David Motton

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

Read our review of the surprisingly heavy, 148bhp Volvo V60 Cross Country – but could it be a case of style over substance for this Swedish estate?

Overview

The Cross Country is the rougher and tougher brother of Volvo’s V60. Despite the estate-car-meets-4x4 appearance, not all Cross Country models send power to all four wheels. Indeed, our test car is front-wheel drive, and is fitted with the less powerful of the two available diesel engines.

So, in our tow test, what are we looking for? It's quite simple: is this Volvo V60 a strong tow car, or do the looks promise more than the Cross Country delivers?

Towing

We matched the Volvo to a Swift Expression 626 with a Mass in Running Order of 1413kg. This twin-axle caravan looks very big behind the V60, but Volvo confirmed a 1712kg kerbweight, including a 90%-full fuel tank and 75kg for the driver. That’s high for a car of this size, and gives an 85% match figure of 1455kg.

Even so, we had our doubts about pulling the twin-axle Swift with the V60 for the first time, especially because the D3 1969cc turbodiesel only musters a modest 148bhp.

It’s torque, not top-end power, that counts when towing, though, and the Volvo produces 258lb ft. That proved enough to tow a 1400kg van very competently. In fourth gear, the Cross Country easily held 40mph up a steep hill on our usual test route, with the gradient reaching 1-in-10 in places.

The strength of the engine was underlined at the test track, with a brisk 10.4-second 30-60mph time. Once up to speed, the Volvo can hold 60mph in sixth gear on the motorway. Stability at speed wasn’t a concern in the light winds we encountered during our test. The V60 simply went where the driver pointed it.

The Cross Country wasn’t as comfortable in the lane-change test, when the tourer pushed and shoved on the fastest runs. Our car’s ‘mud and snow’ tyres, designed for Tarmac and off-road use, may have contributed to this, though they would prove beneficial on other terrain.

In the hill-start test, the Volvo’s electronic parking brake held car and caravan still on the 1-in-10 slope. The D3 engine had enough power to pull to the top of the slope easily. We were also happy with the Volvo’s performance in the braking test, stopping car and caravan in 10.4m on a slightly damp track.

Therefore, apart from its so-so effort in the lane-change test, the Volvo V60 Cross Country proved to be a very solid tow car.

Everyday driving

In everyday driving, the V60 Cross Country operates well without shining brightly. It is much like the V60 on which it’s based. The loftier ride height (increased by almost three inches), allows a bit more lean in corners, but nothing untoward. It corners tidily at sensible speeds, and the direct steering makes it easy to place the car accurately.

The ride is mostly comfortable, although the suspension can be caught out by sharp bumps around town. It smoothes out nicely at higher speeds. And while there’s some road noise at speed, the D3 engine is commendably quiet.

Space

This is where Volvo's V60 falls down. For an estate car, its luggage space is meagre. Even by the standard of compact executive estates, which tend to be less roomy than mainstream estate cars, a capacity of just 430 litres is disappointing. That’s dwarfed by the boots of the Seat Leon X-Perience, Škoda Octavia Scout and other SUV-lites.

Passengers in the back will find the legroom just about adequate, but tall adults will be hemmed in if those in the front are also tall.

Up front, there’s room to get comfortable and an understated but upmarket dash. Details such as the non-touchscreen sat-nav are reminders that the V60 has been around since 2010. And it’s a shame there’s no proper rest for the driver’s left foot.

Running costs

Volvo asks a fiver less than £31k for the D3 SE Nav. Whether that’s good value depends on how much you think the Volvo badge is worth. The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack range starts from £30,855, and all models are four-wheel drive and offer much more room for people and luggage than the Volvo.

While it’s not as spacious as rivals, you can expect competitive running costs: the official combined figure is 67.3mpg and we achieved a notable 29.4mpg while towing.

Technical specs

Engine size1969 cc
Kerbweight1712 kg
85% KW1455 kg
Towball limit90 kg
Maximum towing limit1800 kg
Power148.0 bhp
Torque258.0 lb ft
Official MPG67.3 mpg
CO2111 g/km
30-60mph10.4 seconds
30-0mph10.4 m

Verdict

In our book, estate cars should be practical. We appreciate that the Volvo V60 is designed to look stylish rather than offer the ultimate in load-carrying, but the Volvo’s boot is too small and the price is on the high side.

On the other hand, the V60 Cross Country tows very well and is a pleasant daily car. It’s not the most practical, but its stability, strong engine and unusually high kerbweight count in its favour.

Conclusion

Pros

  • It's a solid tow car with a strong powerplant
  • It has a high kerbweight, so will be a good match for a wide range of caravans

Cons

  • Luggage space is disappointing
  • Its price could be more competitive
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