2009 Volvo XC70 Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
May 30, 2009

The 2009 Volvo XC70 combines the body of Volvo’s large V70 station wagon with more rugged styling cues and a taller stance—resulting in a more carlike alternative to mid-size sport-utility vehicles.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Volvo XC70 in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com's SUV experts then researched available road tests on the new Volvo XC70 to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other reviews might differ.

The 2009 Volvo XC70 brings an extra dose of real off-road ruggedness to a wagon that’s comfortable and spacious but has been regarded as not incredibly sporty.

However, for 2009 Volvo increases the sportiness of the XC70 by introducing the new T6 AWD model. The T6 takes the standard XC70 and adds a 3.0-liter, turbocharged, 24-valve, inline six-cylinder engine with 295 lb-ft of torque and 281 horsepower—a 43-horsepower increase over the normally aspirated 3.2-liter inline-six propelling the standard XC70 AWD. The standard six-cylinder engine is smooth and delivers adequate power, but it doesn’t exhibit much pep from a standing start, and the six-speed automatic transmission can balk when a downshift is needed for hills. Its fuel economy isn’t any better than that of most mid-size crossover SUVs, however.

The 2009 Volvo XC70’s all-wheel-drive system sends 95 percent of the power to the front wheels during normal driving and can transmit up to 65 percent to the rear wheels for better traction via a Haldex clutch system. The XC70 has more ground clearance and a heavy-duty suspension, along with protective lower-body cladding and skid plates, to handle light-duty off-roading. An electronic aid, Hill Descent Control, also helps traverse steep, slippery downhill slopes at low speed. Volvo’s Four-C automatic damping control is available on the 2009 Volvo XC70; the system firms up the suspension quickly when needed for sharper cornering control, while allowing the ride to be quite soft and absorbent under normal driving.

Review continues below

The XC70’s instrument panel is a simplified, horizontal layout complemented by a "floating" center stack that borrows its look from flat-screen monitors and high-end audio systems. Instead of using complex screen-driven controls, Volvo has situated the climate controls in an especially intuitive way, with the available navigation system’s screen tucked neatly inside the dash when it’s not in use.

Cargo space inside the 2009 XC70 is impressive, and under the cargo floor there’s another hidden compartment for smaller items, along with a tie-down system to help keep items from moving around. The seats are among the best in any crossover vehicle; the standard units are very firm and comfortable, while the available perforated heated and cooled options rank high among all vehicles. The XC70 also has a particularly versatile arrangement for its rear seats. The second row is split into three separate cushions, each of which folds forward flat to amplify cargo space. For the smallest passengers, the second row can be outfitted with integrated two-position booster seats—a world first, Volvo says—that eliminate the need for aftermarket strap-ins.

The 2009 Volvo XC70 has not yet been crash-tested in North America, but it’s loaded with other safety features, such as front side airbags, side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control.

For 2009, both models receive a Bluetooth hands-free phone interface as standard equipment. Returning standard equipment includes fog lamps, heated side mirrors, a power driver’s seat, keyless entry, cruise control, and dual-zone climate control. Options include front and rear parking assist, heated front and rear seats, heated wiper nozzles, headlamp cleaners, active bi-xenon headlamps, a dual-screen rear DVD system, adaptive cruise control, and a 650-watt Dynaudio surround sound system. The new T6 model is recognizable by its 17-inch Sargas alloy wheels, tailgate badge, and dual tailpipes and on the inside by its watch dial instrument cluster and cross-brushed aluminum inlays.

Volvo’s new-for-2009 Technology Package includes active bi-xenon headlamps, Dynaudio sound system, and Sirius Satellite Radio. Included with adaptive cruise control in the Collision Avoidance Package is a collision warning system that applies the brakes when it anticipates a crash. There’s also a keyless entry and ignition system called the Personal Car Communicator, which will detect the heartbeat of an intruder and notifies the owner at a distance on the keyfob, and Driver Alert Control, a system that follows lane markings and warns the driver if it suspects concentration is waning. Another top-technology option is a Blind Sport Information System (BLIS) that detects when a vehicle is beside and just behind the Volvo and informs the driver with a light at the base of the side-view mirror.

