SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyer's Guide
Volvo has a new wagon, the 2001 V70. While a new wagon would not be major news from most automakers, it is from Volvo. Saying that Volvo has made wagons a specialty is a serious understatement. The Swedish automaker has been building wagons since 1953, when it introduced the PV445. Although Volvo's share of the world automotive market is around one percent, 50 percent of the large wagons sold in the U.S. in 1998 were Volvos. One third of all wagons sold in Europe, and 18 percent in Japan, are Volvos. Around two-thirds of Volvo's revenue comes from wagons. So it should be no surprise that the newest Volvo is a wagon.
What is a surprise is how the 2001 V70 looks. ``No more boxes'' could almost be the new Volvo motto. The boxy styling that has been a hallmark of Volvos in general, and Volvo wagons in particular since the late 1960s is gone. In its place is a look like that of Volvo's flagship S80 luxury sedan. That is more than skin deep, as the new V70 is built on the same platform as the S80. But it is adamantly not an S80 wagon. The V70 was developed separately from the S80, and is noticeably smaller and specialized for its wagon style.
The 2001 V70 is more versatile in its interior layout than most similarly-sized SUVs, and roomier as well. It's more comfortable and better-handling, and, in sports-oriented T5 trim, faster than some well-known sports sedans. I've just finished a week with a T5, and found it to be almost two cars in one. It's a spacious hauler of people and stuff, with a multifunctional interior. Thanks to its 247-hp turbocharged engine, it also just plain hauls. Volvo's suspensions were once less than refined in comfort, but no longer. The V70 T5 compares well with the best sports-luxury cars in the world for comfort and handling. Luxury comfort, sports power and handling, and Volvo safety make it a winner. Safety can be fun!
APPEARANCE: Good news and bad news on the styling front. The good news is that the 2001 V70 is a beautifully sleek, unique- looking medium-sized wagon with hardly a straight line or flat panel. With its prominent nose and rectangular grille, it looks much like a slightly-smaller wagon version of Volvo's flagship S80 luxury sedan. Full-height, broad-shouldered taillights distinguish it at night. The bad news? No longer will a Volvo wagon, all right angles and straight lines, be the first car children will draw.
COMFORT: Like the outside, the new V70's interior takes its cues from the S80, and is much softer and more rounded than the older V70 and 850. It's comfortable and exceptionally roomy for the size of the car, and very versatile. Each side of the 60/40 split rear bench can be folded down or tumbled forward for cargo carrying. This is not unique, but the available integrated booster seat cushions in the rear seat are. They improve the view for smaller family members, and, as they are part of the regular seat cushion, have no adverse effect on space or comfort when not in use. Two optional ``versatility packages'' may be ordered to add convenience. One has a rear-facing third-row seat designed for children; the other has a grocery bag holder. Both have a cargo net and cargo area cover. Unlike a minivan or SUV, the V70 T5 is meant to appeal to the enthusiast driver as much as the family chauffeur. The front buckets provide support for long-distance driving, and less fatigue equals greater safety. A standard tilt and telescope-adjustable steering wheel makes is easy to find the perfect driving position. Instrumentation and controls largely carry over from the previous V70, with some S80 influence. The iconic climate controls are easy to use, and the system keeps occupants comfortable at all temperatures. It's hard to balance driving enthusiasm with family necessity, but Volvo has succeeded with the new V70.
SAFETY: The 2001 V70 is the safest Volvo wagon ever. All seating positions have three-point safety belts, and the WHIPS anti- whiplash system is standard, as are dual-stage airbags and a sturdy safety cage chassis structure with crush zones. Antilock brakes are standard, and dynamic stability control is available.
ROADABILITY: Although is more sport-oriented than most other Volvos, the new T5 is a bit softer than the old 850 T5-R. This should please a greater number of potential buyers, as it is solid, quiet, and comfortable as a luxury car and has the handling ability of a sports sedan. The new T5 has the same near-perfect balance of suppleness and cornering power as the S80 T6, and is close to the benchmark German sports/luxury sedans in all respects.
PERFORMANCE: You know that other Swedish car maker, the one that also makes jet fighters? Guess who makes the engines in those airplanes.... Right, Volvo. And the V70 T5 has very turbine- like acceleration. It's a little slow right off the line, but builds quickly. Midrange power is very good, and useable, and there's an afterburner-like rush up near redline. It's not quite as ferocious as the old 850 T5-R, but it's quicker than any sport-oriented SUV, and plenty of sports sedans as well. The T5's 2.3-liter twincam inline five-cylinder engine uses high-pressure turbocharging to develop 247 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 243 lb-ft of torque between 2400 and 5200 rpm. The front wheels are driven through a five-speed manual gearbox, or, optionally, a five-speed automatic with ``Geartronic'' manual-shift mode. The Geartronic is among the best such transmissions.
CONCLUSIONS: With the new V70, performance and fun have been added to Volvo's traditional safety values.
SPECIFICATIONS Base Price $ 33,400 Price As Tested $ 40,300 Engine Type dual overhead cam 2-valve inline 5- cylinder Engine Size 2.3 liters / 141 cu. in. Horsepower 247 @ 5200 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 243 @ 2400 - 5200 rpm Transmission 5-speed electronically-controlled automatic with ``Geartronic'' manual shifting Wheelbase / Length 108.5 in. / 185.4 in. Curb Weight 3,366 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 13.9 Fuel Capacity 21.1 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded premium, 91 octane minimum, 95 recommended Tires P215/Michelin Pilot HX 215 Brakes, front/rear vented disc / disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent strut / independent multilink Drivetrain front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 19 / 26 / 20 0 to 60 mph 7.1 sec Towing capacity 3,300 lbs Coefficient of Drag (cd) 0.30 OPTIONS AND CHARGES Sport leather package $ 1,300 Automatic transmission with ``Geartronic'' manual shifting $ 1,000 Security package - includes: mass movement and level sensors, security laminated windows $ 475 Power sunroof $ 1,000 Versatility package - includes: cargo net and security cover, premium sound system, rear-facing third-row seat, 12-volt outlet $ 1,150 Dynamic Stability Control $ 1,100 Integrated booster seats $ 300 Destination charge $ 575