Review and road test of the Volvo V70 (2000 - 2007)
PARKING IS SUCH SWEDE SORROW
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Like many relics of the 1980s, the Dudley Moore film 'Crazy People' now appears horribly dated. After all, who could mention an advertising strapline like 'Volvo, boxy but good' nowadays? Yes, they're still good, but as Design Director Peter Horbury likes to joke, Volvo have now thrown away the boxes and kept the toys. No car epitomises this philosophy better than the Volvo V70 estate. Its predecessors were so ugly and dull to drive that they were nicknamed Swedish penalty boxes, whereas the V70 is all swoops, curves and studied elegance. Buying a used example means buying into the legendary reliability without sacrificing style or driver appeal. The best of all worlds? Volvo owners would have you believe so.
(5dr estate, 2.0T, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5T petrol, 2.4, 2.5 diesel [S, SE, Sport, CD, SE Sport, SE Lux])
Volvo seemed to change the habits of a lifetime, when in January 2000, they launched the Volvo V70 estate. Puzzled motoring writers searched the press launch in vain for traces of an S70 saloon version, but the implacable Swedes from Gothenburg calmly stated that there wasn't one. To the uninformed, the V70 looks like an S80 estate, and indeed it was based on the same modular P2X platform, but it's some 110mm shorter and 30mm narrower overall on a wheelbase shrunk also by 30mm. Not a lot of difference then, but enough to drop their biggest estate one class size by Volvo's measurements. If you want a saloon, you either pay more to bag a Volvo S80 or you downsize to the S60.
Upon launch there were a number of different variants to choose from. Several decent petrol engines are available, the 2.4-litre 140bhp unit carried over from the previous generation V70, as was the 170bhp version of the same engine. The 200bhp 2.4T engine was slightly uprated from the 'old' V70's 193bhp unit, and the 2.3-litre T5 variant, boasting 250bhp needs little introduction, coming from a long line of barking mad Volvo estates. Those after a diesel had a fine 2.5-litre turbocharged unit available.
In June 2000, Volvo introduced the V70 Cross Country all-terrain version, aping the upmarket appeal of the Audi allroad and fitted with the 200bhp 2.4-litre petrol engine. Trim levels started out as base and SE, although in September 2000, the base model was redesignated the S, a policy that was replicated across the V70 range. Conventional 140bhp and 170bhp petrol engines were still available whilst a 163bhp D5 common rail 2.4-litre diesel appeared in summer 2001. The Volvo V70 Cross Country was renamed the XC70 in early 2002 and BiFuel versions of the 140bhp V70 were also offered. In 2003 Volvo launched the V70 R, a performance variant with no less than 300bhp under the bonnet.
In 2004 a significant facelift was wreaked across the range. The key modifications most will notice were a more streamlined bumper and grille set with clear rear lights being fitted to all models. There were changes to interior trim and various snippets of new technology added. T5 also received a 10bhp boost to 260bhp. A further power boost was brought in for the 2006 model year with the D5 diesel given 185bhp. Despite this, the 163bhp engine continued in 2.4D form. Later in 2006, the SE Plus and SE Lux trim levels were introduced and a 178bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine also became available. All models received wing mirrors with integrated indicator lights at this time.
What You Get
The Volvo V70 is a traditionally solidIy-built Volvo with a vertical rear window capable of swallowing enormous loads. The shape is not the usual slab-sided box, however, with elegantly tapering shoulders running along the flanks of the car. It's said that Volvo's British-born design director Peter Horbury once penned a vehicle that combined a Jaguar E-type front with a Ford Transit rear. Luckily for estate car buyers, the new V70 is no such horror. Certainly the tail is squared off but if you want an estate don't you want load-lugging ability? And you get it, with Volvo claiming a rear-seats-down capacity of 1641 litres in a boot that is longer, wider and taller than that of the old V90, for so long the king of the Volvo estate castle.
