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Driven: Volvo V70 D5 AWD. Image by Volvo.

Driven: Volvo V70 D5 AWD
One of just two luxury estates that come as 'soft-roaders', the Volvo XC70 is a competent car.

   



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Volvo XC70 D5 AWD

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: handsome exterior, well put-together cabin, comfortable, high-riding driving position, strong performance, four-wheel drive traction.

Not so good: interior design lags behind German rivals, not the sharpest steer in the world, D5 charismatic but not as good as new D4 Drive-E engine, expensive.

Key Facts

Model tested: Volvo XC70 D5 SE Lux Nav AWD
Pricing: 39,540 basic, 50,630 as tested; XC70 range starts at 34,410
Engine: 2.4-litre five-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Transmission: four-wheel drive, six-speed automatic
Body style: five-door estate
Alternatives: Audi A6 allroad quattro, BMW X3, Volvo XC60
CO2 emissions: 169g/km
Combined economy: 44.1mpg
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Power: 215hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 440Nm from 1,500rpm

Our view:

There are only two car companies that do both rugged estates based on executive models and SUVs as well - and that's Volvo and Audi. BMW and Mercedes-Benz, for example, have the SUVs, and they have all-wheel drive estate cars, but the latter do not have the lower parts of their bodies covered in black plastic, nor do they ride any higher. Meanwhile, you can get sub-executive cars like the Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer, Skoda Octavia Scout or SEAT Leon X-Perience, which all have jacked-up estate bodies... but then none of the cars on which these are based are really rivals for Volvo or Audi. And none of these car companies make a properly big SUV, either.

Which leaves Volvo and Audi as the only showroom choices for those who can't decide between XCs 60 or 70, or whether to go for an A6 allroad or a Q5. Having recently driven a wonderful Audi allroad with 245hp, the gauntlet is thrown down to the XC70 - a car that has been around for 14 years now, in one form or another. Can it match or even surpass the Ingolstadt car?

First impressions are good. Based on the third generation of V70, it's classically Volvo in its angularity, but at the same time it is rounded and softened in a few key places to make it look contemporary. It's also one of the very few cars, in my opinion, that should be specified in silver first and foremost, as that seems to amplify its Swedish cool when paired with the anthracite body cladding. Our car rode on 18-inch alloys on 235/50 rubber and they looked about spot on proportionally to the rest of the XC70.

The interior is as with many a current Volvo - very good, but not quite at German levels. On this score, the allroad is the clear winner, as the XC70's classy Sensus centre display, lovely steering wheel, sharp TFT instrument cluster and ultra-comfy seats are let down by one or two naff details and a certain degree of 'plainness' to the overall ambience. Specifically, the two 'grey bar' dials for the fuel gauge and gear indicator in the dash look badly dated next to those aforementioned 21st-century TFT displays, while the too-small infotainment screen centre-top of the dash and the slightly-too-large BLIS (blind spot) lights in the leading edge of the door frame don't sit well. It's an overall plus but we hope Volvo can move on for the next generation of cars; the new XC90's cabin seems to suggest this will be the case.

Dynamically, the Volvo is capable all-round. It's not the sharpest car to drive fast, as there's a bit more body roll than you might expect, but it is has plenty of grip. The ride is always excellent, thanks to its long-travel suspension, while wind and tyre noise are both well suppressed. And that five-cylinder engine remains charismatic - its mid-range warble is particularly appealing.

However, it's unlikely that the customer who buys an XC70 is going to care about it sounding vaguely like a Group B rally car under heavy throttle loads. Therefore, the newer, quieter and more efficient Drive-E 2.0-litre D4 is the better engine for the XC70. Admittedly, at the moment the D4 engine is only offered with front-wheel drive, whereas the D5 is all-wheel drive, but in reality most owners won't need the superb four-wheel traction the D5 affords. Also, a brief drive in a D4 XC70 last year showed a car capable of hovering around the 50mpg mark in reality, whereas this D5 couldn't average more than 40mpg. That's a big hit. So, too, is choosing the old six-speed 'Geartronic' auto (the D4 comes with the improved eight-speed transmission). Go for a self-shifting D5 XC70 over the manual model and CO2 jumps from 139- to 169g/km - so the auto's VED is 290 in year one and then 205 annually thereafter, while the manual is a flat 130 per annum. The auto is also slower and more expensive to buy, although it does get an extra 20Nm of torque over the manual, which counters again with 53.3mpg average economy compared to the auto's 44.1mpg figure.

Ultimately, an Audi allroad has the XC70's measure, given it is a more polished performer. Yet the Volvo still proved to be a comfortable long-distance companion. Covering 675 miles in a week at an average 50mph (i.e., driven without particular care for fuel consumption), the XC70 returned 39.5mpg overall - not too bad for something all-wheel drive, automatic and riding tall in the airstream. We hardly ever took it out of Comfort mode, which says a lot about its relaxed, pleasant character, and liked the muscular, refined way it went about its business.

The XC70 in D5 trim is patently a very good car, then, but the factors that undo it are the newer, better D4 engine within its own range, the steep price of one in this specification - no matter which way you cut it, more than 50,000 for a car with an engine that is going out of production imminently is a huge heap of cash - and the existence of the excellent Audi A6 allroad. Sadly for the Volvo XC70 D5, in a class of two it currently comes second.

Alternatives:

Audi A6 allroad quattro: three V6 models to choose from and they're not much more expensive than this. S tronic quattro with 245hp is sublime.

BMW X3: the 190hp xDrive 20d M Sport model with auto is 38,645. Nicer than the first-generation car but we reckon the Volvo has more class.

Volvo XC60: more out-and-out SUV than the XC70, which will put some people off but attract others. Quite keenly priced compared to the XC70.


Matt Robinson - 5 Nov 2014



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2014 Volvo XC70. Image by Volvo.
 

2014 Volvo XC70. Image by Volvo.
 

2014 Volvo XC70. Image by Volvo.
 

2014 Volvo XC70. Image by Volvo.
 

2014 Volvo XC70. Image by Volvo.
 

2014 Volvo XC70. Image by Volvo.
 

2014 Volvo XC70. Image by Volvo.
 






 

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