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2009 Volvo XC70

Styling

The 2009 Volvo XC70 earns mild kudos from reviewers around the Web for its styling, inside and out, though the exterior is less exciting to some.

The 2009 Volvo XC70 appears tougher than the average wagon, and it’s intentionally so.

“The redesigned XC70 looks a little more manly than it did before, but I don’t mean that in a World’s Strongest Man sort of way (although it can probably carry two kegs of beer at a time). It’s refined and sleek-looking, with brushed-metal accents on the fog lights and front bumper,” says MotherProof.com.

So while the XC70’s styling won’t sets hearts aflutter, it follows in a long line of proven Volvo wagon DNA, albeit in a somewhat higher-testosterone version when compared to the V70 Wagon upon which it is based. The changes from the previous XC70 are evolutionary, but reviewers seem to appreciate the more subtle integration of this new XC70’s macho bits and pieces; “gone is the tacked-on side cladding, replaced by a more streamlined treatment covering the molded bumpers and lower door panels,” comments Kelley Blue Book. “Certainly more interesting to look at than past versions,” says Cars.com.

Whether or not you cotton to soccer moms, swim meets, farmer’s market produce, and “College of William and Mary window stickers” (thanks, Jalopnik), you have to respect the staying power of the Volvo wagon. “One company that has steadfastly continued the tradition,” continues Car and Driver, “even when wagons weren't fashionable, is Volvo.” “Clearly, the Swedish purveyor of sensible sedans and wagons is afraid of alienating its clientele,” comments Car and Driver in a statement that could either be taken as outright contempt or faint praise.

Says Cars.com about the XC70’s interior, “the materials are exceptionally pleasing to the touch…elegantly simple dashboard with a nicely grained finish.” Kelley Blue Book remarks, “the clean and simple dash design puts controls within easy reach of both driver and passenger, while Volvo’s new signature open-back center console adds a touch of style not usually associated with the family wagon.” Autoblog praises Volvo’s signature, ultra-modern “suspended center console…with high quality buttons and knobs that are easy to find.”

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2009 Volvo XC70

Performance

The 2009 Volvo XC70 is a strong but not inspiring performer, and the performance boost in the T6 isn’t enough to justify the huge jump in price.

The 2009 Volvo XC70 won’t win at the drag strip, but its safe, smooth, and stress-free demeanor is perfectly in keeping with its mission. A new T6 AWD model, with a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder and 281 horsepower, joins the standard model and its normally aspirated, 238-horsepower six-cylinder.

“While the XC70 T6’s turbocharged six-cylinder may sound like a spritely powerplant on paper, in reality it’s a supremely smooth but ultimately unexciting piece of machinery,” says MotorAuthority.com, adding, “The relatively small twin-scroll turbo nearly eliminates lag, and does a fair job building high-end steam, but there’s no adrenaline-pumping rush, no force-of-nature torque peak that leaves you yearning for more.” ConsumerGuide asserts the “T6 feels noticeably stronger and does not suffer from turbo lag. The smooth transmission is quick to respond to throttle inputs.”

The standard 2009 Volvo XC70 is powered by a 3.2-liter six-cylinder with variable valve timing and lift and variable-length intake runners. This naturally aspirated engine makes the most of its modest displacement to generate 235 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. Thankfully, 90 percent of the latter figure is on tap at just 2,000 rpm, but it seems this low-end twist simply pulls the acceleration of the XC70 into the realm of adequate.

Autoblog praises the engine, saying, “Volvo's corporate six sounds great and revs freely,” but concludes that “235 horsepower just isn't enough to properly motivate a two-ton station wagon.” In many ways, it seems Volvo is reading right from the station wagon playbook in offering a smooth, torquey engine that’s stress-free around town but won’t set any acceleration records. Kelley Blue Book remarks, “Volvo's 3.2-liter in-line six is a strong engine, but delivers only acceptable performance in the 4,000-plus pound XC70. Off-the-line acceleration is brisk, but passing power could be better.” Edmunds laments that the inline-six “provides ample power, though most rivals offer a more spirited drive.”