Style has not been sacrificed at the altar of practicality. Where the old V70 was all sharp angles and boxy looks, the new one is curvy all over. Designer Horbury has cleverly decreased the amount the side glass curves from front to rear, for maximum style at the driving end and maximum carrying ability at the business end. That rear, as before, is distinguished by Volvo's now-usual pillars of tail lights.
Inside, funnily enough, sharp angles make a comeback. Volvo cabins have become more rounded-off in recent years but this one heralds the return of 90-degree-angled instrument and ventilation grille surrounds and is arguably even more stylish than the excellent S80's. You could directly swap the centre console with the S80 but everything else in the V70 differs in the detail if not general layout. The Swedes earn additional points for continuing to offer light interior colours as alternatives to the off-black shades so beloved by German designers.
Then there's the two-position rear seat backrest to boost luggage space. Rear seat space isn't the V70's forte, as the bench is sculpted top seat two and there isn't a great deal of legroom for a central third passenger. However, console yourself with Volvo exclusives such as an under-floor shopping bag holder, an (optional) airline-style centre table for rear seat passengers, a plastic rubbish bag holder in the centre console and a hook in the front passenger seat headrest so the driver can grab his jacket without leaving his seat.
Safety? Take top-spec for granted; this is a new Volvo, after all. From previous models you get SIPS side impact protection, WHIPS whiplash protection, an inflatable curtain of head-level side airbags and the DSTC anti-skid system. With the new V70 come dual-stage airbag inflation (determined by impact severity) and Isofix mountings for the optional rear-facing child seat.
What to Look For
The Volvo V70 has yet to report any significant faults although as with any estate car, check the rear load bay for signs of damage. The five-cylinder engines are relatively unstressed units with the exception of the T5's 250bhp installation. With the more powerful models, check the tyres carefully as they can rapidly wave the white flag if the car has been driven in a 'spirited manner'. The interior trim is hardy and the fittings are well made, so the interiors tend to bear up pretty well. With the Cross Country scheck for correct wheel alignment and inspect the suspension and exhaust if you suspect it may have been subjected to something more arduous than a grassy car park. The ramp and departure angles of the car aren't great so take a look at the underside for scuffing or other damage.
(approx based on a 2000 V70 2.4T) Volvo consumables aren't going to break the bank. A new air filter for the V70 is around £12, whilst a fuel filter will be £20. Spark plugs retail at £15 whilst a cam belt is £40, and an oil filter £8.
On the Road
Volvos may be safer than ever before, but it seems that a streak of flair has crept into the model range, with each car either elegantly styled or indecently powerful, sometimes both. It would almost seem that since its inception into Ford's Premier Auto Group, Volvo is a company letting its corporate hair down. The V70 is a case in point. It's basic similarity to the S80 is most evident in its syrupy smooth ride quality. Buying an estate these days needn't equate to ride quality like a slam-door train.
The dynamics are better than you might expect too. Body roll is evident when you put the big Volvo into a corner, but the steering feels accurate and the handling characteristics are benign and predictable. The five-cylinder engines are surprisingly insistent at idle, but slip the shifter into neutral and it dies off. Once on the move, all engines are reassuringly quiet. Of the models, the swift T5 garner most headlines with its 155mph top speed and ability to despatch 60mph in 7.1 seconds, but the turbo diesel is probably the best for everyday motoring. With a fair turn of speed, and the ability to average 44mpg, coupled with impressive refinement, the diesel offers an extremely practical compromise.
If the Volvo V70 was a quick drying woodstain, you could guarantee that it would do exactly what it said on the tin. Roomy, durable, well screwed together and priced towards the premium end of the market, this is a car for those who treat their cars well and in return expect trouble free motoring. As a used buy, the V70 makes good sense, although first you may have to prise the current owner's fingers from the registration document. It's a car with no hidden surprises, no stings in the tail, and for the target customer, that's very good news indeed.
Volvo V70 (2000 - 2007) review by ANDY ENRIGHT