Crossovers evolved from sport utility vehicles, becoming more carlike in the process. Wagons have been moving in the opposite direction, as first Subaru, and then Audi and Volvo jacked them up to give them the kind of ground clearance necessary to reach trailhead and buyers’ hearts alike. This whole “meet in the middle” trend can be seen when one compares wagon-stalwart Volvo’s latest, the V60 T5 Cross Country to the BMW X2, a lower, sportier X1. These two offer similar room for passengers and cargo, are within one inch in overall height and come close in pricing as well. Both have very nicely furnished cockpits, with high quality materials and slick tech. The V60 is a bit more imaginative in trim choices, and while its vertically-oriented, touch screen-only infotainment screen is beautifully rendered, it is slower to boot up as compared to BMW iDrive, which can be controlled via touch or a classic twist wheel/button interface.
Now it is important to note that this isn’t a strict comparison; the test X2 is the hotrod, M35i version; its seriously breathed-on 2-liter engine cranks out 302hp and 332lb-ft of torque. More pedestrian versions of the X2 rely on a 228hp motor that tackles 0-60mph in the mid 6-second range, which is what the Volvo accomplishes with its 250hp/258lb-ft T5 engine of the same displacement. If one wants a faster V60, there are versions with up to 415hp—though none ride as high as the CC. In “normal” form, the Volvo only has about five inches of ground clearance; the Cross Country (CC) version raises it to 8.3in, roughly an inch more than X2s have. Obviously this has an effect on ride and handling; in all its forms, the X2 is very stiff and sporty. In M35i guise, its reactions to sharp impacts is to pass on tightly-controlled, vertical motions to the occupants, which means it is really only comfortable on smooth pavement. Its helm responds with precision and alacrity to inputs, but the BMW is rarely playful, since you need to really thrash it to bring out its best qualities. That is hard in highly trafficked, urban areas; find the right road—preferably twisty and lightly travelled—and the X2 M35i is a real hoot. Its low-end turbo lag is no longer an issue and its rorty exhaust and responsive automatic become allies. Contrariwise, the Volvo excels in congested city use, where its softer suspenders can soak up the wreck that areas roads have become. Its engine serves up torque at lower RPMs, making it quick enough for the cut-and-thrust of rush hour, though beyond 5000rpm or 60mph power tails off noticeably. The hotter V60s are similar to the X2 M35i in their stiff rides and quicker reflexes. Both the X2 and V60 are destined to be niche players. The BMW X1 and Volvo XC40 are much more in line with mainstream tastes. But folks who don’t at least look at these much slinkier alternatives are missing out on two of the coolest rides available in the mid-priced, premium sector.
EPA Ratings: BMW 23/29/25mpg; Volvo 22/31/25mpg
0-60mph: BMW 4.9sec (est); Volvo 6.4sec (est)
Price as tested: BMW $55,020; Volvo $56,990
Here is what BMW and Volvo have to say.
BMW click here
Volvo click here
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