2008 Volvo V70 Review
By Kevin Miller
Volvo has been known since the 1970s for its safe, family-friendly wagons. For 2008, the Swedish manufacturer’s bread-and-butter V70 wagon is all new, replacing the previous-generation V70 which which was first sold in North America in 2001 and was based on Volvo’s P2 platform. The new V70 is based on Volvo’s latest S80 sedan, which was introduced to the US about a year ago. While the new V70 certainly continues the theme of safe, comfortable wagons, it differs in many ways from the outgoing vehicle.
All P2 V70s were powered by turbocharged or normally-aspirated 2.4 and 2.5 liter 5-cylinder engines. Output ranged from 168 HP with the entry-level V70 up to 300 HP in the range-topping V70R. Depending on the model year and trim level, the vehicles were available with 5- or 6-speed manual, or 4- or 5-speed automatic transmissions and front- or all-wheel drive.
I’m a huge fan of Swedish cars, though my ownership experience had been limited to Saabs in 2004 when I custom-ordered a Volvo V70R AWD with 6-speed manual transmission and integrated child booster seats. The R was my first Volvo, and was chosen as much for its all-wheel drive, 300 HP, and promise of being fun to drive as for its safe reputation. In the nearly four years I’ve owned my V70, it has proven to be comfortable, reliable, and entertaining to drive.
As the new V70 is now starting to arrive in larger volumes at dealerships, Volvo sent me (and certainly plenty of other Volvo owners) an invitation to come drive the new V70 at my local dealership, to showcase the improvements in the new car. I made an appointment with my favorite salesperson and headed in to drive the car.
Volvo’s new V70 is a stylish vehicle, though perhaps not quite as sleek looking as the outgoing wagon. The new V70 is powered by a 3.2 liter inline 6, which is also used in their S80 sedan and XC90 SUV. Boasting 235 HP with 236 lb.-ft torque, it is mated only to a 6-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. Rather than a traditional column- or dash-mounted ignition lock which starts the car when the key is turned, the V70 has a slot into which the rectangular “key” fob is inserted. An Engine Start/Stop button is next to the key slot. I had to have my foot on the brake in order for the engine to start. After starting, the engine idled much more smoothly and quietly than the 5-cylinder in my own V70.
Upon attempting to drive off, I discovered that Volvo has done away with the traditional hand-operated parking brake, instead fitting the car with a pushbutton parking brake located below the headlight switch on the dashboard to the left of the steering wheel. In order to release the brake, the bottom of the button is pulled toward the driver. This design frees up space in the center console, but is not particularly convenient for setting or releasing the brake.
Volvo claims the new V70 has a stronger structure than the outgoing wagon, and it certainly felt more rigid over uneven pavement and railroad crossings than my ’04. The ride was certainly smoother than in my own car, and the entire cabin seems much more isolated from rough pavement and road noise than my car.
The 6-speed Geartronic automatic transmission was smooth, and readily downshifted when I stomped the accelerator pedal. Doing so while heading uphill on wet pavement caused the front wheels to momentarily lose traction, prompting the traction control to intervene, almost imperceptibly. The dashboard and driver’s environment in the new V70 is remarkably different from my previous-generation car.
While the interior of the outgoing car was always stylish, the new version uses nicer materials and has tighter tolerances where trim pieces meet. Volvo’s now-ubiquitous “waterfall” console highlights the dash, and the new speedometer and odometer are much more legible than the gages in my car, and they have information displays at their centers. The top of the dashboard in the car I drove was a deeply-textured dark brown plastic which reduced reflection onto the windshield, and it coordinated nicely with the light tan interior. Front shoulder room is claimed to have been increased by just an inch, but overall the front seat area of the new car felt much more spacious than in my previous-generation car, so perhaps that is just due to the shape of the seats, door upholstery, and dashboard.
After my test drive I checked out the back seat and the cargo area of the wagon. The back seat in my car is pretty tight on legroom for what I consider to be a large car, and the new car does seem to have a bit more space, though not a lot more. The integrated booster seats now have two height settings, allowing them to be used by children who are just 37 inches tall, rather than the 38 inches required to use the boosters in my car.
The V70 I test-drove also had an optional power-operated tailgate. Pressing and holding the key’s trunk-button automatically opened the hatch, and pressing a button on the inside of the hatch automatically closed it. It seems frivolous, but I can see where it would be handy for opening the hatch when you’ve got two arms full of bags. Inside, the luggage compartment had tie-down hooks and storage bins which are much better-designed than the ones in my own car.
So overall, the new V70 has more of everything: more luxury features, more safety features, more space, more isolation from the road, more quiet, more ratios in the gearbox, more places to keep stuff. But it also has more weight and more fuel consumption. The outgoing 2007 V70 2.5T had an (adjusted-for-2008) EPA rating of 18/27 city/highway. The new car’s rating is just 16/24, which is about 10 percent less.
All of that extra weight and isolation also takes a lot of the enjoyment out of driving the new V70. I consider my 2004 V70R to be fairly communicative, an enjoyable and involving car to drive. Because mine is a high-performance model it could be considered to be somewhat more involving than the average 2004 V70, but even in lesser P2 V70s there is a connection to the road and a feeling of driver involvement which is noticeably missing from the 2008 V70. The new wagon drives like a luxury car, but it wasn’t really any fun to drive. While that lack of involvement will turn off enthusiast drivers like me, it is unlikely to bother the upper-middle class suburbanites who will buy it, as they are surely more concerned with arriving safely than enjoying the drive. This all-new V70 is, then, a safe evolution of Volvo’s signature wagon.
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