Mountain Wheels: Volvo’s V60 Cross Country faces a digital divide

Right-sized and equipped with a mild hybrid powertrain, the Volvo V60 Cross Country is a wagon made for summertime gravel roads.
Courtesy photo

The more Google-empowered cars I get to drive — if I am indeed the one who’s really driving when Google is in charge of the mapping and electronic operating systems — the more I pine for the days of less-digital instruments and a not entirely all-connected infotainment experience.

This became a little more clear as the otherwise sterling 2023 Volvo V60 Cross Country’s small Sensus infotainment system went into meltdown mode, its ceiling mounted SOS warning button blinking ominously and the screen indicating the entire thing had overheated.

That’s kind of a bummer, given how capable and well-tied-together the more off-road-oriented version of the V60 is — rendered here as a hybrid powertrain. You can imagine the amplified digital chaos if the vehicle was the full-blown V60 electric powertrain.

I say all this because the traditional mechanical parts of the car are awesome, making me want to cover the screens with black electrical tape and just drive as you used to do back in the 1980s, not do on-the-road Google searches.

The V60 Cross Country Ultimate grade — priced at a $54,100 base price and $63,585 with lots of options — offers 8.1 inches of clearance, riding on big 20-inch all-seasons, and its all-wheel-drive system is remarkable in the way it helps transform this mid-sized wagon into a full-blown rally car. I drove from the very top of Gold Hill Road near Nederland, all the way into Boulder, and I was able to cruise, drift and sweep along the bumpy and steep gravel road (it’s no longer winter down there) like I was on some European rally route.

The car’s size is right on the money for non-giant-SUV fans like myself, at 188.5 inches and 22.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up.

Volvo has indeed electrified or hybridized its entire model lineup and in the middle-of-the-road B5 powertrain setup, the combination is a 247-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and an additional 13-horsepower starter-generator. No electrical plugs, still takes gas, nothing too scary.

That power output was ideal for off-pavement cavorting, and just a little short for fully confident highway passing, but also produced about 26 combined mpg during my drives.

The system is pretty straightforward, with no additional sport or eco modes — there’s an off-road mode, apparently accessible through the aforementioned Android Auto screens, but I just used standard power to enjoy my rides.

It seems best to just single-tap the crystal gear shift (I think it’s now Range Rover and Land Rover that require a double tap to get into gear) and let the Volvo’s impressive torque and grip management systems to keep you straight on loose and slippery surfaces.

I was happily deafened by the $3,200 Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system, pounded into those marvelous, gravity-defying, Nappa leather seats. The vehicle also has a full-blown air purification system — helpful for plumes of gravel dust.

Maybe you’ll absolutely love the Google Maps and the 100% Random Number Generator on the dash that doubles as a vehicle range indicator — occasionally the Volvo suggested I had up to 600 miles of range, and other times I was dipping down into the double digits. Your more normal driving patterns will likely normalize that considerably.

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