BY ANDY ENRIGHT
With its savvy lifestyle marketing, bodywork composed of swoops, curves and arcing hiplines and aggressive jacked-up stance, who'd have thought the V70 Cross Country could have come from those staid Swedes, Volvo? Those of you attuned to what's been happening in contemporary car design will know that Volvo is no longer the purveyor of bland but reliable boxes. The V70 Cross Country was at the forefront of Volvo's rebranding exercise and it has played a key part in turning Volvo into a covetable prospect. If you like the tough go-anywhere image but don't want to pay through the nose or suffer a ride that resembles a bulk freighter in a Biscay Force 10, a used Volvo V70 Cross Country is a good bet.
Models Covered: (5dr estate, 2.4 petrol [base S, SE,])
Based on the 'cooking' V70 estate, the Cross Country was launched to critical acclaim in March 2000. Based on the same modular P2X platform as the S80 saloon, it's some 110mm shorter and 30mm narrower overall on a wheelbase shrunk by 30mm. Not a lot of difference then, but enough to drop their biggest estate one class size by Volvo's measurements. The 2.4-litre unit was carried over from the previous generation V70, but was well up to the task, fettled in the Cross Country guise to a punchy 200bhp. Trim levels started out as base and SE, although in September 2000, the base model was redesignated the S, a policy that was replicated across the V70 range.
What You Get
Until the mid-Nineties, the Gothenburg company had remained oblivious to the fact that many of its estate cars were being sold to people who also liked the idea of a mud-plugging 4x4. When realisation finally dawned that with 4x4 traction, customers could be kept loyal for longer, an AWD version of the V70 estate was introduced to test the water. The low-key looks and low ground clearance meant a muted reception that lasted until 1997 when at last, the Swedes did the job properly. Despite popular perceptions that this market had long been pioneered by Subaru, the V70 Cross Country beat the Subaru Forester to market, albeit by a mere month. When the car's trim designations were changed to S and SE in September 2000, standard equipment levels were also revised upwards slightly. The price of the standard S model remained fixed, but the car was upgraded to the trim level of the previous SE model, gaining leather upholstery, electronic climate control, an electronic information centre and a pumped-up stereo featuring Dolby surround sound, which would have relieved you of £3,700 had you previously resorted to the options list. The SE model meanwhile got what appears to be the remainder of that list thrown at it. As well as a satellite navigation system with integrated television, there are electrically adjustable heated driver and passenger seats and a headlamp wash wipe system for when the going gets majorly muddy. The list price remained the same, although if you wanted to specify an Audi Allroad to these levels, you'd need the bank balance of a Premiership footballer. Inside, nice touches are everywhere. Though there are no extra passenger spaces in the estate compartment, the rear seat has been cleverly designed with a backrest that can be locked into either of two positions for maximum comfort or vital extra luggage space. Uniquely, it also splits 40/20/40 so that you can drop just the centre section, comfortably accommodate four people and still take skis or other long items. When flat, this section becomes an instant children's play table or optionally, can convert into a cooler box. Another nice touch is the heavy grille that comes down from the interior roof to partition the loading area from the passenger compartment, guarding against flying luggage or over-friendly dogs. Whichever version you choose, there's the peace of mind of Volvo's WHIPS anti-whiplash protection system and a complete complement of front and side airbags. Unlike the Audi's clever air suspension, the Volvo makes do with a more conventional set up, and is consequently slightly less capable in the heavy stuff. There's only one engine option on offer, the S80's 2.4-litre five-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit developing 200bhp, available with manual or automatic five-speed transmission. Surprisingly, there's no diesel option, perhaps because (ironically), the V70's diesel was provided by Audi who wished in this sector at least, to keep that unique selling point to themselves. It can't be too long before Volvo's own D5 diesel appears in a Cross Country.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
The Volvo V70 Cross Country is a tough beast and has yet to report any significant faults although as with any estate car, check the rear load bay for signs of damage. The interior trim is hardy and the fittings are well made, so the interiors tend to bear up pretty well. You may well want to check for correct wheel alignment and inspect the suspension and exhaust if you suspect it may have been subjected to something more arduous than a grassy car park. The ramp and departure angles of the car aren't great so take a look at the underside for scuffing or other damage.
(approx based on a 2000 V70 Cross Country) Volvo consumables aren't going to break the bank. A new air filter for the V70 is around £12, whilst a fuel filter will be £20. Spark plugs retail at £15 whilst a cam belt is £40, and an oil filter £8.
On the Road
On paper, the performance figures are impressive - sixty taking just 8.5s on the way to a maximum of 130mph - though the car's substantial weight begins to show when it comes to mid-range overtaking acceleration and fuel consumption (20.6mpg around town). Suspension tuned to awkward off-road conditions also means a slight handling compromise, though to be honest, not one that many typical Volvo drivers will notice. Unlike most of its competitors, this V70 doesn't confuse its owner with low and high range gear patterns, lockable differentials and freewheeling hubs. Instead, as with Porsche's 911, the whole process has been completely automated; Volvo calls it 'intelligent' four-wheel drive. In actual fact, most of the time, this estate won't be a four-wheel drive car at all. Under normal road conditions, a viscous coupling in the propshaft distributes 95% of the power to the front wheels and 5% to those at the rear. Only when the front wheels lose traction does the liquid silicon in the viscous coupling expand, sending as much as 95% of power to the rear wheels. Not that the front wheels are likely to spin very often. Included as standard is Volvo's electronic anti-spin TRACS system for the front wheels.
How do you combine the ruggedness of a Volvo with some serious urban warrior chic? Easy. Buy a well looked after used Volvo V70 Cross Country and just chuckle as owners of leviathan 4x4s wrestle their Routemaster sized steering wheels trying to keep pace. The rugged bodywork shrugs off the worst that the kids, the city and a spot of light off roading can throw at it and as an all weather tool it has few peers. Get capable. Get one of these.