THERE'S an old phrase, ‘having your cake and sixpence', that came to mind as I swept along a slippery country lane in deepest Suffolk.
There I was, in a sizeable, comfortable estate car confidently negotiating tricky conditions with all the reassuring ability of an off-roader or a high-riding SUV.
And the reason is the Volvo V90 Cross Country I was driving comes with full four wheel drive and sufficiently raised ground clearance not to be troubled by the odd rut or boulder.
If you don't want to sit behind the wheel of Chelsea tractor and you are not won over by the fashionistas who favour SUVs this could be the answer.
The V90 Cross Country D5 PowerPulse, to give it its full title, is a smart looking estate with a usefully pokey 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine which pushes out 235bhp. An eight-speed automatic gearbox complements the gutsy power unit and it has an almost endless appetite for luggage thanks to a 560 litre boot.
Coolly confident over poor surfaces, it's also composed and smooth when being hurried around bends with little sign of body roll and yet possessing strong adhesion. The steering is somewhat lifeless but this is the only negative in otherwise excellent dynamics.
The diesel engine remains reasonably harmonious throughout its range and little commotion is transmitted into the comfy passenger compartment. Some tyre and wind noise is present, possibly due partly to the softer compound tyres fitted to the Cross Country.
Volvo tends to do its own thing when it comes to cabin design with good results. Lots of soft-touch tactile plastic mouldings, natural wood and a general feeling airiness that few other manufacturers achieve.
Taking centre stage of the dash is a nine-inch infortainment screen that operates a bit like an iPad, allowing you to scroll through menus - best keep the kids away from it though.
There's plenty of interior stowage space with large door pockets, cupholders and cubbies with lids. It's a pleasant yet practical environment with comfortable seating for four or even five despite some intrusion from the transmission tunnel that runs down the centre.
The rear seats fold down electrically expanding the flat luggage are to 1,526 litres, and the tailgate opens and shuts electrically, either at a touch of a button or by putting a foot under the rear bumper. All very slick.
Most owners will easily manage fuel consumption in the mid or late 40s which is good for a sizeable family estate which covers the 62mph sprint in less than nine seconds and can top 140mph. Emissions are pegged at a tax-efficient 119g/km.
The car on test was fitted with a huge opening glass sunroof which made the cabin still more bright an airy. This pack, including parking camera and park assist pilot, which carries out parallel parking manoeuvres, costs an extra £2,000.