SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyer's Guide
The new for ‘98 Volvo S70 represents a new model line for the traditional Volvo lineup. Placed at a similar entry price level of the 850, the s70 offers a more refined ride, but lacks the aggressive handling of the 850 sedan.
From the outside, the overall boxiness of the s70 will confirm that this car is still a Volvo. The sharp edges usually associated with Volvo’s have been hushed with rounded curves, although general shape is far from sleek. To the untrained eye, this car will seem indistinguishable from it’s 850 brethren. Upon close inspection of the outer weather seals in the s70 will leave even the most demanding critic impressed with the quality Volvo has achieved. The seams of the Volvo s70 are perfect.
The standard engine is a 168-hp inline 5-cylinder. At idle, this engine seems exceptionally smooth and vibration free. Under hard acceleration however, the engine growls with unrefined assertiveness, and vibration begins for creep through the driver’s pedal. These small problems can be easily overlooked considering this engine’s reputation for reliability and it’s wonderfully linear power curve. Around 5000rpm all 168 horses come alive with no surprises. This automatic transmission is one of the best I’ve ever used. Shifts occur as if they read the driver’s mind, and they do it seamlessly. This transmission also offers different modes for economy sport and winter modes. The steering was a little too tight for ideal city driving, but on the highway this translates to rock-solid in-line stability.
The interior is absolutely beautiful. The high quality neutral-gray plastic perfectly accents the text on the pushbuttons. Every part of this interior has a feel of high quality. Even the shift knob has such a precise feel that one would think it was engineered but a Swiss watchmaker. One notable exception is the clear plastic in front of the dash. While the sun is at its noon position, the glare on this plastic make it nearly impossible to see the large dials hidden beneath it.
The standard cloth seats are extremely supportive and comfortable. The same can be said for the ride of the s70. The suspension soaks up both large bumps along with pavement ripples with aplomb. Acceleration is adequate compared to other cars in this price range.
Along with being as excellent car at a good price, the Volvo’s main selling point is its safety features. Keeping Volvo’s traditionally safe chassis and space frame, the s70 also has dual airbags, side airbags, and antilock brakes.
Immediately after driving the Volvo s70, I hopped in a Saab 900 2.5. This cemented my opinion that Volvo has a clear winner on their hands. The s70 was more solid, had a smoother ride, was larger, and quieter than the Saab. Given the choice between these two cars, the Volvo is clearly the winner.
Prices for the S70 start around $28,000. For those who want a little more luxury, the S90 offers a 189-hp 6 cylinder and all the luxury extra’s for $35,000. Both these cars offer exceptionally engineering at a competitive price.