By Steve Walker
Certain car manufacturers are known for certain kinds of car and Volvo will always be associated with the estate. The Swedish marque's vehicles come in all shapes and sizes but it's big, boxy estate cars of the kind loved by antiques dealers, double bass players and police forces that have come to define the company in many people's eyes. The V70 could, therefore, be described as the archetypal Volvo but if all you're expecting is setsquare styling and a mammoth carrying capacity, you should think again.
Models Covered: (5dr estate, 2.0, 2.4, 2.5T, 3.2 petrol, 2.0, 2.4 diesel [R-Design ES, SE, SE Sport, SE Lux, R-Design])
We're dealing with the third generation V70 here, the car that emerged in 2007, but Volvo's big estate car dynasty can be traced back a long way prior to that. The original V70 that launched in 1996 was a development of the Volvo 850 and Volvo had also offered estate versions of the 900, 700 and 200 series models. In the 1980s, these were the cars which really forged the firm's reputation for large load-lugers with styling apparently inspired by shipping containers. By 2007, demand for big estates wasn't what it once was. A boom in the popularity of 4x4 vehicles and MPVs had siphoned buyers away from the traditional estate market. That said, the Volvo estates still had a large band of loyal followers to fall back on and this version of the V70 was a significant improvement over its predecessor, particularly in the cabin. The car arrived with a range of powerful engines including a 2.5-litre five-cylinder Turbo, a 3.2 six-cylinder option and the 3.0 turbocharged six-cylinder engine in the all-wheel-drive T6 model. On the diesel side was the 2.4D and the more powerful D5 unit. A short time after the launch, 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines were added to bring some extra affordability. In 2008, Volvo introduced sporty R-Design versions of the V70 with a series of styling enhancements inside and out. In 2009, DRIVe variants arrived with 1.6-litre diesel engines and modifications to improve economy. The existing diesel engines were also given a power boost at this stage along with better fuel economy and tweaks were made to the styling on all V70 models. For 2010, further enhancements were made to the diesel range with the five-cylinder D3 engine introduced. Trim levels were also rearranged at this time.
What You Get
Volvo products have been criticised in the past for their boxy styling but this was successfully addressed on the third generation V70. The rear end looks a little more svelte than on previous models but Volvo wasn't diverted from this car's raison d'etre - lugging gear. Lots of it. The clever trick is that Volvo 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 load area 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 was also offered as an option, as was a powered tailgate. The V70's front is pleasantly curvy in-keeping with models like the S80, C70 and V50 which reinvigorated Volvo's reputation for stylish design. The car's designer cleverly decreased the amount the side glass curves from front to rear, for maximum style at the driving end and maximum carrying ability at the business end. It's unmistakably a Volvo and the look is a long way removed from the lithe, purposeful lines of some Germanic rivals. The V70's prospects were helped by a very competitive list of standard equipment. DSTC dynamic stability and traction control is standard on all cars, as is speed-sensitive power steering with three settings and an intelligent power parking brake that automatically disengages when the accelerator is pressed. There's was also an optional dual-stage integrated rear child booster seat that works in tandem with the V70's extended curtain airbags to provide excellent child safety.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
Volvo customers expect a good level of durability and the V70 should deliver on this score. It's sturdily built and the mechanicals are sound. Many V70s will have led a busy life at the beck and call of active families, so check the load area for knocks and scrapes, especially around the tailgate opening. Also be aware that the more powerful models may have been driven hard and that the all-wheel-drive models might have been subjected to light off-road duties.
(approx based on a 2007 V70 2.5T) Volvo consumables aren't going to break the bank. A new air filter for the V70 is around £15, whilst a fuel filter will be £20. Spark plugs retail at £15 whilst a cam belt is £50, and an oil filter £10 or thereabouts.
On the Road
Those with longer memories may well remember the time when Volvo first started slipping rather potent engines into their big estates. The old 850 T5 became something of a cult car that spawned the V70R models and this generation V70 countered with a fire-breathing engine that had never been seen in a Volvo estate before. The T6 six-cylinder petrol engine is a compact and lightweight 3.0-litre unit boosted by a twin-scroll turbocharger. This takes in exhaust gases in two distinct stages with the inflow split in two, each flow feeding three cylinders for an immediate, low lag throttle response. Good for a lusty 283bhp and 400Nm of torque, this flagship V70 model will accelerate to 60mph in 6.7 seconds and keep going until the needle nudges 152mph. If that model sounds a little over the top, a 228bhp 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine is also worth a look but it's the diesels that attract most attention from used buyers. The D5 is a five-cylinder diesel engine with a 2.4-litre capacity. Its peak power is 182bhp and it's produced at a relatively low 4,000rpm. Its peak torque is a muscular 400Nm but it's generated between 2,000 and 2,750rpm, so it often seems like as soon as you hit the sweet spot, you're out of it again and it's time to grab another gear. The V70 D5's performance is average; it can cover the 0-62mph sprint in 8.4 seconds and achieve a 140mph top speed, but its strength is as a long distance cruiser. From 2009, the original D5 engine was replaced by a more advanced twin-turbo unit that is better in every respect and well worth seeking out if the budget will stretch. The V70's suspension is tuned for comfort rather than spiky handling and the rather gruff engine note when accelerating at low speeds in a diesel model dissipates when it gets into its stride and starts munching on some mileage. The V70 handles neatly but doesn't respond with relish when you hurl it into bends so driving in a relaxed manner, perhaps with the Geartronic 'box doing the shifting, is probably the best way to get the most out of the car. A further option is Volvo's AWD four-wheel drive system and this can give useful extra bite for greater confidence on slippery surfaces and transform the V70 in to a phenomenal ski-drive vehicle. Finally, the Active Four-C chassis option came with the SE Sport trim level and adapts the V70's suspension into Comfort or Sport modes on request. Some rather less exciting 1.6, 2.0 and 2.4-litre diesels complete the engine range although there was also a 2.0-litre Flexifuel petrol engine that can run on E85 bioethanol.
The third generation V70 is a big estate but one that's not quite in the Volvo tradition. The stylish interior and a move away from the boxy exterior design of Volvos past makes this model feel a little more refined. It still does a fine job as a family estate car, even if it isn't any larger than the top medium range estate cars of its day. There are some powerful engine options but the diesels are the units to go for and they were much improved after 2009. The V70 isn't the most exciting choice out there but it has the size, safety and comfort you'd expect, along with an element of style which you might not.