A standard electronically controlled Haldex wet-clutch all-wheel-drive system apportions 95 percent of the power to the front until wheelslip is detected, at which point up to 65 percent of the power may be sent rearward to resume forward progress. The power is routed mainly forward through an Aisin-built six-speed automatic with manumatic control. Autoblog finds this transmission/drive combo provides “a very smooth yet somewhat unexciting driving experience,” whereas the editors at Popular Mechanics feel that “with the slick six-speed automatic transmission, performance is more than adequate for normal driving.”

Edmunds says, “The all-wheel drive is a boon in inclement weather, though the XC70 really isn't rugged enough for off-road adventures.” “Take the XC70 off-road,” gushes Popular Mechanics, “and you quickly experience its rock-solid SUV credentials.” “The XC70’s all-wheel-drive system with Hill Descent Control (HDC) will take you through any light - to - medium duty terrain with little effort,” concludes Road & Track. In the opinion of Kelley Blue Book, “gravel roads, deep mud and slushy snow prove little match for the XC70's all-wheel drive abilities.”

When driven aggressively off-road, the XC70 has its limits, as Motor Trend discovers: “the harshest bumps elicit a clompity-clomp racket that smacks of excess unsprung weight-or perhaps is the car's way of saying 'slow down.'" The sober voices at ConsumerGuide summarize the ride/handling balance of the XC70 well: “Compared to SUVs, as is Volvo's pretense, the XC70 is nimble and nearly sporty. Compared to the V70, XC70 has slightly less communicative steering and marginally more lean in corners.” Kelley Blue Book repeats these sentiments, reporting that “the XC70 handles better than any truck-based SUV we've driven, but the added height and big wheels and tires don't return the same feel one might experience from a V70 or V50 wagon.”

ConsumerGuide averages 20.1-20.9 mpg in its testing, and a Cars.com tester “hovered around 20 mpg” during 500 miles of driving, marking fuel efficiency as a sore spot with some reviewers of the XC70. Autoblog blasts the Volvo, complaining they “achieved a miserable 18 mpg in mixed driving, which was worse than what we got in the 5,000 lb, seven-passenger Buick Enclave.” This reflects others’ opinions that, considering its image as a smaller, lighter, more earth-friendly car in the land of hulking SUVs, the XC70 should simply make better numbers than its EPA-rated 15/22 mpg.

9

2009 Volvo XC70

Comfort & Quality

Conceivably doubling as a high-end Swedish furniture gallery, the 2009 Volvo XC70’s interior hits a home run with reviewers.

The 2009 Volvo XC70 excels in creature comforts, and has impressive fit and finish.

Popular Mechanics is “most impressed by the interior, which was noticeably quieter than those of more traditional SUVs and even than that of the last-generation XC70.” “Even better,” Popular Mechanics declares, “is the handsome layout of the instrument panel, with its sweeping horizontal lines, precisely placed controls and easy-to-read instruments.” The only real negative seems to be “the hard plastic against which our knees would bang while driving,” laments Autoblog, whose editors quip that the S80 uses more plush materials in that particular portion of the interior. The XC70 is convincing as a luxury car and, at an entry point of around $36,000, yields impressive value to boot. ConsumerGuide remarks that “cabin materials are padded and/or nicely grained where it matters most,” “gauges are large, clearly marked, and easy to read,” and “assembly quality is first rate.” Kelley Blue Book reports “engine noise and vibration are barely detectable from inside the car.”

Autoblog praises the chairs, saying, “Our XC70's dark brown leather seats were among the more pleasant in which we've sat, with ample bolstering and thigh support." ConsumerGuide declares that the front buckets have “plenty of headroom and legroom, even for taller occupants.” “Both the driver and front passenger seats are exceptionally comfortable,” says Cars.com. ConsumerGuide agrees, commenting that the leather seating and real wood trim of the premium package “impart a convincing luxury feel.”

