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

The Car

Volvo logo19 Nov 2004

By MARTON PETTENDY

FOUR-WHEEL drive versions of regular station wagons may not be setting the SUV market on fire, but they are certainly eating into regular wagon sales if Volvo’s mid-way AWD, the XC70, is any guide.

Since the wagon-based XC70 was introduced to the Australian market as the V70 XC all-wheel drive in 1998, it has cannibalised wagon sales to the extent that in 2003 only 100 front-drive V70 wagons were sold.

In the late 1990s, Volvo moved about 1000 V70s annually. But unfortunately for Volvo the substitution by the XC70 – which has benefited from the lower import duties on 4WDs – has not fully accounted for all the lost sales.

In 2003, it sold 549 XC70s, no doubt partly due to further cannibalisation from Volvo’s newly launched and purpose-built SUV, the XC90.

A facelifted and re-specced version of the XC70 launched this week hopes to partly address this.

There is not a lot about the car that is new, but the XC70 range has been trimmed back to one model only – the XC70 LE (for Lifestyle Edition) – and hopes to grab attention through being comprehensively kitted out and offering a slightly refreshed look that concentrates on front and rear ends, as well as introducing a few changes to the interior.

At $69,950, the XC70 LE will carry a small premium over the previous base model, but will have substantially more standard equipment including an 11-speaker, six-CD in-dash sound system, heated front (leather) seats, bi-xenon headlights and a sunroof.

The XC70’s new-look front-end gets a slightly altered grille, transparent-lens headlights, high-pressure nozzle headlight washers and new skid plates, while at the back there are new-look, clear-lens tail-lights.

Larger rear-view mirrors and new exterior side trim are also part of the deal.

Inside, the reworked centre console offers a more versatile arrangement with a multi-position cupholder, mini-tray table and oddments bin, as well as improved seats and new armrests.

All the important stuff remains untouched. Standard engine is the 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder that produces 154kW and 320Nm, and Volvo’s five-speed Geartronic sequential-shift automatic transmission.

The four-wheel drive system is the same Haldex system used in the XC90, the S60 AWD and the grunty “R” models.

It is front-drive biased, normally running with about 95 per cent of the power going to the front wheels, but capable of splitting the drive to anything from 50-50 front and rear to 95 per cent to the rear.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Volvo DSTC stability control system remains optional and then only when the car is specified with the Four-C system that controls damping rates according to whether Comfort or Sport mode is selected.

The combination of DSTC and Four-C adds $6050 to the XC70 LE’s price.

The usual Volvo array of passive safety gear includes dual front and front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and Volvo’s WHIPS anti-whiplash system.

In 2005, Volvo will offer its new BLIS blind spot information system, which advises the driver if a vehicle has moved into a position not detectable in normal rear-view mirrors via visual warnings on the side mirror.

This is a mid-life facelift that will carry the wagon through for another four years and, Volvo says, increase sales to about 600 this year.

The bigger XC90 is expected to achieve about 1000 sales this year, while in 2005 it is expected to account for about 1300 sales.

Did you know?

In all, Volvo says it will sell slightly less than 3000 cars for 2004 – down about 300 vehicles on volumes projected earlier in the year

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