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Volvo has slimmed its model line in recent years, and its legendary wagons are no longer offered here. So the 2012 Volvo XC70 is the closest you can get if you're looking for a traditional, mid-size Volvo wagon. It fits between the slightly smaller XC60 crossover--which has been a great success for Volvo--and the much larger XC90.
The 2012 XC70 is getting to be an old vehicle, based on the previous generation of S60 sedan that was replaced a couple of years ago. The XC70 dates back to 2007, and blends crossover utility details into a handsome wagon body. It's not as curvaceous or noticeable as the XC60, but comes across as tougher, with both skid plates and body cladding. Inside, it shares the characteristic Volvo "floating" thin center console with an open storage bin behind the thin panel holding climate and sound-system controls.
Buyers can opt for one of two inline six-cylinder engines: either the base 240-horsepower 3.2-liter six, or a slightly smaller 3.0-liter model with a turbo added to bump the power up to an even 300 hp. The sole transmission offering is a six-speed automatic, for both front-wheel and all-wheel drive models. The sophisticated Haldex all-wheel-drive transaxle sends 95 percent of power to the front wheels under normal driving duties, but can divert up to 65 percent of torque to the rear wheels if any of the wheels starts to slip in adverse weather conditions. The more powerful engine adds about $6,000 to the XC70's base price of roughly $33,000.
Not surprisingly, the turbo model is quicker: Volvo quotes its 0-to-60-mph time at around 7 seconds. Equally unsurprising, the non-turbo engine with front-wheel drive only is the most fuel efficient, with EPA ratings of 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway. All-wheel drive knocks that down to 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway with the base engine, and the turbo takes 1 mpg more off each rating, at 17 city, 23 highway. And while it may be a high-riding crossover, you'll find the XC70 delivers remarkably good ride quality if you specify the automatic damping control. The optional system firms suspension settings on the fly during sharper cornering, but defaults the settings to a softer, more absorbent ride for normal driving.
Inside, like Volvo wagons of yore, the XC70 offers remarkable space for both passengers and their possessions. Front seats are cozy, and the second-row seat is split into not two but three separate sections, for maximum flexibility. All five seating positions are roomy, and if you fold down the rear seat, you get an impressive 72 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the front seat.
It's a Volvo, so of course the XC70 contains both the complete list of expected safety systems and a few optional additions on top of that. Stability control, active headrests, anti-lock disc brakes, and a full array of airbags are all standard. If you regularly carry children, Volvo offers optional integrated booster seats built into the rear seat. The blind-spot monitoring system that Volvo pioneered several years ago is optional as well, as is a package that bundles radar adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, a system to alert the driver when her driving indicates she may be fatigued, and a collision-warning system. The XC70 has not been crash-tested or rated by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), however.
The 2012 Volvo XC70 includes many standard goodies, starting with dual-zone climate control, cruise control, and keyless entry, and progressing through to a power driver's seat, heated side mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, and fog lamps. Sirius satellite radio is also standard. The turbo version comes with a moonroof as standard.
As well as the safety options mentioned above, optional features include heated front and rear seats and wiper nozzles, washers for the headlamps, active bi-xenon headlamps, rear-view camera, and a 650-Watt Dynaudio surround-sound system. The Technology package groups several of the safety systems, the Dynaudio system, and the bi-xenon headlamps. There's also an optional navigation system that tucks into the dash when not in use. Its knob-controlled functions aren't the most intuitive, however, and Volvo has tweaked its system in recent year to make it easier to use.
For an in-depth look at this crossover-wagon blend, see our most recent review of the Volvo XC70.