Volvo's V70 is a big estate from the old school but how will it fair with Volvo's pokiest D4 diesel installed? Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The D4 diesel engine Volvo offers in the V70 estate ticks all the technology boxes and should be a trusty companion for a car of simple but strong appeal.
If ever a car needed a good diesel engine, that car is Volvo's V70 estate. The V70 is a champion of commonsense practicality and functional design over the more ethereal qualities that flutter around the executive car sector. Stuff like brand image, sporting heritage and lifestyle kudos is all very well when you're flicking through an expensively printed brochure or being sweet talked by a salesman under the showroom's mood lighting but there's no substitute for a big boot and comfy ride when you're heading for southern France on a family holiday. The no-nonsense diesel engine and the unpretentious V70 go together like baked beans and toast. It's a marriage that looks all the sweeter when the oil-burner in question is Volvo's latest D4 unit. Diesel engine technology is moving ahead at quite a pace as demand grows for ever more economical vehicles which don't foist performance compromises on their owners. The D4 engine we look at here is one of Volvo's latest 'Drive-E' range of units and will be key to the success or failure of not just the V70 we look at here but the S80, XC60 and XC70 too. There's a lot riding on it.
Like both the current V70 model's diesel engines, this D4 powerplant is a 2.0-litre unit. The power output of 181bhp is accompanied by a meaty 400Nm maximum torque that's achieved from way down in the rev range. 62mph is 8.6s away en route to a maximum of 137mph. The word 'Volvo' is literally translated from the Latin as 'I roll' and sure enough, around sharper bends where the steering can feel rather vague, the lean is more pronounced than that you'd find in one of the German alternatives. To be fair, if you really want to, you can do something about it by specifying the company's 'Four-C active chassis system' which allows you to manually select between three suspension settings to suit the mood you're in and the road you're on. I'm not sure I'd bother. Even with this feature fitted, other rivals do the whole executive sports estate thing do much better. This car has a more relaxed demeanour and as speeds rise, is more of a dynamic match for Audi and BMW with well controlled body movements, supple suspension and impressive refinement.
Design and Build
You'll really have to know your V70s to notice the aesthetic changes visited upon this revised version in recent years. There's a smarter front grille, Daytime Running Lights and added chrome touches to give the car a more upmarket and luxurious feel. The rear has completely redesigned bumper and tail lights. Overall though, Volvo hasn't been diverted from this car's raison d'etre - lugging gear. Lots of it. The clever trick is that the designers have disguised the car's inherent boxiness with neat detailing like the split high-level tail lights. There's a class-competitive 540-litres of virgin space back there and a massive space can be liberated if you fold the rear seats down and stack your cargo to the roofline. The 40-20-40 three part split/fold rear seat offers 16 different combinations and the loadbay floor itself features aluminium rails and movable anchoring points. A sliding load floor is also offered as an option as is a powered tailgate. Slip behind the wheel and you're treated to an example of Scandinavian design at its very best. The Adaptive Digital Display we first saw in the smaller V40 has been added to allow users to adapt the look of the instrument panel. New to the range is the Sensus Connected Touch infotainment system with its 7-inch centre touchscreen and microphone above the driver to enable voice control. Via this, you can connect to the internet using a mobile 'phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. This allows you to connect to apps like Spotify.
Market and Model
You'll pay from just over £27,000 for a D4. All models include 17" alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, a top notch stereo with USB and AUX inputs, a trip computer, cruise control and, this being Volvo, a big bundle of safety gear. The roll call of safety features includes front side and curtain airbags as well as a number of other advanced features. There are more acronyms attached to the braking set-up alone than there are in the owner's manual for an aircraft carrier. Then there's the DSTC Dynamic Stability and Traction Control, the SIPS Side Impact Protection System and the IDIS Intelligent Driver Information System. Needless to say, the V70 scores very well in the Euro NCAP safety tests.
Cost of Ownership
The advanced features in the latest Volvo D4 diesel engine are as much about increasing efficiency as they are about providing smooth and abundant performance. Nitrogen oxide emissions are reduced by the clever EGR Exhaust Gas Recirculation system which cools the exhaust before feeding it back into the engine to be burned again. Together with a 114g/km CO2 emissions rating, this helps make the car one of the cleanest executive estates out there. Expect to average well over 65mpg on the combined cycle.
The straightforward, take-it-as-you-find-it simplicity of the Volvo V70 will doubtless appeal to many and this big no-nonsense estate car is never better than with a strong diesel engine installed. The latest D4 diesel utilises advanced technology to give the V70 competitive performance and running costs to go with the space, safety and practicality that it previously relied on to attract buyers.