Unlike SUVs that claim to be capable of going off-road but have very little ground clearance, the Cross Country from Vovo does not pretend. We drove the new V40 CC to Madikwe Hills to test the limits of the newest model.
Text and photography: Anzet du Plessis
The new Cross Country range from Volvo signifies a shift from large SUVs to off-road capable hatches and station wagons. Since the majority of SUVs see dirt roads once a year, it makes sense to optimise vehicles that are already popular with buyers to be off-road capable, negating the need to buy an SUV at all.
The V40 Cross Country, introduced to the South African market in early April, represents the first in the range. Based on the V40 station wagon, the CC has very few but well placed modifications for gravel, light sand and mud driving. So, while Volvo’s XC range is made up of “purpose built crossovers,” senior vice president of product strategy, Lex Kerssemakers, explains that the V40 CC was developed to optimise the existing V40 on-road vehicle.
The range starts at R319 900 and goes to R419 800 with AWD and FWD options, so it is certainly not a budget-alternative to SUVs. Having a lower centre of gravity and less weight, however, has its benefits for a wagon-sized off-roader. The standard V40 station wagon is already a good quality vehicle. The space, strong and modern design and reputation for safety have been big selling points. Now Volvo have raised the ground clearance to 145mm and added side and rear scuff plates and a roof spoiler, giving it that little bit of extra capability.
On launch at the Madikwe Game Reserve, the V40 CC on test was the Elite D3 Gearshift – notably not an all-wheel-drive vehicle. The DSTC system, however, is highly capable on gravel roads. The program is a Dynamic Stability Traction Control System that varies the power supply to the wheels, with a gyroscope that senses the car’s direction and compares it to the movement of the steering wheel. It can reduce skid, brake one or all four wheels and can be turned off when not needed.
One of the more sophisticated systems on the market, it lends capability to a front wheel drive vehicle usually reserved for those with power to all four wheels.
The D3 was surprisingly stable on the long gravel roads to the reserve – at all speeds – and handles very much like an all-wheel drive vehicle. The traction control kicks in so quickly that most drivers would not be aware that wheelslip had occurred, and the low centre of gravity makes it easier to handle on gravel bends than most SUVs might be.
Power delivery from the two-litre diesel engine is consistent, which is partly due to a truly smooth, six-speed automatic gearbox. Gear change depends on the “mode” chosen, and having driven it in “eco” mode for more than 600km, we can say with confidence that this is one of the few vehicles that doesn’t become frustratingly languorous when in a fuel- efficient biased setting. There’s no doubt that the performance mode is dynamic and entertaining, to say the least, but this is a vehicle that will keep drivers happy and engaged in every setting.
Still in “eco” mode, the engine delivers optimum torque at very low r/min across a wide range. Gearshifts, however, occur at equally low revolutions, making for high torque delivery during almost every driving situation. As a game-viewing vehicle, then, creeping
around a herd of 40 elephants, relying on the engine compression, was a breeze. But despite the refinement of the engine, noise insulation seems to have taken a back seat and it is really quite loud.
Additionally, being a station wagon, the V40 CC has a much lower visibility rating than SUV drivers might be used to, and the sloping roofline not only makes getting in and out a bit awkward, but means that the window surface area is reduced and rear visibility is especially limited. Still, it’s a highly practical vehicle, with a cooled glovebox, sunglasses holder, pen holder, storage behind and next to seats and a large luggage compartment with a hidden floor for groceries. The rear seats can be split 40/60, the front seat can be collapsed and the luggage compartment made flat for extra-long objects.
With safety still Volvo’s biggest selling point, the V40 CC range includes ABS, EBD, EBA, DSTC, and seatbelt pre-tensioners, with Isofix points in the rear.
City Safety – a program that can brake at city speeds if the driver has not seen an obstacle – is also available, as is a blind spot information system and Cross Traffic Alert. The latter warns a driver who is backing out of a parking place of traffic approaching from the sides for up to 30m.
A whiplash protection system reduces the risk of injury. This is activated when the CC is hit from behind. It cradles the passenger’s neck and spine and absorbs the impact as far as possible. Airbags include knee (driver), driver and passenger dual stage units. There is also a side impact protection system including dual chamber airbags. The unique Volvo pedestrian detection system and airbag, which pops out on the outside of the vehicle over the windscreen, is an option.
- 17” Larenta dark grey glossy alloy wheels; Power door mirrors; heated; Puddle lights; Rain sensing wiper activation; Side and rear scuff plates and roof spoiler; Bi-Xenon headlights; Rear park assist; Cruise control; Front and rear reading, footwell and front door sidestep lights; 2 x 12V sockets; Lumbar support; Power seats with driver seat memory; Satellite audio controls; DVD/radio with Bluetooth; USB, Aux input, eight speakers and 7” display.
- Optional: Navigation system, first aid kit, rear park camera, remote control for audio, 19” Alecto wheels, heated seats, Cross Traffic Alert, ACC, collision warning system, blind spot info system, pedestrian detection and airbag. (Packs available from R16 000 to R25 000.)