So, before Volvo started to redesign its V70, its larger station wagon, executives researched J.D. Power and Associates APEAL studies — which try to gauge the emotional appeal of the vehicle, its features and how much the owner enjoyed it — to learn what didn’t work for current owners.
What they found wasn’t disheartening, but three problems – ride comfort; noise, squeaks and rattles; and the desire for more storage space, especially for cassettes and CDs – gave them reason to pause.
Volvo’s dealt with these less than APEAL-ing issues with a thorough revamp of the V70’s structure and shape. I had a chance to drive the new V70 a few weeks ago on a loop from Nice on the French Riviera toward Grenoble in the French Alps on well-tended European roads, and in between scenic raptures, found the new V70 ready to counter those minor quibbles.
While the V70 is a front-wheel-drive station wagon, its mechanical underpinnings came from the S80 luxury sedan, which Volvo introduced as a 1999 model. (The previous V70 was based on the 850 platform, which is now the S70, which will soon be the S60.) (Don’t even bother.) Improvements in ride comfort and reductions in noise, squeaks and rattles were handled by increasing torsional stiffness by 60 to 70 percent over the previous model, say Volvo engineers.
That’s why the new model felt very solid even on rumpled and broken surfaces while tooling across southeastern France. The suspension did a good job with impact harshness on these surfaces, better than the previous-generation model, which I drove about a month ago. Too, the wheelbase (108.5 inches) was increased by 3.6 inches to make the ride even smoother and to increase interior space, making the V70 as large as its competition.
The new V70 has a different look and different stance on the road. The bumpers were designed to protrude as little as possible, and the front bumper was designed to absorb more energy in a shorter distance. The center of gravity was lowered and the rear track was increased by 3.1 inches. Overall, the car is nearly two inches wider (at 71 inches). All these changes help it hold the road better and also change the car's looks. Whereas the rear on the old V70 looked higher, the rear on the new V70 looks much wider. It might take the more rigid Volvophiles a little getting used to, what with all the semi-voluptuous curves around the nose and the roofline.
Family performance goodies
The V70 has a MacPherson-type front-suspension, while the rear has a multi-link design. The rear axle is identical to one on the S80, but changes have been made to the springs, struts and anti-roll bars. Steering is power-assisted rack and pinion, which feels a little light and sloppy on center. Nevertheless, serious driving enthusiasts may prefer more weight and a less isolated feel.
2001 Volvo V70 2
Two in-line five cylinder engines are available in the U.S. market. The 2.4-liter light pressure turbocharged version, called the 2.4T, is rated at 197 hp at 6000 rpm and 210 ft-lb of torque at 1800 to 5000 rpm. The 2.3-liter high pressure turbo, called the T5, is rated at 242 hp at 5200 rpm and 243 ft-lb of torque at 2400 to 5200 rpm.
A new five-speed automatic transmission has been developed for the five-cylinder engine and automatically adapts the shift points to the driver's style. The 2.4T gets the new automatic, while the T5 comes with the choice of a five-speed manual or the automatic with the addition of Geartronic, a separate shifting gate that gives the driver the choice of clutchless manual shifting.
Most people will be pleased with the acceleration they get from the five-speed automatic — particularly for a station wagon — although at times the price is a slight turbo lag. But, for the most part the automatic's five speeds and turbo match up quite well. As with the S80, I noted a bit of torque steer in the T5 with the automatic. It’s not a big problem – more a disappointment in a car in this price range.
A boatload of safety
As is expected in a Volvo, the V70 comes loaded with standard safety equipment. Both front seats have Volvo's Whiplash Protection System, which helps protect necks in low-impact crashes. All five seats have lap/shoulder belts and head restraints. Whereas the old V70 had the head/chest airbags for front passengers, the new wagon has the side-impact inflatable curtain from the S80 that helps to keep the heads of both front and rear seat occupants from hitting the window in a crash.
The new V70 has dual-stage airbags that inflate according to impact severity. In a severe impact, the airbag inflates at full capacity. If the impact is less severe — but still enough to cause potential injury – the dual-stage airbag only inflates to 70 percent of its capacity.
The V70 has the complete universal attachment system for infant/child safety seats, called ISOFIX, in the two rear outer seat positions. Child safety seats are just beginning to come on the market that will fit into these attachments, meaning that parents no longer have to struggle to anchor infant/child seats with the seat belts and ensuring that more children are properly secured.
Two systems help drivers stay in control. There is the simpler system, Stability Traction Control (STC), which works at both low and high speeds by counteracting wheelspin when traction is poor. STC is a $550 option on the 2.4T and standard on the T5. The more sophisticated Dynamic Stability Traction Control (DSTC), Volvo's skid-control system, is a $1250 option on the 2.4T and an $1100 option on the T5.
In Volvospeak, V stands for "versatility," not "vagon." And the all-important rear seat has been designed with versatility in mind. The head restraints don't have to be removed when the seatbacks are folded down, and all three safety belts are integrated into the seatbacks. The split, fold-down seatbacks can be reclined slightly for greater comfort or locked upright for a tad more luggage space when needed. The rear seats are raised for so-called "theater" seating, to give children in the rear a better view. And the seat cushions in the rear can be removed, in addition to being folded forward against the front seat backrests, when the seatbacks are folded down. By removing them instead of just folding them forward, you get a few inches more of floor space.
A list of options and packages increases versatility by offering items such as a rear-facing third bench for children, a foldable rear table, and a shopping bag holder, which is hidden beneath the luggage compartment floor when not in use.
The T5 with automatic transmission we had for a week started at $34,975 and quickly rose to $42,705 by the time we added metallic paint ($400), sport leather package ($1300), security package ($475), cold weather package ($450), power sunroof ($1200), versatility package with third-row seat ($1150), integrated booster seats ($300) and more.
Although it isn't a sports wagon, the new V70 is plenty lively as well as practical.
There’s only one disadvantage — plenty of room to mar the trip by taking the kids.
|2001 VOLVO V70
Base price: $32,975 (2.4T
automatic), $33,975 (T5 manual), $34,975 (T5 automatic with
Engine: turbocharged 2.4-liter in-line five-cylinder, 197 hp; turbocharged 2.3-liter in-line five-cylinder, 242 hp
Transmission: five-speed automatic, five-speed manual (T5 only), five-speed automatic with Geartronic (T5 only)
Wheelbase: 108.5 in
Length: 185.4 in
Width: 71.0 in
Height: 58.6 in
Weight: 3366 lb
Fuel economy: 21 city / 27 highway (2.4T), 22 city / 30 highway (T5 manual), 21 city/27 highway (T5 with Geartronic automatic)
Major standard equipment:
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