Car reviews - Volvo - V70 - 2.4T 5-dr wagon
Interior space, on-road competence, build quality
Room for improvement
Choppy low-speed ride, average performance of 1.6-litre version
19 Apr 2001
By TIM BRITTEN
ARE we getting tired yet of Volvo's almost obsessive desire to convince the world how much it has changed recently? Every new Volvo is greeted with the claim that angles and edges are out, that Volvo drivers are no longer accountants and bank managers.
Today, the implication is that most Volvo drivers are into extreme sports and those who aren't at least are out there surfing, or mountain biking, or trekking in the wilderness. Vital, discerning - and most importantly - young people.
Okay, enough already.
Yes, Volvo is indeed on a new path, where grace and agility supplant safety and reliability as the core values it would like to express.
But let's not forget it was those original core values that created Volvo as we know it - or knew it. To retain old customers while attracting new ones is the challenge. Changing perceptions is one thing, killing off something of value is another.
So when you approach the slinky new V70 for the first time, you will have little trouble recognising it as a Volvo, despite all the curves. The edges may have been buffed off, but the overall look is distinctly Volvo. However it is a Volvo with unquestionable style - with, shall we say, a touch of S80 about the way it bends and bulges in sometimes-unexpected places.
The lower and wider dimensions mean it looks more purposeful than its tall and somewhat staid ancestor and the third side window is longer than the others to show that the V70 is "a genuine wagon".
In addition to being longer and wider than before, the wagon's wheelbase has been stretched by 100m to create additional rear-seat legroom.
The 2.4T version sits below the more powerful T5, which thumps out an impressive 184kW from a 2.3-litre version of the transverse five-cylinder engine universally used in the V70-S70 range.
The 2.4T's slightly larger engine produces 147kW. A normally aspirated version of the V70 has just been added to the range.
The 2.4T might be slightly downmarket of the T5, but you would hardly know it.
Equipment levels in the 2.4T are generous and include part-leather trim, heated front seats with electric adjustment on the driver's side, climate control air-conditioning, a thumping audio system with four 50-Watt amplifiers and CD player, trip computer, sunroof - you name it and it is probably there.
The big differences are the engine, which produces a more conservative 147kW than the T5's surging 184kW, and a more simple traction control system in place of the T5's full-bore stability control system that corrects skids before the driver has a chance to provoke them.
The 2.4T, naturally, is big on safety with four-channel anti-lock brakes incorporating electronic brake force distribution, dual front airbags, inflatable side curtains running from front to rear, anti-whiplash front seats and Volvo's side impact protection system.
The turbocharged 2.4T five-cylinder, multi-valve engine is no great disappointment after experiencing the stronger T5. It delivers plenty of urge at low rpm (the maximum torque of 285Nm comes in at 1800rpm, quite a bit earlier than the T5) and continues to accelerate strongly through to 6000rpm, where maximum power is developed.
Volvo claims the auto can manage 0-100km/h in 8.3 seconds, which is nothing to be ashamed of.
The engines have been upgraded with reduced reciprocating masses and now use variable valve timing (CVVT) to improve low-end torque and fuel consumption. On the turbo engines CVVT works on the exhaust camshaft - on naturally aspirated engines it works on the inlet camshaft.
The Geartronic auto offers Tiptronic-style shift capability, which means the Volvo wagon can now compete on level footing against rivals from Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi.
Being an adaptive unit, the auto's shift patterns vary to suit the manner in which the car is being driven.
The engine is beautifully complemented by the five-speed auto, which offers a good spread of ratios and slurs between them almost imperceptibly.
However torque-steer can make its presence felt when blasting away from traffic lights or powering out of tight corners - particularly in wet conditions.
Traction control helps in this area but does not altogether eliminate the problem.
Ride quality, formerly a Volvo bugbear, has been dramatically improved.
Volvo Car Australia has opted to specify a "comfort" suspension setting for the local market, although a firmer set-up can be optioned in the hard-charging T5.
The standard suspension delivers a ride that is no longer choppy around town, although it does feel a little floaty when attacking twisty country roads.
While the V70's handling is tidier than before, the weight of the engine hanging over the front axle means it still feels a bit nose-heavy at times.
Stopping power has been improved, thanks to the use of larger brakes, consisting of 305mm ventilated discs at the front and 288mm solid discs at the rear.
A pioneering feature is the use of airbags that inflate to 70 per cent of full capacity in front impacts that are less severe but may still cause injury.
In minor impacts only the seatbelt pretensioners are activated.
The wagon is also available with an optional rear-facing child seat that is equipped with headrests and inertia reel three-point seatbelts.
Although some rival manufacturers have criticised the fitting of third-row seats located in the rear crumple zone, Volvo says its statistics show these seats are the safest place for children to be in the majority of accidents.
The manufacturer says severe rear-end shunts account for only a small percentage of real-life collisions.
The V70's more stylish exterior is complemented by an interior that exudes a high-quality, upmarket feel.
Its dash and centre console is elegantly laid out, with easy-to-read instrumentation and all switchgear within fingertip-reach of the driver.
The 2.4T's leather-bound four-spoke steering wheel is nice to hold and features built-in controls for the premium sound system.
The well-shaped seats are comfortable and provide good lumbar support.
There is an assortment of storage compartments and cubbyholes for stowing oddments, as well as a map scabbard on the passenger side - but don't expect to stash your Melways in it because it won't fit.
Storage capacity is similarly generous, with luggage space measuring 485 litres with the rear seat up or a huge 1641 litres if it is folded down.
Build quality is excellent, both inside and out.
So the latest version of Volvo's most familiar model moves away from its square-rigged forebear in much the same manner as the bigger S80, but it retains plenty of Volvo identity to make sure it won't be mistaken for, say, and Audi.
Although aesthetics play a bigger part than before, it is still designed to provide loading space, rather than slinky looks.
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