Johannesburg - With the car market all starry-eyed over SUVs, station wagons have become almost extinct but Volvo’s still in the game with its V90 Cross Country.

Launched in South Africa earlier this month in a range of eight derivatives, the V90 is a premium crossover vehicle that hits the sweet spot between a regular car and a high-riding SUV.

With permanent all wheel drive and a raised 210mm ground clearance the V90 Cross Country has above-average rough road ability, but it rides lower than the 238mm XC90 and thus has a lower centre of gravity with more car-like handling.

The top-of-the-range V90 Cross Country T6 AWD Inscription Geartronic version we took for a test drive felt at home on both tar and not-too-taxing turf, with a great ride that grooved comfortably over bumps and undulations despite the test car being fitted with optional low-profile 20” tyres.

It’s a smooth, comfortable, powerful adventure family vehicle crammed with safety, and semi autonomous driving features that really work.

Where steering assist comes into its own

The standard lane-keeping aid and adaptive cruise control worked very effectively and made for a more relaxed long journey. While it’s not intended as an autopilot while the driver plays with their smart phone, this high-tech co-pilot does keep the car at a safe following distance and in its lane - as long as the lane’s reasonably well marked.

I also found the automatic steering corrections very effective on a cambered road where I’d have otherwise had to constantly compensate for the car pulling to the left. It’s a good fatigue-reducer over long distance driving.

Additional features in this Volvo’s safety arsenal include full automatic braking when the car senses an impending collision from the front or at intersections; and a navigation system that gives the speed limit of the road being driven - if you exceed the speed, there’s a subtle warning in the instrument panel.

The navigation and infotainment are presented in a giant tablet-like touchscreen in the dash, which also also shows a bird’s eye view of the car and surrounding obstacles when it’s being reversed, making an easier job of parking.

I like the renaissance that’s sweeping through Volvo’s cockpits. Continuing the classy cabin reinvention ushered in by the XC90 and S90, here’s an interior that pits Volvo directly against the Germans in terms of perceived quality. While the cabin’s still minimalist in the best Swedish styling tradition, it’s a far cry from the chronically under-decorated and somewhat plasticky interiors of previous Volvos.

Pity that you have to pay extra for some of it though, like the smart-looking leather dashboard and metal-grate speakers that were options fitted to our test car.

The cabin’s exceptionally roomy, and so’s the boot - this is a large and very practical family car for four or five people. The optional moulded cargo bay liner has a super-grippy surface and did a great job of preventing items from rolling around in the boot - it’s R1 960 extra I’d happily spend.

All versions of the V90 Cross Country are powered by 2-litre engines, in either petrol or diesel guises and with different power outputs. The range-topping T6 uses turbocharging and supercharging to squeeze a lively 235kW and 400Nm out of that relatively low cubic capacity.

The car’s a picture of smoothness and easygoing power. There’s a hearty burst of acceleration on call when you need it, shooting this big wagon safely and swiftly past long trucks during overtaking.There isn’t any perceivable turbo lag and the power’s on tap from the word go.

The slick eight-speed Geartronic auto does a great job of managing that power, and the fuel consumption won’t bleed the budget too badly either with our test car averaging 9.9 litres per 100km - mostly in freeway cruising.

The Swedish automaker has really raised its game with its new-generation vehicles, and the V90 Cross Country continues the trajectory of the multi award-winning XC90 - which included being voted this publication’s 2015 car of the year.

The new V90 Cross Country hits the spot as a grand touring, comfortable couch of a car with effortless performance, great luxury, and the ability to go off the beaten track sometimes.

The V90 Cross Country T6 AWD Inscription Geartronic is priced at R921 300. All models come standard with a 5-year/100 000km warranty, full maintenance plan and roadside assistance.

Star Motoring