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Not quite 33 years ago, a sturdy Volvo wagon helped save the lives of everyone in my family. Back in 1968, it was a rare crash victim who walked away from a 75-mph impact, but we did. That’s when I learned to love the Volvo. The new Volvo Cross Country bridges the market gap between touring sedan and SUV. With its all-wheel drive and 8.2-inch ground clearance, the Cross Country certainly is suited to rough roads. But its long 108.5-inch wheel base and nearly 3,700-pound weight will prevent it from doing any serious off-roading. As evidenced by the new S60 sports sedan, Volvo is still perfectly capable of building a great car. But the Cross Country wagon ain’t it. To be blunt: The Cross Country’s highway handling leaves much to be desired. True, the 197-horsepower, 2.4-liter light-pressure turbocharged five-cylinder engine is smooth and responsive — but tackle even a gentle curve at moderate speeds and the Volvo leans so much you’ll think you’re about to flip it. Back on surface roads, the Cross Country’s creature comforts are inviting. The cabin and cargo areas are cavernous, and the seats are both soft and supportive. Ergonomics for the various comfort controls and the navigation system are better than average. In addition to ample protection from front and side impact and whiplash injuries, Volvo employs unibody construction with a high-strength, steel passenger safety cage. But while I have complete trust in the Cross Country’s crash worthiness, it still manages to rattle when navigating bumpy roads. The Verdict: Volvo has clearly hit on a popular marketing formula with the Cross Country wagon. Unfortunately, they’ve also patterned the Cross Country’s performance after that of a sloppy-handling SUV rather than the fine sedans and wagons that fill out the rest of Volvo’s product line. THE BASICS M.S.R.P. — $36,100. Price as tested — $42,955 Warranty — 4 years/50,000 miles, with Roadside Assistance Mileage — 17 city/22 highway

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