SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyer's Guide
I can still remember the first Volvo ads back in the late 50's, the 544. It looked like our old 47 Chrysler Windsor. As a 14 year old, I wondered, why would Volvo import a car that looked so dated, when there were cars like the 1957 Chevy and Ford.
But Volvo persevered. The 544 was strong. It soon found it's way to racing as it outpowered most of the foreign competition that started coming ashore in the late 50's. As marques like Hillman, MG, Borgward, Sunbeam, Vuxhall, Opel and others fell by the wayside under the demanding drivers and conditions in the United States, there was Volvo who soon offered a more modern looking 122 and the later 140/240 "triple box" series that stayed in production in one form or another for about 25 years.
The 122 was a superb automobile. It was smooth, quick and decent handling, nevermind the high build quality. Soon Volvo started selling safety. The 240 triple box Volvos are still plentiful on the highway even today. It was built like a tank.
Volvos still regard vehicle safety not as a requirement mandated by the government, "but our personal commitment" as stated by Christer Gustafsson, a safety expert at Volvo Cars. The new V70 is no exception. New safety additions include dual stage airbags, the first rearward-facing ISOFIX seat which has international standards for child safety seats attachment points, DSTC (dynamic stability and traction control) which uses gyro sensors to determine if the car is following the course set by the steering wheel, and correct if necessary by braking the appropriate wheel(s), inflatable side curtains, side impact protection system with air bags, ABS, a whiplash protection system (WHIPS), pretensioned seat belts and steel safety cage construction. The third brake light is LED which lights faster than ordinary bulbs, so much so that at 55 mph, it will illuminate a car length quicker.
But it doesn't look like some special safety car, the V70 has some serious style. It is based of the very successful S80. The front end has the trademark, traditional Volvo grille, but it has been smoothed and rounded. Flowing lines emanate from the sides of the grille and carry through the entire side of the car creating a belt line. Even though it has been designed for maximum room (reading somewhat square), it has a very sleek low slung appearance. I like the look of the V70 actually better than the S80 and at only 186.4 inches of length its about an inch shorter than the previous generation V70 and over 4 inches shorter than the S80. I wouldn't call it the best looking Volvo, that honor goes to the C70 coupe and convertible. But this V70 offers some tasty good looks. The stance is lean and wide (track is a very wide 61.1 and 60.9 f/r, up by two inches) and the look is definitely the most aggressive of any Volvo sedan.
Wheelbase has been increased by 3.5 inches to 108.5, width is up by nearly two inches to 71 and although it doesn't look it, height is 58.7 inches, an increase of 2.5 inches.
The new body structure has increased torsional rigidity nearly 50 percent, creating a more stable platform. Combine this new rock solid structure with MacPherson Struts in front and a multilink rear suspension with stabilizer bars at both ends, and you have a car that looks like a slick wagon and handles like a sports car.
Under the hood is a familiar Volvo 2.3L DOHC 20 valve, high pressure intercooled turbo. Output is a stout 247 hp at 5,200 rpm and 243 pounds of torque anywhere from 2,400 to 5,200 rpm. In the standard V70, the engine is a slightly larger 2.4L DOHC 20 valve low pressure intercooled turbo motor that pumps out 197 hp at 5,000 rpm and 210 pounds of torque at 2,000 to 5,000 rpm.
Both engines use continuously variable valve timing on the exhaust side only, primarily for the reduction of engine emissions. The V70 qualifies as a low emission vehicle, but Volvo goes one better with the use of PremAir coating on the radiator which transforms ground level ozone into oxygen. The air is cleaner after the Volvo passes through it.
I drove the LP turbo last year and liked its quick off the line response. The new T5 (Turbo, 5 cylinder) with more horsepower didn't feel quite as quick off the mark, although its acceleration times are better. The LP motor has more displacement and higher compression for less turbo lag, but after about 10 mph, the T5 becomes a rocket.
The factory lists 0-60 times at 7.1 for the five speed automatic with the GearTronic system that allows for manual up and down shifting by a forward and aft movement of the console shifter that has become so common among high performance European and American sedans. With the five speed manual, the factory claims times in the 6.7 second range. The manual is quicker because of the direct connection to the drive wheels and you can build turbo boost before engaging the clutch. Does the V in V70 stand for Velocity?
My test vehicle wasn't as willing. The best the V70 could muster was one run to 60 mph in 7.61 seconds with an average time of 7.78 seconds. Using the GearTronic or letting the tranny do it for you didn't really make any difference as the V70 was consistent in turning in times in the mid to high sevens. Quick but a good half a second behind the factory claims which may have to do with a somewhat soft initial response from the engine when stabbing the go pedal. Usually the factory is conservative in their numbers and the slightly off performance may have something to so with the particular test vehicle. I don't have a clue as to where it spent the first 4,500 miles of its life and what kind of abuse it took.
Once rolling, however, the V70 turns in some more respectable times for a high performance sport wagon, with 50-70 coming up in just 4.29 seconds and up a steep grade only slowing that time to 6.20 seconds. In comparing these times to the very quick S80 T6 (2.8L, 268 hp), the S80 is about a half second quicker on the level and a second quicker up a steep grade.
Notwithstanding the soft tip in, the V70's performance is very satisfying with an excellent and willing throttle response once it's moving above 10 mph. It will pass just about everything on the road, including gas stations, which on the highway will be needed after about 600 miles, with the big 21.1 gallon fuel tank.
