THE Volvo XC70 is just the thing for someone who wants rough weather transport but doesn’t need/want a showy SUV like the new XC90 or whatever.
The XC70 is the last of the traditional Volvo bricks, a tougher version of the classic Volvo estate car. The V70 can trace its shape back to models like the Volvo 245 (2-series, four cylinders, five doors) of the 1970s. Then, and for many more years, all Volvos were rear-wheel-drive. Today they are generically driven at the front wheels, with 4x4 traction offered on some versions of XC and Cross Country models.
The Chinese-owned Swedish company started the year by showing its S90 saloon here in the autumn as the company’s replacement for the obsolete S80. It is a distinctive, long saloon, built on the platform of its XC90 all-roader which arrived last autumn. It has a concave grille and stands well, an alternative to something Germanic or Jaguar’s XJ. There will also be a V90 estate version and, possibly, a coupe.
Volvo’s new car registrations in Britain were up by almost 6 per cent last year to 43,432. The percentage gain is below the market average and well behind most prestige rivals except Audi, which is suffering from the blow-back from the VW Group emissions scandal. BMW soared by 12.4 per cent to overtake Audi on total sales. Mercedes was up by 16.75 per cent and Land Rover by 18.46 per cent and Lexus by 14.6 per cent. Jaguar surged by 30 per cent on the back of its new XE. Subaru, dedicated to the all-roader country set market, gained 23.7pc. World sales for Volvo were a new record of 503,127 while the UK total was the best for 21 years. The V40 series was easily its best seller. In Europe the XC60 was the best selling SUV in its class, on 159,617 sales. Volvo’s UK market in January showed a light drop on January last year. Mercedes gained 26 per cent to lead the premium sector.
Good luck to Volvo. It manages to continue the Swedish style which is now unique following the closure of Saab. Volvo is a company which has washed over me with its values of crash safety, passenger survival and a branding which is rooted in the tough Scandinavian climate. I also like the idea that it sponsors big yacht racing. The next Volvo Ocean Race is 2017.
For years I have admired their social standing in the sort of polite society I’d love to inhabit were I not, at heart, a hoodlum. I don’t see them being driven by hooligans (blighting the image of used Audis and BMWs). They are not trying to get into the back of my car on motorways. They don’t sport darkened windows and corrupted registration plates.
Like its peers, Volvo is working on ways so that you don’t actually have to drive its cars, showing its latest ideas on so-called autonomous driving at various expos. This auto pilot will be tested on a fleet of XC90s being sampled by families and commuters on 50km of special roads in Volvo City (aka Gothenburg) next year. If all goes bottoms up, the cars are programmed to stop safely. I am not convinced anything significant will happen soon.
Well, I had to drive the XC70 myself. At first, after driving a nip and tuck family hatchback (the chirpy SEAT Ibiza) the Volvo steering felt heavy and slow and there was a gentle roll from the lofted body. After a week, I realised it is indeed comparatively slow and heavy in the handling department but that I had got used to this.
With random parts of Britain now prone to flooding, the XC70’s extra ground clearance was always going to be useful. If you have long legs or are just extra careful you can avoid scuffing your pant cuffs on the door sill when you alight daintily from this gent’s carriage.
Once, when we were all younger, a Volvo estate was almost a given for antique dealers. Some still have them. The roof is long enough for a proper basket rack and the interior will take a load more than six feet long, with a 45-inch width between the wheel arches, while the tailgate aperture is four feet wide and four feet diagonally.
You can buy a V70 with a D3 diesel engine for £26,195 (or more probably on an easy payment leasing plan). If you want AWD it’ll have to be an XC with the more powerful D4 engine, from a headier £36,600. Knock off the AWD and the front-drive XC D4 (fitted with navigation) is £34,670.
On test was the rather yummy D4 AWD with navigation and six automatic gears from £38,145 in SE specification. Equipment includes stop-start ignition, city safety breaking, sensible 17-inch wheels, a powered self-opening tailgate, leather facing on the seats, rear parking sensors, climate control and adaptive cruise control. It was running on the highly rated Continental Cross Contact winter tyres.
High points included its general refinement, with surprisingly low noise levels from the road and suspension and the winter tyres. The sometimes raspy 2.5 litre, twin turbo five cylinder diesel produces 178.5bhp and 309 lb ft and a 0-62mph time well under 10 seconds. The C02 rating is 153g and overall economy is quoted at 48.7mpg. On test it was quite thirsty, with figures ranging from 33mpg commuting to 43mpg on the motorway.
Verdict: One for the traditionalists not ready for SUV land.