Posted by Paul Horrell at 12:30PM on Friday 22 June, 2007 0 Comments

Crossovers are hot these days. So on the very same day it launches a brand-new V70 range, Volvo is doing a new version of the related XC70 estate-in-wellingtons.

Four-wheel drive is standard, and it gets bigger ground clearance and more cladding around the lower body, plus slightly more mud-capable tyres than the V70.

OK, so it isn't as hardcore off the road as a full-on SUV, but it can do all the off-roading most people actually ever need.

Snowy lanes to the ski-lift? Muddy fields with a trailer behind? Greasy slipways to launch the speedboat? No prob. In fact, it can cope with moderately severe upland tracks, thanks to decent ground clearance and hill-descent control. Just don't bash the underside - that thing that looks like a skid-plate is a bit of flimsy cosmetic plastic.

And on-road, the theory of the XC70 is just fine. Because it's based on an estate and doesn't have a greatly higher centre of gravity, it should be better to drive than the usual SUV. More economical and faster too.

Sadly that theory falls on its backside because the donor car, the new V70, isn't a very good drive. The V70's cornering is a bit dull and roly-poly, so it's worse on the XC.

The two engine choices for the XC are flawed. The five-pot diesel is noisy, the six-cylinder turbo is bruisingly thirsty. Neither have the performance you'd hope for given their power.

If it's a fun drive you want, the Audi Allroad or even the taller BMW X3 are better by some distance. But to be fair the XC70 pulls back some points because it rides far more smoothly than the X3.

It's also thoroughly nice to be in. Volvo is really good at interiors, and this is one of its best - clean-looking, modern, full of thoughtful and practical touches.

In the end, the quality of the drive probably has very little influence on this. It comes down to the other well-worn SUV-or-not arguments. Do you want the high eyepoint of an SUV? In which case an XC70 won't do. Or can you not stomach the SUV's social stigma? In which case the XC70 is an elegant alternative.