2010 Volvo V70 Expert Reviews

Expert Reviews

2010 Volvo V70

New Car Test Drive
© 2010 NewCarTestDrive.com

The Volvo V70 lineup includes a sporty new R-Design model for 2010 featuring 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a higher level of luxury features and a unique look inside and out. The new R-Design model is distinguished by silk-metal trim on the grille and outside mirrors, a tailgate spoiler, black aluminum window trim, and 18-inch Cratus alloy wheels. On the inside, the cabin is treated to a Watch Dial instrument cluster; unique Deco inlays; leather seats; and unique pedals, gearshift knob and floor mats.

For 2010, Volvo V70 gets a new grille with a larger Volvo logo, and silver roof rails. Premium Package models feature a new steering wheel with silk metal accents. The available navigation system has been revised to make it more user-friendly. There have been some changes to options and packages, as well.

We found the Volvo V70 a pleasant to drive, a comfortable, practical, nicely finished car, with a lot of utility and a strong dose of Scandinavian style. The V70 is the smoothest, quietest Volvo wagon ever.

Power comes from a 3.2-liter inline-6 engine turning out 235 horsepower, with 236 pound-feet of peak torque available at 3200 rpm. Fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission, it works well, responding to orders from the gas pedal in short order, and the package delivers solid acceleration.

Inside you'll find what might be Volvo's best interior yet. It's quite sophisticated and we think it's fantastic. The layout of the various controls is smart and immediately accessible, and the ease with which the driver interacts with the car trumps most of the European competition. There's seating for five, with a 40/20/40 split rear seat and flat-folding front passenger seat that allows for a very flexible cargo space. With the rear seats folded flat, the 72.1 cubic feet of available cargo volume surpasses what you'll find in many SUVs.

Those looking for a bit of off-road capability might opt instead for the rugged XC70, similar to the V70 in design but featuring standard full-time all-wheel drive, increased ground clearance, brush-friendly lower body cladding and protective skid plates underneath. In the daily grind through the suburban jungle, however, the V70 is the better ride.

All told, the V70 features everything Volvo wagon fans have always loved, and more of it: more safety, more utility, more civility. It focuses on delivering a luxurious and stylish package, without sacrificing that familiar, beloved Volvo character.

Model Lineup

Volvo V70 3.2 ($33,550); V70 3.2 R-Design ($38,000)

Walk Around

The Volvo V70 is built on Volvo's large car platform, which it shares with the S80 luxury sedan and XC70 wagon.

For 2010, the most obvious visual change is in the front grille, where the Volvo Iron Mark, the stylized spear and shield that has symbolized Volvo since, well, forever, is much larger than before. It now provides a strong visual focus point for the entire front end. And the bright roof rails that were previously optional are now standard.

On the new 2010 V70 R-Design model, the bright metal around and within the grille has a subtle silk finish. There's matching trim on the outside mirrors, while the side windows are highlighted with what Volvo calls black aluminum. A tailgate on the spoiler and bold 18-inch wheels complete the go-fast image.

The V70 body was developed with Volvo's usual attention to impact-dissipating crumple zones, and it features fully laminated glass. The styling pays tribute to Volvo wagons of the past, while at the same time expressing a more fluid, less gangly and visually tighter esthetic. In profile, a single bold character line rises steadily from the trailing edge of the headlights, underscoring the windows before peaking gently just at the trailing edge of the rear door, creating a forward leaning, dynamic stance. The rear glass angles forward slightly toward the front of the car, emphasizing that the V70 is in fact an automobile and not a cargo van. Yet actual cargo space is compromised little, if at all.

From the rear, the V70's hexagonal shape reminds us of Volvo's sporty C30 coupe. The tail lights are very big and bright enough to startle in the dark, and the rear glass window extends down lower than the side windows to improve rearward visibility. The optional, hydraulically operated power tailgate is handy if you approach the back of this car with arms loaded, and it keeps hands cleaner if the tailgate is coated with grime.

