2002 Volvo V70 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Traditional Volvo virtues for a new generation.Great alternative to a road barge.
The V70 is part of a new generation of Volvos, a generation that combines the traditional Volvo virtues of safety and practicality with an avant-garde style and a sassy attitude.
All-new last year (2001), the V70 is a mid-size wagon based on the same mechanical platform as Volvo's prestigious S80 sedan. The kinship shows: While V70 surrenders nothing in practicality to other mid-size wagons, and exceeds most, if not all, in safety. And this sexy Swede does more than haul moldings home from Home Depot. In T5 form, especially, it just plain hauls, but with the refined demeanor of a European luxury sedan.
V70's practical side shows in an adaptable seating arrangement, and a cargo compartment with tie-down hooks and other useful accessories. Its safety heritage lives on with a safety-cell structure and active seats rigged to thwart whiplash injuries. Occupants are shielded by airbags positioned ahead, beside and above. Responsive steering, electronic brake enhancements, and optional traction control help avoid accidents in the first place.
But with a selection of turbocharged engines, aggressive suspension tuning and low-profile performance tires, the V70 also likes to go out and play.
. The problem with the common sport-utility is that it's more than 80 percent truck, when you probably need a truck less than 20 percent of the time. This can lead to a bad case of SUV-itus. Symptoms include a jarring ride, uncertain handling, and a wallet-emptying thirst for fuel.
Volvo has the cure, or maybe we should say antidote, or just anti-SUV. The Cross Country isn't a truck; it's a car, based on Volvo's versatile V70 station wagon. Yet it boasts an elevated chassis for ground clearance, no-dent body armor to brush aside trail debris, and all-wheel-drive traction on the ground.
Cross Country can plow down rough routes to reach a backwater fishing hole or favorite camping hideout. Yet on pavement, Cross Country displays the sophisticated traits of a refined road car, with agile handling and a smooth ride quality. It's nimble, while coddling passengers in luxurious comfort.
Volvo's traditional focus on active and passive safety carries over to the Cross Country, with its safety-cell body structure and seats that react to collision forces to thwart whiplash injuries. Occupants are shielded by airbags ahead, beside and above. It's still better to avoid the crash, however, so the Cross Country provides quick steering, traction control, and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist.
As a bonus, this go-anywhere wagon comes with a flat and generous cargo bay. An optional third-row seat may be added. A second-row bench splits and folds in three sections to vary the mix of passengers and gear. Most important, an electric cooler is available that plugs into the center seat section to chill your road food or beverages.
The V70 line has expanded both up and down for 2002.
At base-level now is a naturally aspirated (non-turbo) version, powered by a 2.4-liter five-cylinder engine that develops 168 horsepower. Badged simply V70, it retails for $30,025 with a five-speed manual transmission, and $1000 more with a five-speed automatic. Either way, the price includes power four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS, and a long list of luxury, safety, and convenience features.
Returning for 2002 is the V70 2.4T ($34,225), which uses light-pressure turbocharging with intercooling to coax 197 horsepower from the same basic engine. The five-speed automatic is standard on this model, while Volvo's Geartronic automatic with manual override is a $200 option. Befitting its extra brawn, the 2.4T comes with wider tires on larger wheels, and adds a power glass sunroof plus a memory function for power seats and mirrors.
Also returning is the V70 T5 ($36,425), whose 2.3-liter inline-five with high-pressure turbocharging musters 247 horsepower through a five-speed manual gearbox. The Geartronic is the only automatic available, and it costs $1200. The T5 also comes with firmer suspension settings and even wider tires for a sporty flavor, and adds a few more comfort/convenience items to the standard-equipment list. Traction control is standard as well.
The other new model for 2002 is an all-wheel-drive version of the 2.4T, which lists for $35,975. The V70 2.4T AWD normally sends 95 percent of its driving torque to its front wheels, but uses a viscous coupling to direct power to the rear wheels when necessary. The rear differential is open, but an electronic system called TRACS can selectively brake either rear wheel to control slipping. The V70 2.4T AWD can be identified by a slightly higher ground clearance and by special seven-spoke alloy wheels, and the only transmission available is the Geartronic. Otherwise it's equipped the same as the front-drive V70 2.4T
Additionally, Volvo manufactures the V70 XC, or Cross Country, an SUV-like cross-over vehicle based on the V70 much the same way that the Subaru Outback is based on the all-wheel-drive Legacy Wagon. (See review of the Cross Country in a separate NewCarTestDrive.com report.
