What’s in a name? Steve Sharpe drives the Volvo V70
Volvo has always been been a name that inspires trust.
The Scandinavian manufacturer is synonymous with sturdy, well-built, rugged vehichles that can handle themselves in all kinds of conditions, from Swedish snow to North East blizzards.
Volvo drivers were a breed apart, and you carried a Volvo-badged keyring as a badge of honour.
Over the years, though, the people in the boardroom had a look around to see what the opposition was up to, and realised that Volvo had to keep up with the rest.
Because, for all the sturdiness and reliability of the Volvo brand, it was in danger of being viewed as ... well, a bit boring. So a new breed of Volvo began to emerge. The quirkiness of the old, boxy models was toned down – not dispensed with, though, most models retain that residual Volvo quirkiness – and smoother, more economic and more exciting versions began to appear.
Just this month the company announced that it had bought Polestar, the Swedish high performance car company, which had already collaborated the the manufacturer to thrilling effect with models like the V60 and S60.
The V70 is the big estate in the Volvo family, the traditional no-nonsense load-lugger.
The original V70 was a development of the Volvo 850 estate car, with the 850’s square edges more rounded off.
The latest version was launched in 2007 and and has had a couple of facelifts since, the most recent one last year, but it’s still a a very understated looking estate.
The last spruce-up widened the front grille and added Day Running Lights, while added chrome touches were aimed at giving the car a more upmarket and luxurious feel.
The rear has a completely redesigned bumper and tail lights.
It’s a smart – but unremarkable looking – estate, a Volvo from some angles but a generic estate from others.
Inside the cabin the focus is on functionality rather than flair.
The overall impression is on of neatness and practicality. The plastics are soft to the touch and extremely well put together, while the seats are extremely comfortsable and supportive.
A good-size media screen dominates the dashboard, while Volvo’s familiar hanging console, with a sorage area behind the thin fascia above the gearstick, houses the controls for the heating, stereo and ventilation.
It’s all straightforward and easy to get accustomed to, and the speed gauge in front of the diver is a lesson in minimalism. There’s one large dial which has no numbers until the needle actually reaches the right position. It’s very slick indeed.
The V70’s a big estate and there is a lot of room inside. There’s plenty of headroom and legroom in the front and rear, and three large adults can ride comfortably in the rear.
There’s 575 litres of load space in the boot area, but there are numerous configurations to adapt the interior for specific loads – the rear seats can be folded down in three 40/20/40 segments, while with all of the rear seats folded flat, the load space grows to a cavernous 1,600 litres.
The tailgate is operated remotely via the key fob or the dashboard, which is useful.
The rear seat can integrate double two-stage child seats – with one simple movement, booster cushions pop up from the seat giving a comfortable and safe ride height for children from the age of three and upwards.
The V70 comes with a choice of diesel engines of 1.6, 2.0 and 2.4-litre diesel engines, as petrol models were discontinued after the last update.
The D3 2-litre diesel version I drove is a a winning combination of considerable power yet good economy.
The V70 is a big, long car but the 2-litre diesel engine makes sure that it turns in a sprightly performance despite its dimensions. It’s still apparent that it’s a large chunk of metal but it’s enthusiastic off the blocks, while acceleraion is smooth throughout the gears.
The V70 is an accomplished motorway cruiser and eats up the miles on long runs. It’s extremely comfortable and airy, and soaks up lumps and bumps with ease at speed.
Around town the sheer length of the V70 makes parking require some concentration, although parking sensors are standard on all models.
Light steering and plenty of all-round visbility helps to offset the Volvo’s size.
The V70 is not particulalury built for winding country roads but grip is decent and body control has been controlled as well as can be expected. It means that when you venture out of town you’re not flying from one side window to the other.
The range starts at £25,600 for the entry-level diesel, rising to £36,000 for the top-of-the-range Lux model, but even the lower spec models offer good value for money.
The basic Business Edition has 16-inch alloys, sat-nav, DAB digital radio, cruise control and climate control.
SE Nav brings 17-inch alloys and leather-faced upholstery, while range-topping SE Lux adds a powered driver’s seat and xenon headlights.
Whichever the trim level, the V70’s safety credentials are as you would expect from a car that is traditionally hard as nails and safe as houses.
The V70 was awarded the maximum five-star rating for adult occupant safety in Euro NCAP crash tests, along with four stars for child safety.
New features on this model include optional integrated booster cushions in the rear, plus all kinds of safety equipment.
The V70’s reputation is built on comfort, practicality and safety and this latest model builds on that.
Strong, sturdy, well built and built to last, the big Volvo is a sensible choice for a family driver.
Improved economy figures mean that the D3 version I drove returns more than 60mpg with emissions lowered to 119g/kg, and such is the reputation of Volvo that the V70 will keep its value as time goes by.
The Swedish manufactuer no longer has the big estate market cornered – the Skoda Superb Estate is a major player now, along with BMW’s 5 Series Touring – but Volvo still has the name and reputation.
Volvo V70 D3 Lux
Engine: 2-litre diesel.
Transmission: Six speed manual
0-62mph: 10.6 secs
Top speed: 124mph
Fuel economy: 62.8mpg