New-age SUVs are transforming Volvo and winning new fans but the brand hasn't given up on the regular station wagon. Its flagship is the V90 Cross Country, a top-end family hauler whose only real rivals are the Audi A6 Allroad and Mercedes-Benz E-Class All Terrain.
ALI: This is new. A big Volvo wagon that's not an SUV.
PAUL: It's an old-school wagon, with a twist. It's got high-riding suspension and black plastic flares over the guards to give it that tough, getaway look.
ALI: So it's like an up-market Subaru Outback, I'm thinking.
PAUL: Way up-market from the Forester. It is $109,200 drive-away and its only rivals are an Audi at $112,855 and a Benz at $109,900, unless you want to jump back into an SUV.
ALI: That is seriously expensive. Here I was thinking it might be a rival for the Skoda Superb wagon - that's one of my favourites.
PAUL: Well, it could be. But you could get two Superb wagons for the price of this Volvo.
ALI: I got a bit of a surprise at first. I thought it was an SUV.
PAUL: That's why it's jacked up on those big wheels. People are not buying wagons these days. Even my all-time favourite, the Mercedes E-Class, now only comes as the All Terrain with a similar high-rider package.
ALI: It's really nice, not a nerdy Volvo and it looks sporty and streamlined.
PAUL: They've been doing it with the S90 sedan and this V90 - did you know they use V for wagons because it stands for Versatile? - is even better.
ALI: I love the fact that it's got the space that people expect in an SUV but you don't have the big square box.
PAUL: It's fully loaded for safety, although I haven't seen an ANCAP rating yet, and it has lovely leather and all the usual luxury items. But you can still spend more with things like a $4500 audio, $3000 sunroof or bundled packs from $2000 to $6000.
ALI: I think I'd just take it as it comes.
PAUL: It looks big and heavy, which it is, but it gets along pretty well. It's only got a relatively small turbo diesel but it's got huge torque and an eight-speed auto.
ALI: With all-wheel drive, I'm guessing? Not that it really matters to me.
PAUL: It's on-demand, so you only get drive to the rear if the front wheels are slipping, as on snow or sand or a gravel track.
ALI: Nice to know but I just like Volvos. I think they are terribly undervalued.
PAUL: I think it's a very smooth drive, quiet and with a comfortable ride on those big tyres.
ALI: It's a bit of a bus to park. It's quite long so you have to be wary of the rear end. But I guess you get that when you squash an SUV down like a pancake.
PAUL: At least it's got good vision all-round.
ALI: The reversing camera is very clear and I like the portrait layout for the infotainment. It does take some getting used to, so people should be aware they will need one or two test drives to get used to it.
PAUL: You mean the pinching and swiping?
PAUL: It's not a sports car, that's for sure, but it's a great car for a relaxing drive in the country.
ALI: Or my weekly trip to the organic market. It was great with a couple of extra kids and easy to load all the produce in the back.
PAUL: That diesel engine is so frugal you can just drive and drive. It would be a top car for a long interstate haul.
ALI: There is going to be plenty of that happening in the next few weeks, with Christmas and the school holidays.
PAUL: And it's nice to know it has Volvo safety, in particular auto emergency braking, lane assist and blind-spot monitor.
ALI: I like it. I think it's a great car for a family.
ELI: It's got those booster seats in the back, too. I'm tall now but they give me a better view.
ALI: Yes, Volvo gets big kudos for that. It seems like such a simple thing but built-in boosters for kids are great and I wish they were in every car.
ELI: Me too.
TICK OR NO TICK
ALI: I think a wagon like this is the smart buyer's SUV. I like it a lot and of course I give it the tick.
PAUL: It's overpriced for me, and I think there are cheaper wagons that can do much of the same stuff. No tick.
VOLVO V90 CROSS COUNTRY
PRICE From $109,200 drive-away (very pricey)
SERVICE 3 years/unlimited km, $2195 for 3 years (expensive)
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 173kW/480Nm (good punch)
SAFETY Not tested, AEB, radar cruise, lane assist (will be 5 stars)
FUEL 5.7L/100km (good for size)
SPARE Space-saver (should be full-size)
BOOT 1526L (fine for a family)