Volvo's computer-linked Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) system may be added to any of the 2.4-liter models for $1100. A navigation system is offered as well.
All V70s uphold Volvo's tradition of safety, with dual-threshold front airbags, dual side-impact airbags, front and rear head-curtain airbags, WHIPS active whiplash protection, and both ISO-FIX and LATCH anchors for child seats. The Cross Country arrives in a single body style, spun off of Volvo's mid-size V70 wagon. V70 itself is offered in all-wheel-drive, but Cross Country adds a higher ground clearance, unique appearance, and a longer list of standard equipment. The only available drivetrain is a 2.4-liter inline five-cylinder with light-pressure turbocharging, linked to Volvo's five-speed 'Geartronic' automatic transmission.
Pricing begins at $36,500, a figure that includes just about everything most folks would need: power glass sunroof, Dolby cassette stereo, and dual-zone automatic climate control, dual-mode front airbags, dual side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags, and traction control, and anti-lock brakes with emergency brake assist and electronic brake distribution.
If you must spend more, Volvo offers leather upholstery ($1350); a Touring Package ($1110) that includes laminated side windows, 12-volt power outlet, HomeLink transmitter, trip computer and more luggage-bay accessories; a premium audio system with in-dash four-disc CD player ($1,200); and Volvo's pop-up navigation system.
During 2002, Volvo will offer Cross Country in a limited edition Ocean Race model, painted Ocean Blue with silver cladding and wearing special Ocean Race identification.
The overall shape of the V70 looks boxy at first, a natural reaction to almost any wagon. But closer scrutiny reveals fresh styling ideas for such a large package, and an aggressive stance due to a relatively wide track. There's also something here that was missing from the typical tank-like shape of previous Volvo wagons: Shapely curves.
The form evolves from a basic wedge-shape, with a high tail and low prow capped by Volvo's signature diagonal-slash grille. Hard creases in the bowed hood taper from canted A-pillars down to the sides of the grille, and thrust it forward as the leading edge of the vehicle. Headlight clusters unified behind curving polycarbon lenses notch into recesses flanking the grille, while body-colored bumpers trimmed with black molding wrap around the Volvo's face to meet the front wheel wells.
Above prominent rolled shoulders, roof pillars and side glass curve inward to meet the roof panel, softening hard corners and diminishing the visual massiveness of the wagon's rear bay. The rear liftgate also bows slightly in a curvy profile, but maintains an essentially vertical plane to maximize interior cargo space. Composed of steel-reinforced polyresin fiberglass, the back door tucks between two thin vertical taillights mounted high in a format carried over from the previous wagon. Like the V70 that fathered it, the Cross Country stretches long over a wedge-shaped shell that's cocked high at its boxy tail but slammed low in front for a tapered nose. An exceptionally wide track spreads the body across a broad platform.
Protective cladding rings around the base of the body, uniting deep front and rear bumpers, wheelwell flares and door sills. The molded cladding contrasts with the painted metal upper surfaces to create the illusion of an even higher stance. The plastic compound used for the protective cladding is tinted a dark shade so off-road scrapes and scratches will not be obvious.
In front, the cladding rises above a massive bumper to surround a rectangular chrome grille, distinguished of course by Volvo's signature diagonal slash bar. Stepped creases in the bowed hood taper inward from the broad base of the windshield to the sides of the grille, and thrust it forward as the leading edge of the wagon. Long horizontal headlight clusters, shielded by curving polycarbon lenses, tuck into notched recesses on each side of the grille, while round fog lamps cut into the thick bumper.
Above the Volvo's rolled shoulders, body-colored roof pillars and dark window glass bend inward to reach the roof panel, softening hard corners and diminishing the visual massiveness of the wagon's rear bay. The rear liftgate also bows slightly but maintains an essentially vertical plane to maximize cargo space. Composed of steel-reinforced polyresin fiberglass, the top-hinged gate mounts between rear pillars capped by long and narrow vertical taillights.
On the roof, a pair of rails linked by two sliding cross braces form a flexible car-top carrier for extra cargo or sports equipment such as bicycles and kayaks.
A stylish interior features rich appointments with an understated air of elegance. Muted tone-on-tone colors are enhanced by sparing touches of ersatz redwood trim. It's a clean design, with buttons and switches in logical positions and analog gauges housed in an uncluttered instrument panel.
Up front are two bolstered bucket seats astride a multi-purpose console. The seats are anything but conventional. They're extremely comfortable and also smart, performing tricks when necessary for safety or saving space. The front seatbacks incorporate mechanisms to guard against whiplash from a rear-end impact. During such a crash, the seatback moves rearward to reduce acceleration forces on the rider's back and neck, as the headrest pushes forward and upward slightly to meet the neck and head as they are thrust backward.
