A little while ago we had a topic on the Forum asking what was THE dream car for fishing. A couple of members replied the Volvo Cross Country, and so I decided to field test one to see if it would live up to the expectations. Well someone had to do it!
I currently run a Volvo 850 Estate and the Cross Country is essentially an updated all wheel drive version. In other words it looks like an estate car rather than an off-roader, except that it has an extra 60mm (2¼ inches) ground clearance over the new Volvo V70 estate. This makes it comparable with many 4x4 and leisure vehicles.
On the road it felt reassuringly like my 850 and I instantly felt at home. You immediately realise that you're in a luxury estate rather than a leisure vehicle. Not only is it exceptionally smooth and quiet, but the seats are superb - always a Volvo hallmark. In fact it was the seats that made me decide on my 850, particularly the fact that the back is higher than normal, thus supporting the shoulders.
What was different though was the performance. Despite this being an automatic, 0-62 mph is reached in just 9.0 seconds. However this doesn't tell the whole story as the light pressure turbo gives maximum torque over the range of 1800-5000 rpm. The result is effortless overtaking at all speeds, whether on the motorway or on country lanes when you suddenly come upon a tractor! (For the technically minded reader the 2435 cc engine is a 5 cylinder 20 valver that develops 200 b.h.p.)
Three gearbox options are available. The first two are conventional, although the automatic also offers 5 speeds as well as Sport and Economy modes. The third is called the Geartronic and effectively lets you choose between either manual or automatic, which should be especially useful in traffic jams.
I have to say that the petrol consumption of my 10 valve 850 is one of its few weaknesses. However, despite its considerably better performance, the trip computer showed the Cross Country consumed only a little more fuel than the 850 on the regular journey to my lakes. The official fuel figures for the automatic are 18.1 mpg Urban, 30.7 Extra Urban and 24.6 Combined. With the manual you can expect another 2 to 2.5 mpg, although still nothing special.
What are special are Volvo's legendary safety features. Rather than list them all I'll just mention that not only is a front passenger airbag a no-cost option, side airbags protect both front and rear passengers and a whiplash protection system minimises the risk of neck injury. Add these to a number of other Volvo innovations and you end up with one of the safest cars on the road.
Originally, I'd booked this test drive in the Spring when I'd have been able to put the Cross Country through its paces on my gravel pit complex in the floods. Unfortunately foot and mouth meant I had to close the lakes, and by the time I re-opened conditions had markedly improved.
However, the higher ground clearance did enable me to get across the ford despite the extra depth, and rather than slipping on the muddy slope the Cross Country just drove straight up. Next stop was a boggy corner where several vehicles have in the past got stuck fast and required a tractor to drag them out. Not only did the Cross Country survive this test, but it sailed through without any sliding at all. In fact it was almost as though I was still on the farm track!
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to test the Cross Country in any really gruelling conditions. Hopefully, I'll be able to have another test drive this winter, in which case I'll add an update to this report.
Volvo are of course also well-known for the practicalities of their estate cars and the Cross Country is no exception. For instance you can opt for versions with the rear seat folding down in the usual 60/40 ratio , or in 3 sections (40/20/40). Either way you get a totally flat floor and sufficient room for an average adult to sleep in the back complete with tackle!
The boot space itself is particularly well shaped and not only will it hold a vast amount of gear safely out of sight under the tonneau cover, it'll even just take a 10ft 2 piece rod diagonally front to back! By the way the tonneau cover is a big improvement on the 850's which often rolled back on slamming the boot.
The standard equipment list is simply too long to list but the S model includes fuel-saving cruise control, part-leather seats, CD player, climate control and even a 12 volt socket in the boot for a cooler box or to charge a boat battery. The Se adds a computerised road and traffic information system with the option of a TV set, electrically adjusted heated front seats plus headlamp wash wipe for an extra £2500.
Here lies the one real criticism I have of the XC. The base model offers so much standard equipment that the on-the-road price is £28910 plus an extra £1100 for the automatic version. Please, please Volvo, can we have a less expensive albeit less well-equipped version as well? I'm sure there's a big gap in the market here.
To sum up, is the Volvo Cross Country the ultimate fishing car? Without a doubt! On-road it's a luxury estate, off-road it's AWD ability allows it to go almost anywhere you'd want to fish. Plus its carrying capacity means that you can take everything but the kitchen sink. Come to think of it…………
Copyright Steve Burke 2001