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Car reviews - Volvo - S70 - 2.5T sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Safety, quality
Room for improvement
Uninspiring handling, harsh suspension

5 Jul 2001

THE Volvo S70 is notable for two basic things: It continues to be seen as one of the safest cars in the world - and it continues to exemplify those values Volvo is trying so hard to put behind it.

Volvo would like to see it otherwise, but the S70 is the antithesis to the youthful, lifestyle image it is promoting.

The pity is, the S70 is not a bad car. In fact by any standards it is a very good car, in terms of strength, quality, comfort and general package size. The downside is that it started to look dated not that long after its introduction as the 850 in 1992.

And the general dynamics, seen as a pretty decent advance over the 240 series it replaced in 1992, also today lag behind most of the prestige competition.

So the S70 buyer today is looking at a solid, safe and comfortable conveyance that may not thrill with its driving pleasure or attract envious glances, but will still be in there slogging it out when much of its competition will have been put to rest. Sounds just like a Volvo 240.

It is bigger inside than much of its similarly priced competition such as the Audi A4, Saab 9-3 and BMW 3 series, and performance from the base 20-valve 2.4-litre 125kW five-cylinder engine is quite adequate.

Other engine options include the 142kW turbo used in the S70 2.5T (Volvo prefers to rate the car as 2.5 litres than 2.4 litres) and the Bi Fuel version that produces 106kW.

No doubt the real action is the in the wagon V70 versions where the opportunities run to four-wheel drive and no less than 184kW.

But the low-pressure 2.5T is a well equipped, strong-performing front-drive sedan that works hard at reinforcing Volvo's new, youthful self-image.

Like the V70, interior architecture is one of curves and contours rather than the rather angular, mismatched style that characterised the 850 and the use of pale leather on the seats invites a snuggle rather than a more formal perch.

The door trims are warm and comforting to admire and are topped by classy chrome door release handles.

They are matched by a chromed lever that pops open the lid to the decently sized glovebox. Above it, the passenger?s dash-mounted airbag is seamlessly inserted and concealed.

Buyers opting for the 2.5T are rewarded with wood inserts in the centre dash console and a strip across the glovebox door.

The double DIN radio, a novel three-CD disc changer head set, dominates the centre console, with Volvo?s reasonably clear to comprehend split climate controls system switches above.

The only blight in the layout is the rather inaccessible switching for minor accessories, hidden behind the steering wheel. The leather-wrapped wheel has a smaller, more shapely airbag-filled boss.

The square-edged controls seem oversized at first but many Volvo owners are mitten-clad for much of the year.

Driver and passenger enjoy multi-adjustable seats which, combined with a steering column that adjusts fore and aft as well as for rake, provide a comfortable driving position.

Overall, the interior looks good and works well but it does get shaken up by the 2.5T?s firm suspension settings.

Driving the S70 2.5T is much the same deal as the V70 version: The light-pressure turbo engine is perky enough, producing 142kW with 270Nm of torque available between 1800rpm and 5000rpm, offering better response per gear ratio.

With the gearbox switched into sport, performance is enticing rather than exuberant. Other gearbox modes are economy and, inevitably, winter, which starts off lethargically in second gear to avoid spinning the wheels.

The 2.5T covers the ground rapidly enough. It suffers from some torque steer, most pronounced when accelerating out of a corner. The gear change quality is good as well.

Unfortunately, when working hard the engine fails to provide an enthusiastic driver with any aural delight.

The 20-valve, five-cylinder motor is a smooth unit but sounds flat. It is decorous enough but not at all melodious.

In this price bracket, some form of traction control would be appreciated but none is offered.

The slipperiness in the wet compounds the steering?s rather numb feedback and feel, though steering effort is well judged between super light and dead weight. The 10.6 metre turning circle is impressive.

Although grip is fine in the dry, the suspension relays much of the violence of the wheels meeting pot holes and surface irregularities with just too much fervour. Impacts are heard and felt, though fine-tuning of bushes has smoothed out the ride on good surfaces.

Overall the S70 is a refined version of the 850 that in many was was the beginning of the company's push to alter its staid image. It is the basis of the C70 coupe and the forthcoming convertible and, of course, is the vehicle behind the brilliantly successful V70 wagon.

So although Volvo today focuses most of attention on the wagons, the S70 remains a sensible, strong, well built and safe alternative to those shopping in the entry level prestige market.

- Automotive NetWorks 21/09/1999

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