Something mondo happened to the Swedish brand that has been, for decades, best known for its safety and same old boxy design.
By Helmut Dostal
One look at his V60 CC and you’ll see that yesterday’s squarish shapes have morphed into clean, contemporary—dare I say sexy—design lines with a refreshing absence of the Volvo trademark racks.
But I am getting ahead of myself. This story starts at Callistoga Ranch, some 80 kilometres northeast of San Francisco, where an assembly of “gear heads” (read: automotive journalists) are checking out an impressive lineup of Volvo’s new V60 Cross Country vehicles. I was one of them: peering under the hoods, poking at the upholstery, comparing specs, kicking tires so to speak, and taking pictures as if to document what the car looks like, even before we could get our hands on it. Yes, we all agree, these cars are lookin’ pretty good.
Up hill and down dale
Our two-day drive actually takes us through the winding mountain roads and hairpin turns of the R. Louis Stevenson State Park and on to Lake Tahoe. We’ve got all of the creature comforts on the V60 CC along for the ride—very comfortable, heated contour leather seats; a heated steering wheel; and even heated windshield washers. I guess, in Sweden it gets just as frigid as it does in Canada.
Compared with the standard V60 model, the Cross Country we’re enjoying has a taller stance for desired off-road ground clearance – an increase of 65 millimetres to a total of 7.9 inches. When combined with the Volvo’s Haldex all-wheel-drive system, six-speed automatic gearbox and 18 inch wheels, it’s a pleasure, leaving the highway and following country lanes and hidden paths through the forest under any weather conditions–brilliant for Canada’s die-hard cottagers.
As safe as ever
And then there is this list of technical features, which reconfirm Volvo’s traditional reputation for being one of the safest cars on the road. Let’s begin with a concern that most drivers in the northern hemisphere share during much of the year: slippery and icy road conditions. Here, the V60 CC offers its Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC), which distribute power to the wheels with the most traction and thereby minimizing the chance of the car spinning out of control.
Yet another V60 CC safety feature, generally found only in high-end SUVs is the coveted Hill Descent Control (HDC), which allows the driver to navigate a steep decline by controlling the speed without driver intervention. The result, as you may know, is a more manageable slow “crawl” downhill that allows the driver to concentrate on steering the vehicle safely rather than worrying about operating the brakes.
The basket of further available safety bonuses: a park-assist rear-view camera, adaptive cruise control, and collision warning with auto-brake, distance alert and lane departure warning.
Stepping it up
On the performance side, the V60 CC’s five-cylinder engine delivers a respectable 250 hp and an acceleration from 0–100 km/h in 7.4 seconds. The manufacturer’s estimated consumption figures are 10.6 L/100 km, combined city and highway driving.
Our test cars were also equipped with a Harman Kardon premium sound system and Sirius Radio, which comes with the usual six-month free subscription. Navigation was on a seven-inch LCD monitor, surprisingly small by today’s standards.
For the last event on the driving itinerary, Volvo’s engineers took the team to an airfield near our digs at the Ritz Carlton at Lake Tahoe for a series of trials: speed and braking checks, high-speed lane changes and the not-to-be missed iconic slalom course.
Here to stay
Both journalists and vehicles managed the test and tour with top marks. It’s also comforting to know that the brand’s gracious new design hasn’t pushed aside, or in any way compromised, Volvo’s good-old-fashioned focus on simply keeping us safe.
Photos: Volvo Cars of Canada