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2016 Volvo V60 Cross Country: The refined SUV alternative

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VOLVO CARS NORTH AMERICA LLC - The 2016 Volvo V60 Cross Country offers stunning looks, a smoth and quiet ride, all-wheel-drive and 7.4 inches of ground clearance.The 2016 Volvo V60 Cross County is admittedly aimed at a small market niche — those looking for luxury wagons with all-wheel-drive and enough ground clearance for moderate water, snow and trails.

There are several reasons for picking such a vehicle over a crossover SUV, however. No matter how well they are styled, all crossovers are basically boxy, and not everyone like that look. In contrast, the V60 Cross County is sleek and — for a vehicle with a Swedish heritage — sexy.

Wagons are also easier to enter, exit and drive because they are basically cars with more cargo room. Crossovers have come a long way from there early days, but many still drive more like vans.

But with its 7.4 inches of ground clearance, the seating position in the V60 Cross County is higher than that of a car, giving the driver the improved visibility of a crossover. And, with its standard AWD system, the clearance gives confidence in winter driving, such as weekend trips to ski resorts where the roads might not be perfectly maintained.

VOLVO CARS NORTH AMERICA LLC - The interior of the 2016 Volvo CV60 Cross Country features everything you could want in a luxury wagon.And then there's the luxury features. After stressing safety in its early days, Volvo is now a genuine luxury manufacture, fully capable of going up against high end American, German and Japanese competitors. In fact, direct competition to the 2016 Volvo V60 Cross County is just about limited to the Audi Allroad. Other companies make luxury wagons that can be ordered with AWD, but not with additional clearance.

It's surprising the direct competition is so limited, since the idea of adding AWD and additional clearance to wagons is not new. AMC did it with the Sportabout, creating the now collectable Eagle in the 1980s. Subaru did it with the Legacy Wagon, eventually spinning the Outback off to be a separate model. And Subaru is still doing it on a smaller scale with its compact Impreza hatchback, which is the basis for the higher-riding Crosstrek these days.

The V60 Cross County is, in fact, based on another model — the regular V60 wagon, which can be ordered with AWD but not the additional clearance. The Cross County also adds front and rear skid plates, and side scuff plates.

VOLVO CARS NORTH AMERICA LLC - Cargo space is generous in the 2016 Volvo V60 Cross Country, even before the rear seats are folded down.The regular V60 wagon comes with a variety of engine choices, while the V60 Cross County only has Volvo's unique turbocharged 2.5-liter inline five cylinder engine. It produces 250 horsepower and 266 foot pounds of torque, which provides reasonable but not remarkable accelerations through the standard six-speed automatic transmission. It's unlikely buyers are going rally racing, however.

The 2016 Volvo V60 Cross County is available in two trim levels, Premier and Platinum. As the names imply, both include a wealth a comfort, convenience and entertainment features. Premier versions can be upgraded with Convenience and Technology packages that come standard on the Platinum version. A Climate package is available on both trim levels that adds an interior air quality system and a heated items: steering wheel, windshield and windshield washer nozzles, and front and rear seats.

Despite the emphasis on luxury, Volvo has not forgotten its safety roots. The 2016 Volvo V60 Cross County comes with numerous advanced safety systems standard, including Volvo On Call service that provides automatic collision reporting and an SOS emergency call button. Also standard is Volvo's City Safety forward collision mitigation system, which automatically applies the brakes if it detects an imminent collision. The Technology package features an enhanced version of this system that can detect pedestrians and cyclists, and also warns of lane departures. And the BLIS package adds a blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and front and rear parking sensors.

Our test wagon came with everything, and the combination provided increase confidence driving through record-breaking rain storms in early December. The blind-spot warning system was especially helpful for changing freeway lanes when the visibility was reduced by semi trucks throwing up sheets of water. The lane departure warning worked by reducing the stereo volume whenever we forget to use the turn signal, which is better than a beep that could be confused with something else.

The ride was also smooth and quiet, with hardly any road or wind noises, even at freeway speeds. That's another thing potential buyers should appreciate. It reinforces the luxury credentials of the 2016 Volvo V60 Cross County in its underappreciated market niche.

2016 Volvo V60 Cross County

Base price: $41,940

Price as tested: $49,940

Type: Midsize AWD wagon

Engine: Turbocharged 2.5-liter inline 5 (250 hp, 266 lbs-ft)

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

EPA estimated mileage: 20/28

Overall length: 182.5 inches

Curb weight: 3,602 pounds

Final assembly: Torslanda, Sweden