The rear bench seat accommodates three passengers easily, and features three-point safety belts in all three seating positions, which are anchored in the backrest. Individual seat-back sections in the rear seats move to two different positions: one with a 30 degree tilt for comfort, the other more vertical at 25 degrees. The latter is useful when a few more inches of space would make room for more gear in the rear.
The rear seatback also folds forward easily to form a flat cargo floor.
That back cargo bay can be fitted with available convenience items from Volvo, like a container for shopping bags or a table that pops up from beneath the second-row seat, for use with an optional third seat sized for children. (A new $1300 Versatility Package includes the third seat with integrated booster seat, and the folding table.) For infants and toddlers, anchors are in place to secure two new designs for rear-facing child safety seats. One style fits infants weighing up to 20 pounds, and another works for toddlers up to 40 pounds.
Luxurious appointments include power controls for virtually all equipment and an automatic climate system, with deluxe audio equipment and an optional Dolby Surround Pro Logic stereo with nine speakers and in-dash four-CD compact disc player. The leather seats in our Cross Country were plush and luxurious. Their dark brown color is very appealing to some people, not appealing to others. While some of us prefer some of the lighter shades, others loved the dark brown in the Cross Country. Judge for yourself.
The seats are anything but conventional: They are extremely comfortable. They are intelligent seats, loaded with technology designed to enhance safety. The front seatbacks incorporate mechanisms to guard against whiplash from a rear-end impact. During such a crash, the seatback moves rearward to reduce acceleration forces on the rider's back and neck, as the headrest pushes forward and upward slightly to meet the neck and head as they are thrust backward.
The broad rear bench fits three adults comfortably, and features three-point safety belts for all three positions. It splits into three sections of 40/20/40 percent, and each individual section of the seatback can be flipped forward to form an extension of the flat cargo floor to the rear. Also, the smaller center section may be removed entirely, creating either an aisle for access to the rear bay or space for an accessory, such as a removable softside gear bag or small electric refrigerator for stashing snacks. You'll need to spend some time reading the owner's manual to fully appreciate versatility of the rear seat design.
The rear bench also provides anchors for securing two different types of rear-facing child's safety seats. Both types use a base frame to house a cradle-style padded seat with integrated straps. One style fits infants weighing up to 20 pounds and another suits a toddler up to 40 pounds.
The generous cargo bay can be fitted with convenience items such as a container for shopping bags or an third seat sized for children. The third seat is included in a Versatility Package ($1,175) along with an integrated booster seat.
For the adults, Cross Country appointments include power controls for virtually all equipment and an automatic climate system. Deluxe audio equipment is available, including one kit with an in-dash compact disc player for four CDs ($1,200). But learning to use it is a challenge, and it is fussy in operation. Most of us don't need to save 20 stations.
On the road, it's easy to forget that the V70 is a Home Depot hauler from a company best known for safety. That's because it has the spirit of an elite touring car and moves with downright sporty manners.
The T5 delivers sheer driving excitement, handling kinks and curves with precision and control. Its lively kick and lithe attitude kindle a soothing sense of confidence, a sense that though it's an unpredictable path we travel, with pitfalls along the way, the going doesn't have to be dangerous or even uncomfortable in a Volvo.
The T5's high-pressure intercooled turbo puts out 247 horsepower and churns 243 pounds-feet of torque across a flat band spread between 1800 and 4800 rpm. With high torque at relatively low engine speed, and the typical turbo lag minimized, this engines impresses with its quick surges and quiet demeanor.
The five-speed manual gearbox, rarely found in a wagon, has a sporty short-throw stick and brings crisp control. The optional five-speed Geartronic allows shift-it-yourself maneuvers by simply throwing the gear selector lever to the left and locking it in the gate. Then push the lever forward to bump up a gear, or tip it rearward to shift down.
The new V70 platform, lifted from Volvo's larger S80 sedan, has a longer wheelbase and broader track than the pre-2001 model. That creates a solid foundation to attach the MacPherson-strut front suspension and multi-link rear axle. Bonding of body panels in lieu of spot welding contributes to exceptional torsional stiffness, which in turn defines the car's predictable linear behavior.
Push the T5 through downhill curves and it remains anchored to the pavement, with the body maintaining a level stance. There's little lateral lean through the turns, and scant dive from the nose when standing on brakes. Nor does the tail dip during a sudden acceleration.
