June Neary wonders why people buy large off road 4x4s when there are cars like Volvo's XC70..
Will It Suit Me?
If there was more of a place for logic in automotive buying decisions, cars like Volvo's XC70 would sell in their tens of thousands. Here's a practical family or executive estate that has all the important attributes of one of those clunky off roaders without all the unnecessary weight. It's perfect if all you want to do is to get to an awkwardly positioned camp site - or tow a heavy trailer. OK, so it won't enable you to chase buffalos across the Serengeti. I can live without that.
Like the V70 estate it is of course based on, the XC70 estate is nothing if not practical. Five passengers will travel in complete comfort and the boot space will swallow up a fair bit of kit, too. The driving position is well thought out, with all the buttons and switches close to hand and easy to identify. It's been mildly facelifted in recent times but the practicalities remain the same as before, with the emphasis remaining on serious carrying capacity. It's of course extremely space-efficient with a class-competitive 485-litres in the boot, while a massive 1,641-litres 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. You'll also find luggage nets and hooks to help secure any items with wayward tendencies. The car's designers 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. XC-embossed roof rails are a standard fit and the contrasting colour of the front foglight surrounds give the XC70 a mean squint. Front and rear crash plates leave onlookers in no doubt as to this car's dual purpose role. The interior has been given the once over too, with most of the clunkier design themes replaced by a slicker look and feel. Otherwise there are enduring Volvo qualities such as supreme practicality and a whole slew of safety features. On the subject of safety, there's plenty of provision for it. You get SIPS side impact protection, WHIPS whiplash protection, an inflatable curtain of head-level side airbags and the DSTC anti-skid system. There's also dual-stage airbag inflation (determined by impact severity) and Isofix mountings for the optional rear-facing child seat to ensure correct fitting every time you install Junior. Then there's a passenger airbag cut off switch and the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS). This acts much like an extra set of eyes and utilizes digital camera technology mounted in the door mirrors to monitor the areas 3m to each side and up to 9.5m behind the driver, producing a warning light if there's anything lurking there.
Behind the Wheel
There's a choice of two or four wheel drive. Almost all UK customers will choose the 181bhp D4 diesel engine, the first of Volvo's new generation of 'Drive-E' 2.0-litre units. This range will also deliver the range a 306bhp petrol unit for the rare T6 flagship variant. This can only be mated with 2WD, so the older 304bhp petrol unit, that can be mated with AWD, will continue. I was surprised by how composed the XC70 was around the twisty roads where I live. The engine complements the driveline well without overpowering it for the sake of headline stats. On the motorway, the D4 unit eats up miles without draining the driver. If like me, your longer journeys are few and far between, you'll enjoy letting your hair down in this anything but sluggish estate.
Value For Money
Volvo offers a truly vast array of options and accessories on the XC70. It would be all to easy to succumb to the temptations of the options list and end up paying far in excess of the list price for a fully-loaded model. There are also a number of handy packages of extra equipment that serve to simplify the selection process. This being Volvo, every V70 comes with a comprehensive array of safety equipment including the excellent WHIPS whiplash protection system and traction control. There's obviously ABS along with numerous airbags as well.
Could I Live With One?
Our Road Test Editor remarked after driving the XC70 that this was a car 'whose time had come' and I concur. Why buy a large off roader? I really can't see the point when you could have something like this. But then that's logical and, as we all know, if all automotive buying decisions were based on logic..