2004 Volvo V70 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
From wagon to Cross Country to R for Racing.
Volvo wagons just keep getting better. Volvo's flagship 70 series wagons range from comfortable sophistication to off-highway capability to high-performance barnstormer.
The Volvo Cross Country can be a great substitute for a sport-utility. It boasts an elevated chassis for ground clearance, no-dent body armor to brush aside trail debris, and all-wheel-drive traction for slippery conditions. Yet it offers the smooth ride and agile handling of a luxury car, while coddling occupants in a luxurious leather cabin.
The Volvo V70 2.4 offers a smoother ride and front-wheel drive. The V70 T5 offers enhanced handling with the refined demeanor of a European luxury sedan. And the new V70R offers brilliant high performance.
The V70 and Cross Country wagons are based on the same platform as Volvo's ultra-smooth flagship sedan, the S80. Their interiors are elegant and well designed. All are practical wagons with an adaptable seating arrangement and a cavernous cargo compartment complete with tie-down hooks and other useful accessories. Unlike many SUVs, the cargo floor is flat when all the seats are folded.
Add to that Volvo's traditional dedication to safety: Occupants are shielded by a safety-cell structure and active seats designed to prevent whiplash injuries. Airbags are positioned ahead, beside and above. Responsive steering, electronic brake enhancements, and optional traction control help avoid accidents in the first place.
The Volvo 70 series offers a choice of engines, suspensions, and packaging. The V70 2.4 ($28,460) is powered by a 2.4-liter five-cylinder engine that develops 168 horsepower (165 in California) and drives the front wheels. It comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission. A five-speed automatic is optional ($1000). Standard equipment includes power four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS, 15-inch aluminum wheels, and a long list of luxury, safety, and convenience features.
V70 2.5T ($31,785) has more power, using light-pressure turbocharging with intercooling to coax 208 horsepower from the same basic engine. The five-speed automatic is standard on this model, while Volvo's Geartronic automatic with manual override is optional ($200). Befitting its extra brawn, the 2.5T comes with wider tires on 16-inch wheels, and adds power seats and automatic climate control.
V70 T5 ($34,810) comes with 247-horsepower 2.3-liter inline five-cylinder engine with high-pressure turbocharging and a five-speed manual gearbox. The Geartronic is available as an option ($1200). The T5 also comes with firmer suspension settings and wider (P215/55R16) tires for a sporty flavor, and adds a few more comfort/convenience items to the standard-equipment list. Volvo's Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) is standard.
XC70 Cross Country ($34,810) features all-wheel drive, a higher ground clearance, a front skid plate, and unique appearance and trim items. It is powered by a 2.5-liter inline-5 with light-pressure turbocharging, developing 208 horsepower and 236 pounds-feet of torque. Cross Country comes standard with the Geartronic automatic transmission. In its luxury appointments the XC70 resembles the T5, but it uses a simpler traction control system called TRACS; the more sophisticated DSTC is optional ($695). The Cross Country comes with slightly taller P215/65R16 tires.
V70 2.5T AWD ($33,560) shares Cross Country's all-wheel-drive system, as well as its 208-horsepower 2.5-liter turbocharged engine and Geartronic transmission. Otherwise the 2.5T AWD is equipped the same as the front-drive V70 2.5T.
Finally, the new V70R pulls out the stops. It's a twin-turbo, twin-intercooled 300-horsepower version of the 2.3-liter engine, featuring bigger brakes with four-piston Brembo calibers, a six-speed close-ratio gearbox, and an exotic active suspension.
A long list of additional options and option packages is available. Premium Packages for each variation add a sunroof and leather upholstery, plus a selection of the comfort and convenience items that come standard on higher-level models. (Premium Package prices range from $1995 for the T5 to $2995 for the basic 2.4.) Volvo also offers leather as a stand-alone option for $1450 in the T5 and XC70, $1400 in other models.
Volvo's computer-linked Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) system may be added to the 2.4, 2.5T, or 2.5T AWD ($695). A navigation system ($1895) is optional on all models. Also available is Volvo's new On Call telematics system with a mobile phone ($835).
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 silhouette of the V70 may look squarish, but it's actually a very sleek car. There's styling innovation within the package, with aggressive stance due to the wide track. There's also something new: shapely curves.
The V70 stretches long to form a wedge that's cocked high at its boxy tail but slammed low in front for a tapered nose, capped by Volvo's signature diagonal-slash grille. Hard creases in the bowed hood thrust the grille forward as the leading edge of the vehicle. Headlight clusters unified behind curving polycarbon lenses (bi-Xenon lamps are optional) notch into recesses flanking the grille, while body-colored bumpers trimmed with black molding wrap around the V70's face to meet the front wheel wells.
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 that boldly extend from bumper to roof. We pulled an empty car trailer with a Cross Country and appreciated the high-mounted taillamps.
On the Cross Country, protective cladding rings the base of the body, matching deep front and rear bumpers, wheel-well 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 is tinted a dark shade so off-road scrapes and scratches will not be obvious. 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.
The nose of the V70R is smoother, with a smaller, lower grille crosshatched in anthracite gray. There's an integrated spoiler with a large air inlet for the twin intercoolers. Strategic aerodynamic shaping of the spoiler reduces lift and increases stability at high speeds. There's an optional spoiler over the rear glass that, along with the Pirelli P Zero P235/45ZR17 tires, make this a conspicuously mean-looking wagon, especially in black.
The stylish interior of the Volvo 70 series models features rich appointments with an understated air of elegance. Muted tone-on-tone colors are enhanced by sparing touches of faux redwood trim (optional on 2.4, standard on the others). It's a clean design, with buttons and switches in logical positions and analog gauges housed in an uncluttered instrument panel. Chrome bezel instrument rings are new for 2004. A leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard in all V70 models, along with a single-disc in-dash CD player.
