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2008 Volvo V70 Review

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2008 Volvo V70

Volvo has been building wagons since 1953, and has made the genre a specialty. If the Swedish automaker has a small presence in the general automotive marketplace, it is a major player in the wagon class throughout the world. Wagons are a minor sideline for most manufacturers, but they make a significant contribution to Volvo's income.

Hence the third-generation V70, the latest in a line going back to that 1953 PV445. If the name is the same, and the shape looks familiar, at least at first glance, nearly everything else has changed. Like its predecessor, introduced in 2001, the 2008 V70 is based on the S80 platform, but that platform was all-new with the 2007 S80. The new V70 is a touch larger, more filled-out in looks, and has a stronger structure, for improved occupant safety. A comprehensive list of standard safety features, including standard integrated rear booster seats, is augmented by newly-available once-upscale options including adaptive cruise control with collision warning and Auto Brake, the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), and the Personal Car Communicator (PCC).

Power, 235 horses worth, is from the 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine introduced with the S80, driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission with "Geartronic" manual-shift mode.

Differences between the V70 and the similar XC70 crossover? Since the XC70 exists for the all-wheel-drive, all-road market niche, the V70 comes in front-wheel drive form only. That makes sense, and with front-wheel drive traction (and standard dynamic stability and traction control) the V70 should be capable enough in city winter conditions. Without the extra all-wheel drive hardware, and other XC70 modifications, the V70, which uses the same drivetrain as the XC70, weighs 500 pounds less, which benefits both performance and fuel economy. Both cars have the same 3300-pound towing capacity, enough for a small boat, motorcycles or personal watercraft, a small car, or a small camping trailer.

Winter driving conditions were the last thing on my mind during my recent summer week in a new V70. With near triple-digit temperatures, the V70's "instant Sweden" air conditioning was appreciated, as was its comfortable and spacious interior. With a moderately firm but compliant suspension, today's V70 is not a sport wagon like the old T5 and T5R models. But those were small-volume specialty vehicles. The 2008 V70 is a comfortable, roomy, and versatile vehicle with good performance and fuel economy. The EPA rates it at 16/24, and with no eye toward maximum efficiency I still got 21+ mpg during my week. Try that in an SUV, or even most similarly-sized crossovers. Remember how the SUV was once the "wagon replacement"? Maybe the wagon, as exemplified by the Volvo V70, is now the "SUV replacement".

2009 Update: No major changes. Bluetooth connectivity and foglamps will be standard, and there will be some changes to option packages.

APPEARANCE: After the late-90s S80 revolution, which begat the original V70, exterior changes to the 2008 V70 are evolutionary. The prominent nose, extended from a bulging hood, and broad shoulders have been Volvo hallmarks since the 1999 S80. Increased size - 2.3 inches in wheelbase and 4.5 in length, plus slightly greater width and height - and more convex styling to the hood and side panels make it look even larger. If somehow the shape doesn't mark it immediately as a Volvo, the rounded rectangular egg-crate grille with that "Ironmark" diagonal crossbar in front and the full-height taillight extensions at the rear certainly do.

COMFORT: Inside, the new V70 is also more evolutionary than revolutionary, and I have no complaint with that. It's Scandinavian design at its finest, in the same vein as high-end furniture and audio equipment - visually and functionally simple, but pleasing to the eye, with high-quality materials and intuitive operation. The single-brow instrument panel is an old Volvo styling cue, and its textured top stops windshield glare. The speedometer and tach are backlit for easy visibility in all light, with secondary information in inset monochrome LCD displays. The detached center stack is another, newer, Volvo styling cue, and combines the look of a premium audio component with a little extra storage space. The "key" is an electronic transponder fob that is inserted into the dash, with pushbutton start/stop. A wide variety of upscale options are available, but my test car had only the "Climate Package", with heated front seats, headlamp washers, rainsensor wipers, and heated windshield washer nozzles. (not used in dry 100-degree weather...) That meant standard seats, and there is no deprivation in that. Upholstery is a synthetic called "T-Tec" for the bolsters, and fabric for the centers. The T-Tec part looks to be easy to clean, a consideration for the Volvo wagon's family market. Front seat comfort is to Volvo standards, meaning among the best made, with the driver's seat power-adjustable, and the passenger's manual. A tilt- and telescope-adjustable steering wheel helps driver comfort, and so safety. Split folding rear seats are expected, but the V70 has a pleasant twist there - a 40/20/40 folding seatback, with the center section doing double duty hiding an armrest with cupholders and storage. The triple fold allows inventive cargo-carrying, and passenger space is good. Booster cushions are integrated into the outside rear sections. Rear area cargo tracks and tie-downs can also be useful, as is a shallow under-floor organizer.

SAFETY: The 2008 V70 surrounds its passengers with a reinforced passenger compartment and further protects them with a large energy-absorbing front structure, dual-stage front, dual-chamber side, and side curtain airbags. The Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS) and Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) further protect. Standard antilock brakes with electronic brake assistance, the Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) system, and tire pressure monitoring are also standard equipment. Adaptive cruise control with collision warning and the BLIS blind spot information system are now available.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The strong structure that helps keep the V70's passengers safe also makes a strong and rigid anchorage for its revised, fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension. The suspension is tuned moderately - call it "contemporary European luxury" - with good ride compliance for comfort and well-controlled body motions over bumps and around corners, even when driven in a matter more appropriate for the old T5R. The small amount of harshness once found in Volvo suspensions has been dialed out. Good soundproofing contributes to the luxury feel, and decreases driver and passenger fatigue.

PERFORMANCE: Volvo's newest inline six-cylinder engine is the only choice under the V70's hood, matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with "Geartronic" manual-shift mode. There is really no need for anything else. In moderate everyday driving the 3.2-liter twin-cam, aluminum alloy powerplant works well, with the smoothness for which inline sixes are famous and a broad, flat torque curve, thanks in part to a variable intake system and both Variable Cam Timing (VCT) and Cam Profile Switching systems. Maximum power is 235 horsepower at 6400 rpm, with maximum torque 236 lb-ft at 3200 rpm. The ECU (engine control computer) and transmission both seem to be set up to maximize fuel economy, with the highest gear possible used in D and shifting under anything but wide open throttle far below the redline. No complaint about that, as even then it's quick enough for most operation. When more go is needed, move the shift lever to manual and mash the throttle. Instant acceleration and lovely six-cylinder music result. Even doing that more than a few times, I averaged 21.5mpg for the week.

CONCLUSIONS: With all of the space and versatility, and better fuel economy and performance, the Volvo V70 is the perfect replacement for a crossover or SUV for anyone who doesn't really need all-weather, all-road capability.

2008 Volvo V70

Base Price			$ 32,465
Price As Tested			$ 34,410
Engine Type			dual overhead cam inline 6-cylinder with
				 cam profile switching and variable
				 intake system
Engine Size			3.2 liters / 193 cu. in.
Horsepower			235 @ 6400 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			236 @ 3200 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic
				 with "Geartronic" manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		110.8 in. / 189.9 in.
Curb Weight			3527 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		15.0
Fuel Capacity			18.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				255/55R17 95V Michelin Pilot HX
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 front wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		16 / 24 / 21.5
0 to 60 mph				7.8  sec
Towing capacity				3300 lbs.

Metallic paint				$ 475
Climate Package - includes:
  heated front seats, headlamp cleaning,
  heated windshield washer nozzles, 
  rainsensor wipers			$ 725
Destination Charge			$ 745