Volvo's V90 Cross Country is perfect for school runs - especially if school is off the beaten path
Wagon full of goodies Volvo V90 Cross Country's raised chassis makes it easier to get into and out of. Its cockpit is dominated by a 9-inch iPad-style infotainment touchscreen and its boot is spacious. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

What do you get when you cross a Volvo S90 with an XC90? You get the Volvo V90 Cross Country, a large estate car with a raised chassis.

This is the biggest Cross Country so far and the largest product of its sub-genre available here. Volvo is the only brand that offers such a product here. Similar variants within the Volkswagen Group are not available here now.

And why, you may ask, would anyone need - or want - a raised station wagon?

Well, the same reason why anyone would want a raised anything these days. That has been fuelling the SUV and crossover craze in the past decade and the trend looks likely to stay for many more years.

The V90 Cross Country sits 6cm higher off the ground than the V90. This makes life on the road a lot easier. You don't have to strain your body's hydraulics getting out of, say, a sedan. And you don't have to clamber up a full-scale SUV and suffer all the little indignities along with it.

For a wagon, the V90 Cross Country's height is also ideal. Loading and unloading can be executed with less strain on the back. The boot of SUVs can be a tad too high for many Asians.

The Volvo's tailgate can be opened and closed with a kicking action. The Wearnes Automotive executive who handed over the car demonstrated this with no trouble at all, but during the test-drive, the thingamajig would not work. Maybe like a certain president, I have small feet. Or was it hands?

In any case, the usual way of opening and closing the motorised fifth door is uncomplicated enough.

Inside, the car's cockpit is dominated by a 9-inch iPad-style infotainment touchscreen. As the marque which pioneered big tablet consoles, Volvo does a fantastic job of presenting tap-and-swipe functions in a fairly logical, intuitive and visual way.

A raised chassis is not the only thing that distinguishes this Volvo from its tarmac-only siblings. Its roller drive mode selector has five modes for you to choose from, including Individual and, of course, Off Road.

The Individual mode allows you to mix and match various characteristics in drivetrain, steering, brakes and electronic intervention to suit your personal taste. But most people will find the default Comfort setting to be just fine for most days.

The coolest function is adaptive cruise control, which allows the car to cruise at a set speed and set distance from the vehicle in front.

But if you choose to drive the Volvo yourself, you will find it is less agile than the S90 sedan, but not as unwieldy as the XC90.

Power from its 2-litre 254bhp engine is adequate, but not prodigious.

As a large car, its acceleration is reasonably breezy, although its claimed 7.4-second century sprint time may be a bit optimistic.

The car is shod with thick SUV-type tyres. Despite that, the ride is a little choppy. Steering is also not as tight as the S90's.

But it is still a creditable buy for anyone who wants the practicality of a wagon and user-friendliness of a crossover. And at $245,999, it is a lot of car for the dollar.