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Volvo V70 Cross Country (2001)

SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyer's Guide

by John Heilig


MODEL:  2001 Volvo V70 Cross Country
ENGINE:  2.4-liter inline five cylinder
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 197 hp @ 6,000 rpm/21 lb-ft @ 1,800-5,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION:  Five-speed automatic with manual mode
WHEELBASE: 108.8 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 186.3 x 73.2 x 61.5 in.
STICKER PRICE:  $37,000 (est.)

Volvo built its first Cross Country wagon in 1996. It was an all-wheel drive version of the popular V70 wagon. Volvo planned to sell 15,000 examples in the first year; they sold 17,500 in North America alone. The company knew it had hit a nerve.

But that vehicle was designed off the V70 platform, sort of as a hybrid. Now Volvo has introduced an all-new Cross Country. This one was designed from the dirt up to be a Cross Country all-wheel-drive vehicle that is capable of doing anything a sport utility can do, but do it with a European premium car drive, with SUV functionality and with inherent "Volvoness." The result is a vehicle that has reached all the goals Volvo set for it and then some. The new Cross Country is built on the V70 platform, but there are some significant differences. The XC, for example, has an 8.2-inch ground clearance to go over logs and rocks you might encounter in an off-road situation. This is significantly more than the V70 and in the same class (give or take a millimeter) as the Land Rover Discovery, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Audi Allroad.

The wheelbase has been increased 4.0 inches over the previous version, the width increased by 3.9 inches and the height by 2.0 inches. There is a larger load capacity as well. All these are designed to give the XC excellent on-road and off-highway manners.

This package is encased in one of the smoothest bodies Volvo has ever offered. It is more aggressive and rounder than most previous Volvo wagons, with enough cladding to make it look like a cross between an SUV and a Subaru Outback. That cladding is black all the way through, too. If you get a ding on an off-highway excursion, it won't show up white.

The XC is powered by a 2.4-liter low-pressure turbocharged five-cylinder engine that develops 197 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque. This is the one area where the XC is slightly lacking. While the power is enough for most circumstances, if you want to pass, the five-speed automatic transmission doesn't allow for high enough revs to gain maximum power and torque. It's better to shift into manual mode, drop down a gear or two, and use the power gained by higher revs to get you past the slowpoke in front of you.

Since Volvo is now a part of Ford Motor Company's Premium Car Group (with Lincoln, Jaguar and Land Rover), you would expect that it would retain its excellent ride qualities. You won't be disappointed. The Cross Country is a Volvo through and through, whether you're on an interstate, back country two-lane, or dirt path climbing up a mountain. We had the opportunity to test the Cross Country in a variety of circumstances and it never let us down. "Off highway" is more of the venue you'd expect this vehicle to shine in rather than "off road," but the Cross Country does as well slogging through the mud and over rocks as any of them. Most of the journalists who drove the vehicle on my wave seemed to want to place the XC in a luxury version of the Subaru Outback's class.

What may be more important, though is the Cross Country's road manners. Out introduction test drive had us behind the wheel for six hours. That's a long time for any car. Yet we felt comfortable with no aches and pains. The leather seating made the ride exemplary. Very few SUVs can make the same claim.

Volvo has imbued the new Cross Country with a gaggle of neat features. One is the 40-20-40 split folding rear seat. This allows you to carry objects such as skis inside the car and still have four passengers. An optional mesh or steel gate across the back seat keeps anything you have in that rear compartment back there no matter how severe your stop.

The Cross Country is, first and foremost, a Volvo, so it has all the traditional Volvo safety - dual air bags, side curtains, safety steel construction of the chassis and body, etc. SUV market with the Cross Country. The vehicle is still a Volvo V70 station wagon at heart. But it has the advantage of all-wheel drive and higher road clearance to allow you to get to your cabin in the woods (no matter how far back in the woods) in comfort and ease.

Pricing is still to be determined, but the 2000 V70 XC had a base of $36,675, so the 2001 version should be slightly higher.