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Which Volvo V90 is this?

It’s the Volvo V90 Cross Country, the slightly more SUV-ish version of the car we crowned the best estate car in the world.

Just like an Audi Allroad, then, there’s taller ride height (by 65mm) and lots of dark plastic trim adorning the exterior. Volvo calls it ‘charcoal’.

For those genuinely wishing to off road, it provides protection to the painted bodywork. For those who won’t (a far greater proportion of buyers, we imagine), it shows the car’s all-terrain potential, seemingly half the appeal of cars like these.

But while the Allroad is arguably the identifying car for the premium-crossover-estate sub-genre, Volvo actually got there first, launching its first Cross Country – a V70 estate – in 1997.

Bet this V90 is a bit more technologically advanced…

Certainly is. Much like the standard V90 range, you’ve a choice of two engines. Both are 2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesels, the D4 possessing 190bhp, the D5 coming with 235bhp and something called ‘PowerPulse’ to reduce turbo lag and make power delivery smoother.

Unlike other V90s, both engines come with all-wheel drive in the Cross Country, so there’s no chance of your rufty tufty-looking V90 coming merely front-driven. We like that. There’s also an Off Road mode for the drive select and hill descent control, though unfortunately we didn’t get out of London to test that out.

How is it on the road?

Wonderfully calming, and probably the best of all the latest 90-series cars (S90, V90 and XC90). With more ride height, its comfier than a regular V90, and with light, effortless steering and lots of suspension travel, you seem to glide about the place.

Very rough urban bumps and potholes still jar through the seats a bit, but this is far less firmly sprung than just about every other posh estate you can buy. We may normally celebrate cars for being extremely taut and eager, but with a plush family wagon like this, that’s not really what you want. This Cross Country is a very cossetting thing, more so than a standard V90.

That’s not to say it’s a floppy mess when you do get to an interesting piece of road with no kids or cargo on board. It handles impressively well. It hardly transforms into a sports car, but it reminds me of a Subaru Legacy or Forester: a car that nails the sensible side of its brief, but leaves a little room for cornering ability, too. Find yourself far from home on a wretchedly wet and wintry night, and this would provide some brisk yet stress-relieving transport home.

We’ve driven it with the more powerful, 235bhp engine, which makes an empty V90 Cross Country a reasonably quick thing. They say 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds and a 140mph top speed, combined with a very handy 53.3mpg and 139g/km of CO2.

Perhaps more important than all of that is just how quiet and refined the V90 is – you’ll barely know the engine is there half the time, ideal when it’s a diesel. Our childish side does wish Volvo still put warbling five-cylinder petrol engines in its cars, mind. A T5 Cross Country would really do a good impression of a well-sorted Legacy…

How is it inside?

As comfortable and cavernous as any other 90-series Volvo. It’s a genuinely lovely place to be, and one of the best interiors in the executive car class right now. Mercedes might do fancier screens, and Audi more achingly cool design elements, but Volvo’s found a nice compromise between it all.

The large portrait touchscreen takes a small amount of fathoming out, but a few days of getting your head around it isn’t much when ownership will cover several years. Given Volvo’s loyal following, ‘several years’ likely outstretches a two- or three-year lease deal.

What am I paying over a standard V90?

Prices start at £39,785, making a 190bhp V90 Cross Country almost £5,000 more than an entry-level V90 Momentum, but it does add all-wheel drive, too. There’s a smaller price hike with the 235bhp D5 engine, which at £43,585, is around £1,500 more than its equivalent regular V90, with AWD already fitted.

It’s very easy to get carried away with options, mind, our test car coming in just short of £57,000. Some of it was essential (£1,500 for air suspension), some of it a little tarty (£3,000 for a fairly stunning Bowers & Wilkins stereo) and some of it a little stingy (£300 for smartphone integration and its two USB ports). It felt hugely desirable, though, and current-generation Volvos really do justify stocky prices. They feel brilliant.

This, perhaps, is the best of them. Unless you need seven seats, it’s basically a greatest hits package of the V90 and XC90: the coolest to look at (to these eyes) and the best combination of comfort and cornering nous, with some off-road ability thrown in. Volvo reckons 25 per cent of V90s sold will be Cross Countrys. We wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more.

And don’t worry: if you’re not going off road and don’t like the plastic bits, you can option them to match the paint…

What do you think?

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