In the cargo area, aluminum rails on the floor offer attachment points where items can be secured in place, reports Popular Mechanics. Road & Track giddily proclaims, “Check out the Volvo’s 33.3 cu.-ft. of rear storage volume—even with the seats filled! Fold down the second row of seats and you’ll get…enough room to fit a go-kart.” ConsumerGuide is a little more subdued, saying the rear seat offers “decent space for two adults, but three abreast seating is best reserved for quick trips. Under-seat foot space is tight, compromising comfort when the front seats are too far back.” The space efficiency and utility of the second row and rear of the XC70 receives accolades. Volvo wagons have been swallowing astonishing amounts of oddly shaped cargo since the '70s, and it seems the XC70 builds upon this tradition. Cars.com attests that “the XC70’s rear seats fold down flat with one easy motion” and “the load floor's low height also makes everyday tasks like loading and unloading groceries or luggage much easier to handle.” When its seats are folded into the floor, the XC70 offers up to “an SUV-like 72 ft. of cargo space," states Popular Mechanics.

9

2009 Volvo XC70

Safety

Volvo didn’t invent the station wagon, but with the 2009 XC70, Volvo is aiming for nothing less than safety perfection.

The 2009 Volvo XC70 sports impressive safety gear and pedigree, but it hasn’t been crash-tested yet.

While neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has weighed in on the Volvo’s fortitude in a crash test, TheCarConnection.com expects the ’09 to earn five stars and top ratings across the board, given the stellar performance of the previous-generation XC70, as well as the superior crash performance of the S80 sedan on which it’s based. “Safety and Volvo go together hand-in-hand,” says Cars.com, and “because cars from other manufacturers score just as highly in crash tests, Volvo has to do even more now.”

Most standard safety features of the 2009 Volvo XC70 were considered science-fiction fantasy to the wagons of yesterday. The 2009 XC70’s safety arsenal includes side curtain airbags, dual-chamber side curtain airbags, dual-stage front airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners, WHIPS whiplash protection system, anti-lock brakes, and the LATCH attachment system for children’s seats, all of which are standard items. “As you would expect, stability control and traction control are standard,” reports Car and Driver.

Edmunds sheds light on the available Collision Avoidance package that, for $1,695, “monitors following distance and alerts the driver and primes the brakes for action if the car gets too close.” Edmunds also notes that the second-row height-adjustable booster seats are “an industry first.” Cars.com weighs in on some optional items, such as “Volvo's $695 blind-spot monitor,” which “acts as a nanny for the driver,” and the “built-in booster seats for a pretty decent price of $495.” Incidentally, as Motor Trend points out, “the side-curtain airbags now extend 2.4 inches lower down the door to better protect kids” in the event of a side impact, effectively working in concert with those booster seats.

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2009 Volvo XC70

Features

The 2009 Volvo XC70 represents an impressive value when judged next to its crossover and SUV competitors. But a few options quickly swell the price.

The fewer toys, the greater the value presented by the well-equipped 2009 Volvo XC70. But those leather seats and wood trim sure are nice.

For 2009, Volvo has a new Technology Package that includes active bi-xenon headlamps, Dynaudio sound system, and Sirius Satellite Radio.

Think of the XC70 as a luxury wagon wearing hiking garb and riding on 8.3-inch stilts. Of the standard Hill Descent Control, Car and Driver reports that this is a feature seen in the XC70 “for the first time.” Even in base form, the all-wheel-drive XC70 is well equipped, with features such as Dynamic Stability and Traction Control, Hill Descent Control (“keeps the vehicle at approximately six miles per hour when descending steep grades,” notes Kelley Blue Book), front and rear skid plates, heated side mirrors, dual-zone electronic climate control, and eight-way power driver’s seat.

Cars.com discloses that, in order to get the leather seats and real wood inlays so well loved by reviewers, one “must add a $2,995 Premium Package.” Audiophiles can spend $1,650 for a Dynaudio/Sirius Premium Sound System. And Motor Trend feels the “costly rear-seat DVD system” might help “quell rear-seat whining.” Kelley Blue Book remarks that many of the XC70’s options, “including the Blind Spot Information System and Adaptive Cruise Control, [make] driving easier.” They also rave “stowing groceries has never been easier thanks to the power tailgate, which opens and closes via a push-button key fob.” But Autoblog comments that one safety measure that drove them “bonkers during our time with the XC70 was the parking assist system. Each time we started the wagon, the system defaulted to the On position, and it beeped loudly whenever we were within about four feet of a surrounding vehicle.”

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