New & Used Volvo XC70: In Depth
Angular Front Exterior View - 2016 Volvo XC70Enlarge Photo
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Because of the Volvo XC70's unusual setup it has just two direct rivals in the market: the Subaru Outback and the Audi Allroad.
The XC70 is not quite a crossover vehicle—it's more a station wagon with light cladding and all-weather ability, plus a little extra ground clearance. The XC70 is Volvo's latest take on the luxury wagons that have been a part of the Swedish automaker's lineup for decades.
MORE: Read our 2016 Volvo XC70 review for car prices with options, specifications, and gas mileage information
The basis for the XC70 dates back to the mid-1990s, when the V70 replaced the Volvo 850 Wagon--albeit with nearly identical styling. A completely redesigned V70 was released for 2001. It had smoother, less boxy, more flowing lines, with running gear mostly shared with the large S80 sedan.
When it was introduced, the V70's base model was the 2.4, fitted with a normally aspirated 168-hp, 2.4-liter inline-five. Above that was the 2.4T, which added a turbocharger to boost output to 197 hp. The T5 used the same turbo engine with a higher level of boost and was able to produce 247 hp. On top of that, Volvo offered a V70R performance model, which featured a 300-hp, 2.5-liter engine and all-wheel drive.
Ride quality varied a bit among these models, with base cars on the soft, almost bouncy side and T5 models providing a very firm calibration that favored handling but might not be to the liking of those who live in the Snow Belt. Among them our favorites were the 2.4T models (and 208-hp 2.5T models, from 2004 on), which offered the best compromise.
From those roots, the XC70 was launched in 2008. The XC70 can now be ordered with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, with the former having taken the place of the last-generation V70. Both that departed V70 wagon and the XC70 crossover share running gear with Volvo's largest sedan, the S80. The original engine was a 235-hp, 3.2-liter in-line six-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission--the same powertrain that was used in the larger XC90 seven-seat crossover, launched way back in 2002. This same powertrain continues to be used to this day on certain XC70 models.
All XC70 (and V70) models, old and new, are cargo workhorses. Their split-folding back seats fold flat, and the cargo floor is much lower than in most crossovers, making it easy to load. Front seats are excellent, although some owners may find the back seat a little more cramped for adults than the generous exterior might suggest. While the latest generation for 2008 and beyond lost a bit of performance compared to its predecessor, the ride and handling were vastly improved and more premium content was added.
Other than various equipment changes and new wheels and trim, the XC70 evolved very little in the early years of this generation. The front-wheel-drive version of the XC70 replaced the V70 wagon for 2011. That same year, standard features were also bolstered for the whole lineup, with the base model now including a power driver's seat, fog lamps, heated side mirrors, Bluetooth, and Sirius satellite radio.
Volvo again added features for 2013, making headlight washers and rain-sensing wipers standard across the XC70 range, with Keyless Drive and the Personal Car Communicator (PCC) included in T6 models, and new Tunnel Detection added to the automatic headlamps. A Road Sign Information system and Active High Beam were added to the Technology Package.
Major change came in 2015, when the front-wheel-drive XC70 got a new standard engine, a 240-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter engine producing 258 lb-ft of torque, mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. It is fitted with a start-stop system that switches off the engine when the car comes to rest. Its EPA Combined gas-mileage ratings rise to 24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway. All-wheel-drive models continue with the six-cylinder, however.
For 2016, the XC70 lineup has been simplified. There's just one powertrain each for the front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions. This year, for the latter, a "T5" 250-horsepower, turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine replaces the pair of six-cylinder engine options offered last year. As before, it powers the wheels through a (sometimes hesitant) six-speed automatic transmission.