made it through unscathed.
PERFORMANCE: The Cross Country uses the light-pressure turbo 2.4-liter inline five-cylinder engine also found in some V70 and upcoming S60 models. It's a contemporary aluminum alloy dual overhead cam, four valve per cylinder design with continuously variable valve timing on the exhaust cam. Although of the same basic design and displacement as the engine used in the first- generation Cross Country, almost all internal parts have been modified for increased performance and lower emissions. It makes 197 horsepower at 6000 rpm, with a healthy 210 lb-ft of torque available between 1800 and 5000 rpm - in other words, during all common driving situations. The five-speed automatic transmission can be shifted manually in "Geartronic" mode, but that's not really necessary thanks to the engine's wonderful torque.
CONCLUSIONS: The 2001 Volvo Cross Country has almost all of the benefits of a luxury SUV and none of the drawbacks.
SPECIFICATIONS 2000 Volvo Cross Country Base Price $ 34,900 Price As Tested $ 43,480 Engine Type dual overhead cam, 20 valve inline 5-cylinder with light-pressure turbocharging Engine Size 2.4 liters / 149 cu. in. Horsepower 197 @ 6000 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 210 @ 1800-5000 rpm Transmission 5-speed automatic with Geartronic manual shift mode Wheelbase / Length 108.0 in. / 186.3 in. Curb Weight 3699 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 8.8 Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded premium gasoline (91 octane) recommended Tires 215/65 HR16 Pirelli Scorpion Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent strut / independent multilink Drivetrain front engine, all-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 17 / 22 / 19 0 to 60 mph 8.4 sec Coefficient of Drag (cd) 0.34 OPTIONS AND CHARGES Metallic paint $ 400 Leather-faced seating surface $ 1,300 Leather steering wheel $ 200 Trip computer $ 250 Navigation system $ 2,500 Premium sound system $ 1,000 First aid kit $ 30 Auto-dimming mirror $ 100 Security laminated windows $ 300 Crossbars for roof rails $ 135 XC cold-weather package - includes: heated seats, headlamp washers and wipers $ 450 XC versatility package / 3rd seat - includes: cargo security cover, load protection net, 3rd-row seat $ 1,150 Destination charge $ 575