Volvo V70 Review

Volvo V70 Review

The Volvo V70 is the latest in a long line of safe and practical midsize wagons from the venerable Swedish company. The V70 has become progressively more stylish and luxurious through the years, while maintaining its superior reputation for safety. Featuring the cargo room of an SUV along with the secure handling and (until recently) the fuel economy of a sedan, the Volvo V70 has always had a lot to offer for families who could afford the somewhat steep price of entry.

When it first debuted, the V70 was no more than a refreshed version of the 850 wagon, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. It offered class-leading safety and spaciousness along with sprightly turbocharged engines and enough luxury to keep well-heeled buyers happy. The second-generation V70 brought revolutionary changes -- no longer a breadbox on wheels, this curvaceous model flaunted swept-back, hunkered-down styling that was unprecedented among midsize Volvo wagons. It also offered more powerful engines in addition to the expected array of safety and luxury features.

The current-generation Volvo V70 continues the positive aesthetic trend started by its predecessor, boasting eye-catching style inside and out. With the recent influx of capable midsize wagons and family-oriented crossover SUVs, however, the competition is stiffer than ever. Compared with similarly priced wagons and crossovers from other manufacturers, the current V70's performance is somewhat lacking, and fuel economy is also unimpressive. Families attracted to the V70's safety and utility may also want to consider competing models that provide these traits as well as superior power and/or efficiency.

Current Volvo V70

The Volvo V70 competes in the midsize wagon segment. Offered in only one trim level, the V70 comes standard with a decent array of premium features, including alloy wheels, automatic climate control, a power driver seat and Bluetooth. Optional accoutrements include active bi-xenon headlights, leather upholstery, satellite radio, a premium audio system, a navigation system and upscale safety features like a blind-spot warning system and adaptive cruise control with collision warning. For consumers who want a little luxury in their family wagon, the V70 will not disappoint.

While past V70s were powered by an eccentric array of five-cylinder engines, the current model is motivated by a 3.2-liter inline-6 that delivers 235 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. The sole available transmission is a six-speed automatic with manual shift control. Although the V70 is a generally competitive car in its segment, we have some reservations about this powertrain. Acceleration and fuel economy are mediocre enough to make us question why you'd buy a V70 instead of a larger crossover SUV.

Such shortcomings would have been more forgivable in the 1990s, when Volvo justly enjoyed a peerless reputation for automotive safety. Other manufacturers have closed the gap in recent years, however, which has enabled safety-minded consumers to be more discerning about other aspects of the driving experience. Fortunately, the V70 has most of these bases covered with its luxurious and spacious cabin, smooth and supple ride, and secure if uninspiring handling. But its lackluster powertrain won't do it any favors in a segment where top safety scores have become more or less par for the course.

Used Volvo V70 Models

Introduced for 2008, the present third-generation Volvo V70 has since been blessed with additional standard and optional features, including standard Bluetooth and various optional audio upgrades.

The second-generation Volvo V70 arrived on our shores in 2001 and didn't leave until 2007. It boasted a sleeker shape and a new platform shared with the S80 sedan, as well as a striking interior layout largely borrowed from the S60 sedan. Initial trim levels were the base 2.4, 2.4T, T5 and XC. Base models were powered by the venerable naturally aspirated 2.4-liter engine, while 2.4T models received a 197-hp turbocharged variant. The T5 was the most powerful version, with 247 hp.

In reviews at the time, we commented favorably about the V70's combination of style, safety and luxury. We also appreciated the available high-powered turbocharged power plants. Our main criticisms were the wagon's tight rear legroom and high price with options, though depreciation has largely mitigated this concern for used Volvo shoppers.

If you're looking for a used Volvo V70 from this generation, there are a few changes to be aware of. In 2004, the 2.4T was replaced by the 2.5T, which offered a 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder that pumped out 208 hp. An all-wheel-drive V70 (separate from the SUV-styled XC trim level) was available in 2.4T trim for 2002 and 2.5T trim for 2003-'04. The XC eventually became marketed as a separate model beginning in 2004. There was also a high-performance V70 R model, which was a 300-hp all-wheel-drive wonder wagon. It was available from 2004-'07. In terms of features, Volvo made minor improvements through the model run, but no particular year is a significant standout.

The first-generation V70 traces its roots back to the midsize Volvo 850, which debuted in 1993 as the first front-wheel-drive Volvo to be offered stateside. With its advanced safety features (including side airbags from 1995 onward), capacious interior and distinctive lineup of five-cylinder engines, this endearingly boxy people mover quickly became a strong seller. Base models were powered by a 2.4-liter 168-hp naturally aspirated five-cylinder engine, while the T5 model featured a sprightly 222-hp turbocharged inline-5. The GLT received a 2.4-liter 190-hp turbocharged-5 for 1997. Family-minded enthusiasts and their young ones could enjoy world-class performance courtesy of the even more powerful T5 R (later simply "R"), a 240-hp rocket sled that was one of the world's fastest wagons in its day.

The 850 wagon was revised and renamed "V70" for 1998. Apart from mildly updated front-end styling, a streamlined control layout and slightly softer suspension settings, not much had changed. All-wheel drive became an option on GLT models in 1998, and output in the T5 increased to 236 hp, while the top-performing R model was boosted to 246 hp. The base model and midlevel GLT had the same engines as before. A V70 XC version debuted for '98, sporting the turbocharged 2.4-liter engine, increased ground clearance, skid plates and off-road styling cues.

It's worth noting that since Ford took the helm in the late '90s, Volvos have lacked the rock-solid reliability of brands like Acura and Lexus, and they can also be expensive to repair. Finding a good certified used Volvo V70 or a car that still has the factory warranty might be the best way to go.