All V70s now feature ABS to prevent brake lock-up, along with Emergency Brake Assist and electronic brake force distribution (EBD) to ensure maximum stopping power under all conditions.
Now standard on T5 is Volvo's Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC), employing an on-board computer and various motion sensors tied to the anti-lock brakes. This sophisticated device monitors the vehicle's forward progress and, if potentially dangerous oversteer or understeer is detected, acts automatically to correct the instability by braking one or more wheels.
It all adds up to an agile but controllable car, capable of sporty moves and high performance; but with the flavor of a plush luxury sedan. On pavement, the Cross Country behaves like an agile European touring car, with a plush but firm ride quality and quick steering responses. Its stiff structure helps, anchoring its MacPherson struts up front and multi-link rear end.
Away from the pavement, the Cross Country changes character and acts more like an off-road vehicle, thanks to its elevated chassis, nubby Pirelli Scorpion tires and an all-wheel-drive system that automatically channels engine torque to the wheels with the best traction.
We steered up a rugged two-rut trace on Mount Manchester in Vermont, maintaining steady progress, despite rain-slick rocks and tire-sucking mud traps. With the higher suspension we cleared all bumps and debris without incident, and the automatic traction control kept the tires rolling making driving easy. Volvo's all-wheel-drive apparatus normally directs about 95 percent of the engine torque to the front wheels, but its viscous coupling can send more to the rear when necessary. It's seamlessly automatic in operation, so the driver never needs to make a conscious decision to shift into four-wheel-drive.
A traction controller for all four wheels operates in conjunction with the all-wheel-drive system to brake a spinning wheel. ABS works when needed to help maintain stability and steering control on pavement as well as dirt. Four-wheel disc brakes do a good job of slowing the car, and electronic brake distribution ensures shorter stopping distances by directing the braking forces to the tires with the best grip. Brake assist helps the driver maintain full braking in an emergency stopping situation even if the driver makes the mistake of relaxing pressure on the brake pedal.
For muscle, the Cross Country draws from a 2.4-liter inline five-cylinder light-pressure turbo-charged engine that generates 197 horsepower. This unit produces strong torque at relatively low engine speeds without annoying turbo lag. It offers fast off-the-line starts with still enough power at faster highway speeds to facilitate a quick pass around slower traffic.
The engine mates to a five-speed electronic automatic transmission equipped with Volvo's Geartronic mode, allowing shift-it-yourself maneuvers. Simply slap the gear lever to the left and lock it in the gate, then push the stick forward to move to the next higher gear or tip it rearward to drop to a lower gear. It's useful for working through heavy traffic or undulating terrain.
All mechanical aspects of this vehicle work together to create a stable stance and proficient manners, whether on the road or on a gnarly trail. The Cross Country is easy to maneuver. It's surprisingly frisky when running down a winding country road. Yet it still feels like a luxury car when cruising along, a benefit of its long wheelbase and refined suspension. Aggressive Pirelli Scorpion tires make slightly more noise than a regular all-season tire, but are well within acceptable limits.
Volvo promotes the V70 as the safest station wagon in the world. The V stands for 'Vagen' but it could just as well signify Versatility. The V70 transcends the traditional image of a station wagon as practical but mundane family transportation; it's genuinely luxurious and fun to drive, too. Based on Volvo's V70 station wagon, the all-wheel-drive Cross Country comes with body armor and a tall suspension for easy off-road forays. Yet on pavement it delivers the plush ride of a refined European touring car. It features luxurious appointments in a spacious passenger compartment.
Volvo Cross Country delivers many of the sure-footed benefits of a rugged sport-utility, but without an SUV's poor ride quality and sluggish handling traits.
V70 ($30,025), V70 2.4T ($34,225), V70 24.T AWD ($35,975), V70 T5 ($36,425). V70 Cross Country ($36,500).
Torslanda, Sweden. Torslanda, Sweden.
Options As Tested
leather seating surfaces ($1350); premium audio system with four-disc in-dash CD and Dolby surround sound ($1200); 17 x 7.5 in. Amalthea alloy wheels with 235/45/HR 17 All-Season Pirelli P6000 tires ($500). leather seating surfaces ($1350); Touring Package ($1110) includes auto dimming interior rearview mirror, trip computer, HomeLink transmitter, 12-volt power outlet, laminated security side windows, cargo protection net, grocery bag holder; Premium audio system with four-disc in-dash CD ($1200).
V70 T5 ($36,425). V70 Cross Country ($36,500).
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