For 2008, Volvo has eschewed years of turbocharged fives for the inherent balance of an inline-six. The sole powerplant in the 2008 Volvo XC70 is a six-cylinder; it displaces 3.2 liters and is equipped 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.
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.” Autoblog praises the engine, saying “Volvo's corporate six sounds great and revs freely,” but concludes “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.
The power is routed mainly forward through an Aisin-built six-speed automatic with manumatic control. 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. 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.”
Opinions are also split on the effectiveness of the AWD system, with some regarding the system as more of a soft-roader, yet others finding it quite capable indeed. 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.” Edmunds counters, “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.
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.” 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.'"
Fuel efficiency marks 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. ConsumerGuide averages 20.1-20.9 mpg in its testing, and a Cars.com tester “hovered around 20 mpg” during 500 miles of driving.