Friday, October 17, 2008

2009 Volvo XC70


The Volvo XC70 has a lot in common with the Subaru Forester I wrote about just last week. Like the Forester, the XC70 is an AWD, off-road capable, SUV-like tall wagon. Additionally, much like the Subaru, folks who buy Volvo’s tend to have great loyalty for their brand of choice. Let’s be clear. The Volvo XC70 and the Subaru Forester are not competitors. No, the XC70 is a luxury wagon based on the flagship S80 sedan, and it competes against the BMW 5-series sport wagon and Audi A6 Avant to name a few. The reason I draw the comparison is that the Volvo seems like a natural progression in terms of price and luxury.


Power in the XC70 comes in two flavors, both based on an inline six-cylinder. The weaker of the two choices is a 3.2-liter version that makes 235 horsepower, which is certainly ample power for what is normally required of a wagon. The zestier of the two comes in the T6 trim, and is a 3.0-liter turbo that makes 281 horsepower. My tester came with the more powerful version. Horsepower is smooth, and comes on quickly. Unfortunately, the gas goes nearly as quickly. Consider that a rear wheel drive Toyota 4Runner with the 4.7-liter V8 gets precisely the same gas mileage in town. Ouch!


The XC70 might get the same gas mileage as a 4Runner, but it sure doesn’t handle like one. Perhaps that biggest reason to opt for a wagon or crossover is the visceral enjoyment that happens between the straightaways. While I wouldn’t necessarily pick the Volvo over the 5-Series Beemer or the Audi A6, it sure is more fun around corners than any SUV I’ve driven, and has better ride quality.


Like other Volvos I’ve reviewed, you either love the XC70’s styling or you don’t. Despite the brand’s rather vanilla looks, some just don’t like it. Taking a walk around this wagon, its ride height immediately distinguishes it from other wagons on the road. Otherwise, its exterior lines are very reminiscent of the S80 upon which it’s based. The interior is a comfortable environment swathed in leather, even if bland. It should also be said that Volvo does a superb job of sealing out engine noise to such a degree that one feels almost totally removed from the outside elements.


If you liked the XC70s of the previous generation, the new version certainly won’t change your mind. Its fuel economy is a bit underwhelming. But, when you’re shopping for a luxury wagon, this probably isn’t the top of your priorities. All in all, the XC70 is basically a S80 with additional cargo space for better or worse.