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Car reviews - Volvo - XC70 - 5-dr wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
Prestige interior, value for money, cabin comfort, impressive suppression of tyre and road noise
Room for improvement
Lumbering cornering, dead steering, can struggle off the beaten track, some quality issues on launch

30 Nov 2007

The new Volvo XC70 is a convincing and comfortable crossover family wagon that could well be a far more sensible choice for smaller families than a bigger and bulkier prestige SUV like the XC90.

Look at all the features that come as standard and the XC70 shapes as good value for money as well.

It is remarkably composed on most dirt tracks and bumpy tarmac country roads, but it has its limits - as was made clear at river crossing on the national launch in Port Douglas this week.

Three of the cars stalled in the water, which was somewhat un-nerving given the signs on the bank that warned of crocodiles, while a fourth made it to the other side chugging and spluttering.

It was an embarrassing failure for a car that Volvo says is styled with a sense of “go anywhere all-wheel-drive versatility.”

The company said the river was higher than expected (due to the tide). The fast-flowing river may have exceeded the 300mm wading depth of the car, but not by much.

Volvo points out that the XC70 is a crossover vehicle that was never intended to be an all-out rock-crawling off-roader.

If owners stay on milder roads, they will no doubt be impressed by the XC70. The wagon’s suspension set-up means it is by no means ideal for tarmac cornering, but is very good at absorbing bumps on most rutted and pot-holed roads.

It easily takes care of unpleasant surfaces without disturbing the occupants and would be perfect for drivers who cover a lot of corrugated outback roads.

When the roads deteriorate, the XC70’s suspension does show some signs of bother. Sharper bumps or ruts can cause the suspension to bottom-out and a loud bang resonates through the cockpit, while the damping rate can also see the rear unsettled by larger undulations.

Overall, though, the XC70 is so well-tuned for dirt that it feels more at home on the loose stuff than the tarmac.

A high-level of grip is also welcome on gravel and dirt, despite tyres that are better suited to tarmac.

With a slight hint of initial understeer, the XC70’s impressive AWD system does whatever it needs to make sure it achieves ultimate traction.

On the black-top, the XC70 is also quite comfortable, although it is not too keen on corners, tipping in with a fair amount of body roll. It may not be as clumsy as some bigger, heavier off-road vehicles, but is still no handling champion.

And the steering system is devoid of feel and gives very little feedback to the driver.

Of the engines, the D5 diesel is the pick of the bunch. The performance is well suited to the XC70, which is now no lightweight, with a vast reserve of torque.

The diesel is so quiet at idle that you would be hard-pressed to pick it as a diesel while the lumpy exhaust note as it revs actually sounds quite sporty.

If all diesel engines were like this, many more Australians would be choosing them for all types of passenger cars.

Costing $2000 more than the petrol model, the diesel is good value and has fuel efficiency on its side, but the engine can be lethargic coming out of corners.

It is not clear whether this is due to some initial turbo lag or the transmission failing to respond quickly to the throttle pressure. We suspect a bit of both as the engine performed slightly better when we selected the transmission’s manual mode.

The petrol engine is adequate, and quite smooth, but could use a bit more mid-range punch. To put it bluntly, it seems to struggle with the increased bulk of the car, which is now more than 1800kg.

Both the petrol and diesel XC70s are extremely quiet while the suppression of road and tyre noise is excellent.

Indeed, the cabin is extremely comfortable.

The standard leather seats, with their beautiful stitching, would be among the most comfortable around and the same applies to all three rear seats. The addition of the child booster seat, which sees the bolster pop-up to accommodate the little ones, is also a big plus.

Rear head and legroom is excellent and there is quite a lot of boot space.

Volvo interiors have always been a high-point and the XC70 does not disappoint. There is woodgrain that actually looks good, soft-feel plastics and quality fabric for the headlining and boot carpet, which lifts the interior.

A rear luggage blind is standard and there are also under-floor hidey-holes for smaller items and aluminium luggage net hooks. The only downside is the space-saver spare wheel, which could be an issue for country owners.

When it comes to safety, the XC70 is well-covered and the increased coverage of the curtain airbags is a plus.

It is good to see Volvo Australia is getting the message that electronic stability control is now a must-have for family cars, especially at this price point.

Volvo has rolled quite a lot of gear into the base model and that should be more than enough for most families, but some people will be tempted to step up to the LE with nifty items like the automatic tail-gate providing the bait, along with a sunroof.

The XC70 is a comfortable family wagon that is quite competent up to a point on country tarmac and dirt roads, and it is well-specified for the price.

It should be pointed out that some of the vehicles on the launch drive made a strange groaning noise under acceleration. And another failed to proceed on the first day of the launch due to a broken prop-shaft universal joint, so clearly Volvo has some issues to address.

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