Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Cross Country range kicks off with a 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel (badged D4) that’s mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and drives all four wheels. If you want a manual gearbox, front-wheel drive or a less powerful engine, forget it.
Fortunately, the D4 engine is our pick of the regular V60 range and once again proves a fine fit for the Cross Country. Although it doesn’t feel quite as potent as engines fitted to the C-Class estate and A4 Avant that have similar power outputs on paper, the D4 still displays plenty of low and mid-range urgency, making regular driving a breeze. Should you need to overtake, there’s ample power to get past slower traffic.
Should you want more pace, a 247bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine named T5 is available. It doesn't have quite as much potency below 2000rpm, but work it a little harder and it feels significantly quicker than the D4. If fuel economy isn't too much of a worry, it's well worth a look.
Unfortunately, the Cross Country has an Achilles' heel: its automatic gearbox. As we’ve found in other Volvos, it tends to dither when you ask for a burst of acceleration. This is something you have to factor into your driving technique if you don’t want to get caught out when pulling out of junctions or going for a quick overtake.
When it comes to four-cylinder diesel engines, nothing gets close to matching the Audi A4 for quietness, but the D4 comes a commendable second. It’s certainly more vocal than that of the A4, particularly when you accelerate hard, but never sounds harsh and is far less grumbly than the C-Class's. The T5 is much smoother than the D4, although, once again, the A4's petrol engines are quieter still.
With less noise from wind flutter over the doors, the tyres against the road and the suspension doing its thing, the A4 Avant also pips the Cross Country for hushed progress. Meanwhile, if you're expecting us to talk about the Cross Country's ride being so much better for being softer thanks to taller, squishier suspension, you may be disappointed here, too.
While it certainly feels softer than a regular V60, you still feel how surface imperfections cause the car to fidget a little. Bigger undulations tend to have your head swaying to and fro more, too, so we'd argue that a regular V60 on small wheels and non-sports suspension is still the comfiest model in the range. That said, we're yet to try the standard 18in wheels, just the optional 19s, and suspect they’ll bring a little more compliance over pockmarked surfaces.
As well as being a little softer, the suspension also gives you an extra 60mm of ground clearance, but the Cross Country still handles well enough even with the additional height. Okay, it isn’t quite as sharp as a normal V60, but the steering is light in town and precise on country lanes and the car tracks reassuringly straight on motorways. But, while perfectly okay in isolation, driving one against regular estate cars such as the A4 Avant and 3 Series Touring highlights the more pronounced body lean, lower grip levels and reduced agility that the Cross Country's extra height brings.
The standard four-wheel drive system supplies excellent traction in dry conditions and, combined with the raised ride height, offers an element of off-road ability. Should you find yourself in a muddy field, clever electronics are quick to bring the rear wheels into play to keep you moving, but you’ll not find quite as much traction as the more purposeful Subaru Outback can muster.