Interior

The Volvo V70 cabin is the company's best interior yet. It's understated, elegant and nicely polished. Materials and overall finish are high-grade. While its interior borrows heavily from Volvo's line-topping S80 sedan, taking both design themes and components such as gauges, switches and console, the V70 has its own interior ambiance.

Safety was a priority. Standard equipment includes Volvo's whiplash-limiting seat design, called WHIPS. During a rear-end impact, the seatbacks move rearward to reduce acceleration forces on the occupant's back and neck, while the headrest pushes forward and upward slightly to meet the neck and head as they are thrust backward.

The V70 driver sits before a fat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, looking at big, crisp gauges with bright-white backlighting and number gradients that are easy for the brain to absorb. The standard trim is etched aluminum, but the optional genuine wood is gorgeous. The overall effect is very Scandinavian.

The center stack is a thin panel no more than two inches thick, with open space behind it. Most controls are placed here, with audio above climate and a display at the top, arranged in a neat, symmetrical pattern. The primary knobs are big and raised substantially from the surface, and the airflow controls are fashioned in an icon shaped like a seated person, so there's absolutely no confusion about directing air toward the face, feet or windshield.

In the new R-Design model, the Scandinavian-Modern feel is further enhanced by unique instrument styling that Volvo calls Watch Dial, and by trim inlays the company calls Deco. Steering wheel, shift knob, pedals, and floor mats are also specific to this model and add to its sporty appeal.

Overall, the V70 cabin is elegant and pleasing. Most significantly, measured by function and simplicity of operation, the V70's various controls are better than most other luxury brands, and particularly the German brands.

The navigation screen pops up vertically from the center of the dash, though it's canted forward at what seems like a strange angle. The driver surfs through menus and makes choices with buttons on the back of the steering wheel spokes, almost where you'd expect paddle shifters for an automatic transmission. Our initial reaction is that it's better than other systems. The menus are no more difficult to learn, and they're managed without taking hands from the steering wheel and fishing for the controls. Passengers can control the system with a remote. Revisions for 2010 include a new start-up screen with more user-friendly icons and more distinctive menus.

The seats are excellent. It's hard to find a better mix of comfort and support for daily driving. The optional leather upholstery is smooth and stretched tautly over the front seats.

The value of the fold-flat front-passenger seat should not be underestimated as it allows hauling of long items, such as a ladder or a nine-foot fly rod rigged and ready to move to the next spot upstream. The design seems to do nothing to diminish the seat's comfort, yet its back can fold forward to a level on the same plain as the folded rear seat and cargo floor. In-cabin storage tends to be short in modern Volvos, though it's decent in the V70. The center console and glovebox hold quite a bit of stuff. The pockets behind the front seatbacks are handy and the cupholders work well.

The rear seats are not the roomiest, given the apparent size of the vehicle. We wouldn't recommend six-footers sit back there for a cross-country trip. However, there is enough room that someone 5-foot, 9 inches won't get claustrophobic or cramped riding across town, and we think it would be fine for families until the kids are well into their teens. The rear DVD system puts a screen in the back of both front headrests, which we prefer to those that drop from the headliner.

The cargo area is one of the V70's strengths. The rear seat folds easily, 40/20/40, allowing lots of flexibility with passengers and long cargo. Folding just the center section, for example, can work like a pass-through for skis or hockey sticks. This compares favorably with the cargo space in the Mercedes M-Class (72.4 cubic feet) and BMW X5 (59.7) SUVs.

There's a bit of storage under the load floor, though the locking bin there is no more than six inches deep. The cargo floor has aluminum rails with movable anchorage points for securing loads. The anchors can be tucked down into the rails when they're not used, to keep the floor perfectly smooth, and there are more anchorage points in the side panels. There are also a host of load-related accessories, such as hooks, nets and space dividers.

