Sunday 23 October 2016

Go 'cross-country' but only if it has real ability

Published 15/11/2015 | 02:30

Style and confidence: The Volvo V60 Cross-Country AWD
Style and confidence: The Volvo V60 Cross-Country AWD

Often, like most people, we play a game when out driving past beautiful places. What if we won the lottery? We don't want Euromillions masses, just enough to do something exciting - like buying and giving a total refurbishment to the house and two cottages in Phoenix Park which Lisney was auctioning last Thursday.

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Of course cars figure highly in our dreams. Mine anyway; my partner and Sam the dog seem happy with the Hyundai i10, which is beginning to smell like a dog kennel on four wheels.

For more than 30 years I have been privileged to drive most of the newly-launched cars. When my numbers come up, I think it will be time to finally buy something smart. And if it is in the next few years I've now got an idea what it will be - the Volvo V60 Cross-Country with all-wheel drive (AWD).

The V60 is a very smart estate without being voluminous or unwieldy. Many competitors may have more room but few, if any, will have the style, safety and confidence of the Volvo. By lifting it up and putting in AWD there may be a bit of weight and fuel penalty but the versatility you gain is immense, as we discovered last weekend when there wasn't a country lane or track in Wicklow that we wouldn't go up in search of adventure or to assuage our nosiness.

However, I am talking solely about the all-wheel drive model. There is a front-wheel drive offering which is probably likely to be the big seller but is a load of poo (as my daughter would say).

What is the point of having a vehicle labelled as 'cross-country' that falls at the first fence and won't manage a muddy track?

It's a total waste of time - expensively sacrificing handling, ride and comfort for a more rugged look - especially if it is just going to be for the school-run.

While the range starts at €40,845, the AWD on test with eight-speed automatic box and 190bhp diesel was coming down with extras but still seemed worthwhile at just over €57k.

It doesn't get Volvo's new eco diesels or even a petrol option, which is a pity. For while it's a car built for robust work and long drives, diesel isn't the way to go in the long run. I'm sure a hybrid/electric version will come eventually.

Of course there are lots of premium competitors out there at that price but I think the reliability, massive approach to safety and comfort, and real understated flair of the V60 Cross-Country AWD would make it a winner, even if your six numbers don't come up.

If you are forking out hard-earned cash then you might be tempted by Seat and Skoda models offering much of the same features for about €10k less. But I would advise making the sacrifice - you'll have an heirloom.

Sunday Independent

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