The V70 2.4 we drove featured a nice interior, fully trimmed in leather. It was well appointed and nicely trimmed, though not at the levels of the T5 model. Like the other models, the V70 2.4 has great heating, ventilation, and air conditioning controls on Volvo's nicely textured, flat-charcoal panels. Controls for front and rear defrost and seat heaters were easy to find. Volvo's cupholder for the driver is cleverly designed and takes up little room when not being used.
The Cross Country we drove came with the Premium Package, which includes leather upholstery, eight-way power for both front seats, a power tilt-and-slide moonroof and a trip computer. The seats were plush and luxurious, and the dark brown color was appealing. 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 60/40, and each individual section can be flipped forward to form an extension of the flat cargo floor to the rear. The rear bench also provides anchors for securing two different types of rear-facing child safety seats. One style fits infants weighing up to 20 pounds and another suits a toddler up to 40 pounds.
The cargo area is perfectly flat, unlike that of many SUVs. The 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 Versatility Package ($1250-$1300) includes the third seat with integrated booster seat, the folding table, and a 12-volt outlet.
Appointments in the Cross Country we drove included power operation for virtually everything, as well as automatic climate control. It had the premium 200-watt stereo with Dolby Pro-Logic Surround Sound and a four-CD changer ($1,200). Volvo has its own approach for channel presets, understandable once learned, but most of us don't need to save 20 stations. Audio controls on the left side of the steering wheel work well, with cruise control buttons on the right.
Each of the five V70 wagons performs in its own style. The V70 2.4 is soft and smooth. The 2.5T is more powerful. The V70 T5 is firmer and sportier. The Cross Country is firm, but doesn't have the sporty crispness of the T5. The V70R is a sleeper hot rod.
The Volvo V70 2.4 rode very nicely. Its soft suspension dampens bumps well. The tradeoff is that it leaned in corners and the nose dove under hard braking. The base 2.4-liter engine works great on the highway. With just 168 horsepower, however, it lacks the responsive performance of the more powerful models. It was sluggish when quick acceleration was needed for low-speed maneuvers around town or in stop-and-go traffic. Depending on your temperament, driving style and patience levels, you'll either find it fully adequate or sluggish and slow to respond.
The other models use turbocharged engines in various states of tune and are far more responsive. The Cross Country, for example, has plenty of power with strong torque. We used it to pull an empty car trailer and scarcely knew the trailer was back there.
The Geartronic transmission works well. The shifter has a feeling of quality with short, precise selections. The manual mode can be enjoyable. We found it works best to wait until we were ready to accelerate before downshifting, rather than downshifting sooner to use engine braking.
On pavement, the Volvo Cross Country behaves like an agile European touring car, with a plush but firm ride quality and quick steering responses. It's very stable. Away from the pavement, the XC70 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.
Until 2003, in its all-wheel-drive models, Volvo used a viscous coupling to direct driving torque where it could do the most good. But that setup has been replaced by an all-electronic system from Haldex, the same system Volvo uses on the S60 AWD and flagship XC90, as well as the 2005 Ford Five Hundred. According to Volvo, the Haldex system reacts extremely quickly to wheel slip, routing power to the wheels with greater traction almost instantaneously: just one-seventh of a wheel rotation to be exact. The system is fully automatic; no input from the driver is ever required.
Lively and lithe, with its bigger horsepower and tighter handling, the T5 is exciting. Its high-pressure turbocharged and intercooled engine puts out 247 horsepower at 5200 rpm, and churns 243 pounds-feet of torque across a flat band spread between 2400 and 5200 rpm. Turbo lag is minimized and, with high torque at relatively low rpm, this engine impressed us with its performance and quiet demeanor.
The T5 handles curves with precision and control. Push it 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 the brakes. Nor does the tail dip during a sudden acceleration.
The optional five-speed manual gearbox, rarely found in a wagon, has a sporty short-throw stick for crisp control. The optional five-speed Geartronic automatic 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.
Volvo's Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) employs 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.
The V70 in all its versions has great brakes, smooth and easy to modulate. Four-wheel disc brakes do a good job of slowing the car, and electronic bra.
The Volvo 70 series wagons are luxurious and enjoyable to drive. The base model offers a smooth, soft ride, but the engine lacks the sporty response of the other models, which come with turbocharged engines.
The all-wheel-drive XC70 Cross Country offers many of the sure-footed benefits of a rugged sport-utility, but without an SUV's poor ride quality and sluggish handling traits. It 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. Its engine is responsive. It features luxurious appointments in a spacious passenger compartment.
T5 is an agile car, capable of sporty moves and high performance, but it's easy to control and exudes the flavor of a plush luxury sedan. It comes with a powerful 247-horsepower engine. The V70R is a wagon to die for. And it's a bargain, with tons of sophisticated content for a price that's very much in the real world.
Volvo V70 2.4 ($28,460), V70 2.5T ($31,785), V70 2.5T AWD ($33,560), V70 T5 ($34,810); XC70 Cross Country ($34,810); V70R ($38,750).
Options As Tested
Premium Package ($2595) includes leather seating surfaces, power tilt-and-slide moonroof, trip computer, eight-way power passenger seat; Touring Package ($795) includes Air Quality System, auto dimming interior rearview mirror, Homelink transmitter, laminated security side windows, cargo protection net, grocery bag holder; Premium audio system with four-disc in-dash CD ($1200).
Volvo XC70 Cross Country ($34,810).
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