In short, the V70 excels as a cargo hauler. The V70 has a lower liftover height than most, so it's easier to load heavy objects. While a taller SUV can accommodate taller items, we've found that extra height is rarely needed. One of our favorite accessories is a sliding floor that locks into the rails and pulls out beyond the bumper for easier loading. It will easily support 50 pounds. Other accessories include a cargo fence that could add safety when hauling the dog around.

Driving Impressions

The Volvo V70 provides good passenger-cargo flexibility and more cargo volume than some mid-sized SUVs, but its exterior dimensions are relatively compact, and it's easy to park. It can tow a camper (up to 3300 pounds), but it gets decent gas mileage. It's more pleasant and comfortable as daily transportation than most any SUV (or crossover) we can think of, with a smooth, quiet and comfortable highway ride.

The V70 uses a 3.2-liter inline-6 that generates 235 horsepower at 6400 rpm, with 236 pound-feet of torque at 3200 rpm. The six-speed automatic transmission uses all those gears to improve response and fuel economy. Like the engine it is mounted transversely, or sideways. That's unusual with a straight six, but it's also one reason why the V70 packs so much interior space into a relatively modest overall length. In some areas a PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) version is available, which trades 10 horsepower (down to 225) for lower emissions and better fuel economy. On these vehicles the six-speed automatic transmission is also recalibrated for maximum efficiency with the PZEV engine.

Volvo's latest six-cylinder reminds us why we like inline six-cylinder engines, or straight sixes as they're known. They just seem to power-up faster than the more common V6, spinning more freely and smoothly as they go. Volvo's 3.2-liter doesn't qualify as a screamer, but it delivers acceleration-producing torque in smooth, linear fashion and breathes well at high rpm, which means it doesn't gasp or get rough if you run it near the redline. From a stop or for passing at higher speeds, the V70 accelerates better than adequately, and the eager quality of its engine might make you actually want to shift the six-speed automatic manually as you go about your business.

No need to do so, however. Volvo's Geartronic transmission is probably its most effective automatic so far. It seems to shift in all the right places, and whether it's up a gear or down, those shifts are smooth, tight and relatively quick. The Geartronic manual feature can be enjoyable nonetheless, should the driver choose to get a bit more involved. There are no paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, as many cars now have (that's where Volvo put controls for its navigation system), but there's a manual slot for the shift lever left of the normal gear-selection path. The up-down gear change action has a smooth, quality feel, and the transmission won't insult the driver by shifting up on its own if the revs get too high.

If pure excitement is what a buyer seeks, he or she might do better with the more powerful, much more expensive wagons from Audi or BMW. Yet the V70 never gets tiresome around town or on the open road, as some sport-utility vehicles can. It rides comfortably and quite smoothly, though it's never mushy, and its seats make a fine place to de-compress during a long commute home. It's not a machine that makes you crave more sporty features.

On the other hand, if you're satisfied with the V70's acceleration but would like a firmer ride and sharper steering response, then consider the new R-Design, with its handling-tuned suspension and 245/40R18 low-profile tires on big 18-inch wheels. But try one before you buy, as we've found a hard ride in other Volvo models with 18-inch wheels.

The brakes are superior to most. They stop the vehicle right now, with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) to instantaneously transfer the most stopping power to the tires with the best grip.

The 2010 Volvo V70 is the best wagon Volvo has produced to date. It's solidly built, with top-drawer safety features and fantastic interior design and finish. The V70 has a six-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. The package is silky smooth. While the base-level V70 3.2 isn't as exciting to drive as some other European sport wagons, it's quiet, maneuverable and pleasant for the sort of driving most of us do most of the time, which means carrying ourselves, our kids, our pets and things through the urban landscape. And the new R-Design model promises sharper handling. The V70 retails for considerably less than other similarly sized European luxo-wagons, and it gets better mileage than many SUVS with similar interior space. For many buyers, it's probably the more rational choice.

J.P. Vettraino filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after driving V70 models in Germany and Detroit.

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