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XC70: a V70 with bigger wellies. Image by Alisdair Suttie.

XC70: a V70 with bigger wellies
Most car buyers will find that the Volvo V70 does everything they need; the XC70 however offers a little extra, but at a price.

   



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| Week at the Wheel | Volvo XC70 D5 |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

There's no mistaking the XC70 for its V70 estate sister model. A chunky plastic body kit that gives it that all-important SUV appearance and raised suspension for the correct stance mark out the XC. Okay, it's not as tall as the XC90 or as eye-catching as the new XC60, but the XC70 is a handsome car in a chisel-jawed Swedish sort of way. Don't be fooled into thinking the XC70 is a serious off-roader though; those front and rear bumpers are more for parking knock resistance than fending off rocks and boulders.

Where the XC really gets it together is on the inside. Just like the V70 there's a cavernous boot, with the rear seats up or down. Folding the rear seats is oh-so simple and underlines Volvo's position as one of the leading lights in the estate car business. Rear seat space is generous, while up front there's plenty of room for driver and passenger alike. The driver's seat has plenty of adjustment and the steering wheel moves for height and depth, so most drivers will find the right position for them. Our test car came with leather seats, which were in a contrasting brown to the dash's light tan. Personal taste aside, the lighter materials show up every speck of dirt. Just as importantly during our wintry week with the XC70, the heated seats and ventilation were more than a match for the chilly conditions thanks to Volvo developing its cars in Arctic conditions.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

Volvo has a new turbodiesel on the way soon, which will be a welcome boost to its range of cars. The current D5 unit makes a decent fist of powering the XC70, but it cannot help but feel a little under-refined next to the silken appeal of a Land Rover Discovery's V6 turbodiesel. With 183bhp on tap, the XC's performance is reasonable - if not scintillating - and it makes a good workhorse for those who tow horse trailers and caravans, courtesy of 295lb.ft of punch from 2,000rpm.

No doubt the six-speed manual gearbox would improve performance and response from the five-cylinder turbodiesel engine, but our test car came with the six-speed Geartronic automatic that most buyers choose. It's not a cheap option, but its smooth, unhurried nature works well with the D5 diesel. There is a manual override, but this of more use for controlling the speed on steeper descents than any sort of sporty driving.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

If you value handling above the ability to lug trailers and traverse muddy trails, we'd suggest looking to the V70 instead of the XC70. Volvo's off-road version of its mainstay wagon does a decent job of mopping up craggy road surfaces at lower speeds, but it's not as finely controlled as a Land Rover Discovery or Audi A6 allroad at greater velocities. There's also a fair degree of pitch in corners if the XC is hurried and the steering is short on feel. Treat it like an estate car and the XC is not great, but look on it as an SUV and it's better than many of its more overtly off-road-styled competitors. The pay-off for this is the XC is not nearly as able in the dirt-defying stakes.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

Volvo has a reputation for superb build quality and the XC70 does nothing to take the shine off. There's a pleasing solidity to the way the doors close, the chunkiness of the buttons and controls, and even the way the instruments are laid out adds to the sense of wellbeing accrued from sitting in the XC. The centre console could do with a few less buttons, but there's no doubt Volvo has packed in plenty of equipment into the XC70. We snuggled into leather seats with electric adjustment, were wafted by climate controlled air and entertained by a premium stereo. The only point against the Volvo is it's possible to buy rivals for the same money that provide the added versatility of seven seats.

The 2.4-litre D5 turbodiesel engine puts in a reasonable show of economy by giving 34.0mpg combined consumption. While good compared to large SUV rivals, it's not so impressive next to the estate car competition, especially when Subaru's four-wheel drive Outback model with its new turbodiesel engine manages 48.7mpg and emissions of 153g/km. Admittedly, that's for a car with a manual gearbox and the XC70 we test here has an auto. Even so, the Volvo's CO2 emissions of 219g/km attract a heft penalty in road tax, and even the manual's 199g/km doesn't save much.

Overall: star star star star star

The Volvo XC70 is a charmer thanks to its brilliantly well constructed and practical interior. For families who like their outdoors pursuits, it's a sound choice. However, the V70 estate from Volvo provides 99% of the XC's abilities without the added costs in price, economy and emissions of the soft-roader. The four-wheel drive does give an added belt of confidence in slippery conditions and the XC can tackle some rougher tracks than you'd expect, but it's no off-roader in the way a Land Rover Discovery is. What really holds the XC70 back from a higher score, though, is the unsettled low-speed ride and below par refinement of the D5 turbodiesel engine. Volvo's new diesel should help with the latter when it reaches the XC range, but it might take more work to resolve the ride comfort.

Alisdair Suttie - 6 Feb 2009



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2009 Volvo XC70 specifications: (D5 SE Lux Premium Geartronic)
Price: 34,775 on-the-road.
0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
Top speed: 127mph
Combined economy: 34.0mpg
Emissions: 219g/km
Kerb weight: 1690kg

2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.

2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.



2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

2009 Volvo XC70. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 






 

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