Unveiled last fall at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the 2015.5 Volvo V60 Cross Country represents the latest incarnation of its upscale all-road/all-season vehicle philosophy that began back in 1997 with the introduction of the V70 Cross Country. With this more action-oriented expansion of the baseline V60 - which Volvo has dubbed a sport wagon and not a crossover -- the automaker hopes to entice a new breed of buyers, particularly those who might consider its closest rival, the Audi Allroad. Our first hands-on encounter with the V60 Cross Country left no doubt that Volvo has done an impressive job of crafting a vehicle that's capable, comfortable and competent. 

Premium character 

Heading to showrooms this month, the V60 T5 AWD Cross Country comes in two configurations, each complementing its all-wheel drive system with a long list of appropriate comfort/convenience equipment. The entry level is a de facto Premium trim grade that includes everything from leather upholstery, full-power contour sport front buckets, a reconfigurable TFT instrument display, 40/20/40 folding rear bench seat and power glass sunroof to the new Sensus 3D Navigation system, Sensus Connect with Volvo On-Call, a Wi-Fi hotspot and 6-month complementary data plan, Bluetooth streaming and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. The range-topping Premium Edition we drove bolstered that kit with additional items like a Harman-Kardon Premium sound system, Active Dual Xenon headlights with washers and the Convenience and Technology Packages that are optional on the clearly not-so-base model.

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Although Drive-E engines and 8-speed automatics figure in the future, like other all-wheel-drive vehicles in Volvo's portfolio, both V60 T5 AWD models share the proven turbocharged 2.5-liter inline 5-cylinder gasoline engine. Here, too, it makes 250 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque and is backed by a 6-speed automatic. As in a regular V60 T5 AWD, that combo delivers smooth, spirited acceleration, particularly welcome in the 6,000-7,000 foot altitude around Lake Tahoe where we spent most of our drive time. Volvo says the V60 Cross Country will hit 0-60 mph in 7.0 seconds and anticipates 20/28-mpg city/highway EPA numbers. While a formal tow rating is still pending, we suspect it will be virtually identical to the regular V60's 3,500-lb maximum. 

Dynamic personality  

To ensure the new V60 Cross Country lives up to its name, the standard V60 suspension hardware gets swapped out for a custom-tuned components used in the XC70 Crossover - the Volvo model most owners are inclined to take off pavement. In addition to adding 2.6 inches of ground clearance - upping the total to 7.9 inches - that transfer also endows the Cross Country with a sportier feel while sacrificing little in the way of compliance. Despite this added ride height, the V60 Cross Country never felt the least bit "tippy" in corners and was helped by Roll Stability Control that's incorporated into its standard ESP/traction systems. Along with its electronically controlled Haldex AWD system that features full torque vectoring and corner traction control, this all-purpose Volvo also comes with Hill Descent Control. 

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Visually complementing its higher ride height, the V60 Cross Country gets a healthy dose of bolder cosmetic touches keynoted by a black honeycomb grille and black fender extensions/accent trim, protective side sills and front/rear skid plates all set off with exclusive 18-inch Neso-design alloy wheels wrapped in 235/50 all-season tires. For those close encounters with urban environments, the V60 Cross Country also features Volvo's City Safety low-speed auto-braking system while the Technology Package on the Premier models adds a host of additional driver assists including the automaker's Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection system as well as Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Lane Departure Warning and more. 

Always ready for action

Our day-long mountain drive showed the new V60 Cross Country to be a solid and secure travel mate on a variety of venues. Although a relatively warm, dry winter had left the roads clear and snow-free, Volvo did set up several dynamic demonstration exercises that showcased this sport wagon's potential under less-than-ideal conditions. A brief stint on man-made ice in a Cross Country fitted with studded tires generated even more respect for its Haldex all-wheel-drive system, but the accompanying ABS braking obstacle-avoidance/lane-change drill and a split-mu stop with one side of the vehicle on ice and the other on pavement proved far more revealing about the confidence and predictable control this new Cross Country can deliver in more challenging situations.

Pricing for the 2015.5 Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country begins at $41,940 with the V60 T5 AWD Cross Country Platinum opening at $45,590. In addition to the Convenience and Technology Packages, owners can opt for a Climate Package, Blind Spot Information System Package and number of options -- including custom wood/Piano Black trim, integrated child booster seats and a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system - to create a Cross Country that best meets their needs. 

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