Friday, September 22, 2017
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2017 Volvo Country Vs 2018 Volvo XC60

Wide wagon or compact crossover: How do you prefer to get your cross country on?

Volvo is in the midst of a product revolution right now, starting from the top down with its “90 cluster” vehicles (a.k.a. S90, V90, XC90) that we covered about a year ago. The overhaul continues with the two cool crossover-type vehicles you see here: one sexy derivative of the V90 wagon called the V90 Cross Country and the first of the “60 cluster” cars to get redesigned and successor to its namesake, the XC60, which happens to be Volvo’s best-selling vehicle. With a fair bit of overlap between the two both in purpose and compo­nents, I crossed some borders myself to ferret out the differences.

VOLVO V90 CROSS COUNTRY

Behold the V90 Cross Country, the sexy successor to the V70 XC, a.k.a. the V70 Cross Country, which commenced the skyward march of Volvo wagons two decades ago. But as the “90” in its name implies, however, Volvo’s newest tall wagon has gone upscale as well as up high.

The V90 Cross Country is based on the wonderful 2017 V90 wagon, but is only one you will see in U.S. Volvo showrooms in 2017. The stan­dard V90 wagon is available only as a special-order model, but since the Cross Country model, with its 2.6-inch higher ride height and two inches of additional width between the wheels, is likely to be the more popular model in the wagon-phobic U.S., Volvo is making life easier for its U.S. dealers by officially promoting the butch version and letting the true wagonistas and contrarians (who likely know about the V90 already) order the low-slung version if they want it.

Flared over-fenders in black along with matching lower sills and bumpers give the V90 Cross Country a rugged visual foundation, and customers who aren’t afraid of scratches and rock chips can have them painted to match the body color as part of the Luxury package. Beneath the skin is an air suspension and Volvo’s “T6” engine, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that is aided and abetted by a supercharger and turbo­charger, yielding an impressive 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Thus equipped, the car is rather swift, at least on paper—Volvo claims that the V90 Cross Country can sprint to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds—but with its quiet and unremarkable engine sound and smooth-shifting eight-speed transmission, it doesn’t feel terribly quick. Rather, it feels merely competent. Fortunately, it has three operation modes: comfort (accept­able), eco (sluggish), and dynamic (lively). Hence, we spent much of the time in dynamic mode just to feel the car’s pulse a little bit.

Handling proved reasonably impressive for a vehicle with so much suspension travel, while impacts are absorbed with the suppleness you would expect of a luxurious station wagon that costs between $54K and $69K, depending on options. We also did some mild off-roading in the car, not exactly Rubicon Trail-grade stuff but more than we would muster in, say, a Ford Edge, and the V90 Cross Country never lost its footing nor did it scrape its underbelly. Volvo says that people who buy its Cross Country wagons actually do the stuff you see the models do in the glossy SUV brochures, and after our day with the V90 Cross Country in Arizona, we believe it.

2018 VOLVO XC60

As Volvo prepared to launch its so-called “60-Cluster” cars, it told us how the designs would be very distinct, but what we discovered dur­ing our day with one in Spain is that some 50 percent of the XC60’s parts—including nearly all of its interior goodies—are interchangeable, and not surprisingly, much of its character evokes its big brother, the seven-seat XC90. That, by the way, is a compliment.

Visually, the two trucklets are near clones. The XC60’s overhangs are shorter and the look is a big punchier, but the XC60’s design strays little from the look established two years ago by the larger XC90. While the XC60 conveys the same maturity and style as the XC90, its dimensions place it closer to that of the sporty Porsche Ma­can than the large Porsche Cayenne. I bring up the Porsche intention­ally, since the gutsiest of its XC60’s powertrains, the 400-hp T8 plug-in hybrid powertrain, produces roughly the same amount of power as the powerful Macan Turbo, currently most powerful compact luxury crossover in the segment.

Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to drive that one, nor the base model with its 250-hp turbocharged four-cylinder; I only got to drive the 316-hp T6 powertrain, which, like the V90 Cross Country above, uses a supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine to get about town. Compared to the V90 Cross Country, I would say that the XC60 felt livelier and more buttoned down, though I wouldn’t venture as far off-road in the XC60 as the V90 Cross Country. On the back roads of Catalunya, however, the XC60 proved to be equally athletic and elegant. It corners with razor-sharp precision, yet absorbs bumps like a four-wheeled sponge, allowing the cabin to remain as Zen as all of Volvo’s other recent debutantes while letting the driver have all the fun he or she pleases.

If you’re bent on a compact lux-o-ute, there are few as sexy and prolific as the 2018 XC60. And if the SUV is this good, we can’t wait to see what Volvo does with the rest of the “60 cluster” cars—S60 and V60—when they emerge in the not-too-distant future.