Today’s car, as the title suggests, is the Volvo XC70 which is basically a jacked-up V70 Estate with skid-plates, some body cladding and all-wheel drive. Before it arrived I was looking forward to the car but as the week went by I became less enamoured. This model has been around variously for a few years now and, although one shouldn’t fix what’s not broken, it is starting to look its age.
This is not to say that the XC70 is a bad car; in many ways it is very good indeed, it’s just that I am struggling to find a reason to own one. Certainly it will do the school run and it will haul Labrador dogs up and down motorways in all weathers reliably and safely. There’s even a drop-down dog guard to keep the pooches (or difficult children) firmly in the humongous boot. Otherwise though, I wonder who it is for.
The Volvo XC70 is, it has to be said, pretty capable off-road. Lugging horseboxes into fields or negotiating icy country lanes is well within its capabilities but folk who insist on visiting or working in the countryside would likely select a true off-roading SUV. Similarly, the townie might just as well save a few quid and stick with the V70 which is a fine estate car. Truly, how often is 4WD called into play on UK roads? We don’t live in Finland.
The car itself is very good in a typical Volvo-ish way. The company have boldly stated that, thanks to an ever-increasing array of safety features, their future plan is to work towards ensuring that nobody will die in a Volvo car crash. The target date is 2020. Now, I was going to have a mini-rant (following on from a theme I have been developing of late) about the amount of unnecessary kit that car makers are sticking into vehicles. Volvo are certainly guilty of this. Then something happened to make me think again.
The XC70 is absolutely bristling with safety kit courtesy of the Driver Support Pack. Change lanes without indicating (even if there’s nothing about) and the car will chastise you. Go near anything that the car feels is too close and red lights will flash and klaxons sound. It certainly keeps you on your toes although some of it can be turned off – only for it to all come back on again at the next start up.
With my family in the car I was subjected to a driving act of such crass, dangerous stupidity that it borders on unbelievable. If I had the power I would have called in an air strike on the idiot. Normally, I would use my driving skills honed over the ages to get us out of trouble but I didn’t have to as the auto systems on the Volvo XC70 did it for me and a potentially bad accident was averted and no damage sustained. Impressive.
This car is expensive even in base form and the model tested costs almost £50k thanks to all the options. My normal default position is to say step away from the options list but this time, if you select nothing else, spend an extra £1565 on the Driver Support Pack. This includes Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection coupled with with full auto braking and equipped with an advanced sensor system that scans the area ahead. If a cyclist heading in the same direction as the car suddenly swerves out in front of the vehicle as it approaches from behind and collision is imminent, there is an instant warning and full braking power is applied. A full specification of the featured version is at the bottom of the page.
It’s a Volvo so you can expect a high standard of finish and the leather interior is both generous and gorgeous, although why the Swedish company opted to have a beige interior on a press car is beyond me. My family and I are of course clean and tidy individuals but other motoring writers, well, all I’m saying is greasy kebab stains and pastry crumbs, know what I mean? No names, no pack-drill. There’s cubbies and connections for devices; there’s climate control, navigation and Bluetooth plus the usual suspects all accessed through a well designed cascading dash.
On the road the car is a decent driver, given the ride height and the mixed purpose for which it is intended. There’s a Comfort setting for when the going gets gnarly, a Sport setting which I used as the default and an Advanced setting that really tightens things up on any smooth blacktop you might come across. Given the price of the Volvo XC70 I’m disappointed that the auto gearbox only has six ratios. These days in a prestige car I would expect eight to aid economy and so on. The engine is the D5 diesel and it has torque aplenty pushing out a healthy 325lb/ft, imbuing the big motor with lively acceleration. Pushing on though meant I only averaged 33.8mpg but I guess it is a lot of car to move around. To help, Stop/Start featured on this model.
Overall, the Volvo XC70 is very well made, does what it says in the brochure and does it well. It’s just that in my view it is showing its age and is deficient with regards to emissions (169g/km) and the other things I mentioned. If you are in the market for a compromise between an ordinary estate or a full-blown SUV then you could do a lot worse than selecting this car. The downside is of course that it will always be just such a compromise.Geoff Maxted