New & Used Volvo V70: In Depth
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The V70 is a mid-size wagon, originally an evolution of the 1990s-era Volvo 850 and later a wagon counterpart to the S80 sedan. Normal V70 wagons competed with wagon versions of the Saab 9-5, BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi A6, and Volkswagen Passat, while the more rugged XC70 variant that's been offered since 1998 is a somewhat more elegant, refined alternative to the Subaru Outback.
The nameplate first started to arrive in the U.S. in 1997, as part of an abrupt change in Volvo's naming strategy. With a slight refresh and a few minor trim and running-gear changes, these versions of the V70 were otherwise the same as the 850, a model that had been around since the 1993 model year. At the base level, that included a standard 168-horsepower, 2.4-liter naturally aspirated in-line five-cylinder engine that was fitted to a four-speed automatic transmission and was just fine except when fully loaded. Next up, the GLT got a low-pressure-turbocharged 190-hp version of the 2.4-liter that generated lots of mid-rev responsiveness without lag. At the top of the lineup was the T5 R, which packed a high-boost, 240-hp five that wasn't as smooth about turbo lag or front-wheel traction, but was a lot of fun to drive. There was also a 222-hp T5 version.
For 1998, a V70 XC (cross country) version joined the lineup, offering all-wheel drive and a little more ground clearance, skid plates, and some rubberized, tough-looking styling cues throughout.
The first-generation V70 and V70 XC models carried on Volvo's strong reputation for reliability and durability, but the V70 hasn't fared as well in recent years.
Today there are likely also lots of second-generation (2001-2007) V70 models on used-car lots. With a complete redesign, the 2001 V70 became slightly wider and longer than the previous model, as the wagon converted to the platform of the larger S80 sedan. The powertrain lineup was essentially carried over from the previous generation, with 2.4, 2.4T, T5, and XC models. 2.4T and XC models got a 197-hp version of the turbo five while the T5 stepped up to 247 hp. These models stepped up to a five-speed automatic transmission that has proven to be somewhat trouble-prone in some years and versions—although these powertrains are in general very responsive and strong. Some didn't think that this version of the V70 family handled as well as its predecessor, although it definitely made gains in quiet and refinement. Also, XC versions now offered 8.2 inches of ground clearance.
Third-generation versions of the Volvo V70—still based on the S80 sedan—were introduced for 2007. They introduced a lot of changes under the hood, where the five-cylinder engine was replaced by a 3.2-liter in-line six from the same engine family, making 235 hp and hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission. Overall, these versions ride even better than the previous version—with a beautiful interior—although the six-cylinder engine was considerably thirstier without that much of a gain in performance.
Although fuel consumption has been a low point in recent years, interior space and versatility has been a strength for the V70 all along. Rear seatbacks fold flat, load floors are low, and the V70 puts its best foot forward as to why there's no reason to look at that cumbersome SUV.