Off-road estate elegance from Volvo and Mercedes-Benz
AMID the flurry of voguish crossovers and SUVs sweeping across dealer forecourts, it would be almost easy to forget about the more straightforward charms of the estate car, writes William Scholes.
But done correctly, there are still few cars more desirable than a proper, no-nonsense estate car.
As if to prove the point, two of the genre's masters, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz, have unveiled new models.
Volvo is giving us the V90 Cross Country, a jacked-up version of the new V90 and a successor to the XC70.
As Volvo boss Håkan Samuelsson puts it, "the V90 Cross Country takes the elegance of the V90 and transforms it into an all-road car that delivers safety, comfort and performance in a capable and adventurous package".
Four-wheel-drive, a ride height increased over the regular V90 and a chassis "optimised for comfort and control in all weather and road conditions" are part of the package.
Volvo has a long track record when it comes to building estates with a heavy hint of SUV, but Mercedes-Benz is a newcomer.
It has always built fabulous estate cars though, with the E-Class wagon arguably the best money can buy.
Following the same recipe as Volvo - adding four-wheel-drive, greater ground clearance and a few well-judged cosmetic modifications - Mercedes has created a so-called All-Terrain version of the E-Class.
According to the public relations blurb, "from unpaved tracks to steep, serpentine snow-bound roads, the new E-Class All-Terrain can tackle routes where conventional estates have to give up".
"No E-Class has ever been as versatile as the All-Terrain," says Mercedes-Benz's Ola Källenius.
"The new model combines a striking look in SUV style with the intelligent space concept of the estate.
"This is coupled with lots of innovative safety features and the multi-award-winning E-Class interior."
The All-Terrain arrives first in E220d guise, which denotes a four-cylinder diesel engine; six-cylinder versions arrive later. Whatever engine you go for, a nine-speed automatic gearbox is standard.
Both Volvo and Mercedes have fabulous interiors and price tags are likely to be well north of £40k.
Prices for both cars, which are due to arrive in Northern Ireland showrooms next year, are yet to be announced.