The EPA rates the V70 at 19/26 mpg city/highway. I averaged right at 20 mpg with very little time spent on the highway and lots of time blasting through the apexes of the great twisties of the Mother Lode. I know its a Volvo, but its as if it has multiple personalities. It can carry mom and six kids safely to the soccer game, or take two lucky adults to the theater in style or show up at Laguna Seca, with a bolt in roll bar and taped headlights, for a little racing fun, but stay away from the bumping and rubbing scene unless you own a body shop.
On the highway, the computer mpg readout fluctuated between 31 and 33 mpg at a constant 70 mph. The state of the art aforementioned fully independent suspension and the bank vault body structure will give you a ride so quiet, it feels more like an anechoic chamber.
On Ponderosa Road, the V70 was very smooth, handling the washboard like the Maytag repairman, what washboard. In handled the two tight 90 degree corners like it was on rails, without a waiver.
In the twisties of Green Valley, Latrobe, Highway 49 and every other bend the V70 encountered, it simply grooved the road. Volvo saw fit to mount 7X16 inch alloys with 215/55 H rated (good to 130 mph for 24 hours continuous) Michelins. They do a great job at keeping the Volvo in line. Handling is very natural and balanced.
Steering feel is perfect, with the only complaint coming is the torque wiggle department. With all that power going to the front wheels, you can get a little wiggle by nailing the throttle at takeoff and between the first to second shift at full tilt boogie. Not significant, but needed to be mentioned. But I saved the best for last anyway.
Inside is one of the most comfortable interiors anywhere. The front seats feel right out of the S80 which I reported to be some of the best in the business. There are none better and Volvo in their infinite wisdom left the front chairs alone after getting them right in the S80. Volvo has been producing some of the best seating in the industry since I first encountered the 850 about five years ago. They know how to design chairs. The leather was top of the line as well.
The dash is similar to the S80 as well, stylish and very user friendly. Set up with a large cowl containing a huge 8,000 rpm tach (redlined at 6,000) and a 160 mph speedo with smaller temp and fuel gauges flanking left and right, it will please most purists.
The manual tilt steering wheel contains controls for the radio and cruise. The vertical stack is about as tasteful and easy to use system I've seen. Good news in the audio department. In prior Volvos the AM band couldn't pull in a clear signal unless you were driving by the transmitter tower. Not anymore, San Francisco stations now come in clearer than most other systems I've tried. Kudos to Volvo for fixing the problem so quickly.
The radio uses a slightly different system for preset buttons, instead Volvo gives you 20 presets by rotating a knob left or right to go up and down in the 20 preset lineup. You can't go direct (unless the stations are next to each other in numerical order) but finding your station is still easy. The sound is about as good as it gets. The console has a an armrest with a little tray underneath and an open storage box below. I don't understand the logic of this as the armrest needs to be lifted to get into the storage area anyway. Not a complaint, just a comment. It still has one of the best interiors in the business.
The second row of seats offer generous leg and headroom and a very comfortable three place sofa. But maybe the most interesting news is the small rearward facing two place child seats in the cargo area. Simply lift up two floor panels and voila. They are limited to children 55 inches tall and under 79 pounds. I tried it and found it to be just a little tight for me, but then I weigh in at a tad over 79 pounds. But my seven and nine year heartily approved of the seats.
Even thought this new model is an inch or so shorter than the previous V70. cargo capacity behind the second row of seats is up from about 30 cubic feet to about 37 cubic feet. That's nearly 25% more room. Behind the first row is nearly 72 cubic feet, almost the size as a mid size sport ute.
Prices start at $32,400 for a V70 2.4T and add $1,000 for the T5. There are five options to consider. The automatic five speed is $1,000 (which I am not so sure I would order, the 5 speed manual has to be a kick and a half), the leather package which includes some very nice faux wood, $1,300, the versatility package with includes the third seat $1,150, stability control, $1,100, cold weather package which includes heated seats,$450 and a must have and the upgraded wheels for $500 (17 inch) which come with upgraded 235/45X17 tires. The moon roof for sun worshippers is $1,200.
My unit had all of the above except the bigger wheels and tires and stickered for $39,600 plus $575 for shipping it wall the way from Goteberg, Sweden. A 2.4 would be a grand less. But a manual, heated seat leather unit could be had for right at $35,500. That would be one really slick ship.
Turner Volvo on Fulton in Sacramento has a superb selection of this new entry into the midsize, European (near) luxury field. If you haven't ever thought about a Volvo, this one is so good it will keep you awake at nights thinking about it.
Specifications Price $32,975 to about $45,000 loaded including GPS Engines 2.4L DOHC 20 valve inline 5 cylinder LP turbo 197 hp @ 5,100 rpm 210 lbs-ft of torque @ 1,800-4,800 rpm 2.3L DOHC 20 valve inline 5 cylinder HP turbo 247 hp @ 5,100 hp 243 lbs-ft of torque @ 1,800-4,800 rpm Transmission five speed manual five speed electronically controlled automatic with GearTronic Configuration Transverse mounted front engine front wheel drive Dimensions Wheelbase 108.5 inches Length 185.4 inches Width 71.0 inches Height 58.7 inches Weight 3369 pounds Track (f/r) 61.1/60.9 inches Fuel capacity 21.1 gallons Tow capacity 3,300 pounds Turning circle 39 feet Co efficient of Drag 0.30 Cargo Capacity (f/r) 71.5/37.5 cu ft Performance 0-60 7.78 seconds 50-70 4.29 seconds 50-70 uphill 6.20 seconds Top Speed Electronically limited to 130 mph, but who in a Volvo would ever do that except on a track. Fuel Economy EPA 19/26 mpg city/highway (20/27 mpg for the low pressure 2.4L). Expect 21-23 mpg in El Dorado County and 30 mpg plus on the highway.