1999 Volvo V70 Page 1

Attention, suburban commuters: not everyone needs 19 feet of mighty Detroit iron to schlep the kids to soccer practice. Ford has only enough capacity to make about 50,000 Excursions a year right now, you know. That means some of you will have to seek another mode of family transportation.

The Volvo V70 Cross Country could be the alternative you need, especially if the Excursion is just a tad too gargantuan.

Basically, the Cross Country is a Volvo V70 wagon with a bit of an attitude. It's got pseudo sport-utility touches that give it a look sort of like a yuppie whose legs haven't seen sun in years from wearing hiking boots and shorts. And it's a Volvo, so it's chock-full of Volvo character. Safe and sound? Oh, yeah, you betcha.

The anti-SUV
On the outside, you might describe the look as Subaru Outback meets V70 wagon. Gray bumpers and body side cladding purport a rugged image. A more aggressive front-end treatment with fog lamps set in the fascia carry this image to the front of the car. The V70 Cross Country's body rides higher than the normal V70 AWD. That aids visibility for the occupants of the car and increases ground clearance a bit.

But make no mistake, even with higher ground clearance, the V70 Cross Country is not meant to go off-road. It may have a few more millimeters between the suspension components and the road, but it's no truck.

Subsequently, it doesn't handle like one either. It rides and drives pretty well. It's not perfect though – the steering is uninspiring, and in general, the chassis feels like it needs to be sorted a bit.

Those subtle flaws are forgiven with the Volvo’s powerplant. Under the hood lies Volvo's light-pressure turbocharged inline five cylinder engine. It lets most of its 190 hp out at 5100 rpm and 199 lb-ft of torque 1800 rpm through the front wheels until a computer senses wheel slippage. Then it transfers torque to the rear wheels through a viscous coupling to enhance traction. If the AWD system detects that all four wheels are slipping, it engages Volvo's TRACS traction control system.

The engine feels more than adequate at highway speeds, but around town it feels sluggish until the turbocharger kicks in. Hmmm. A big V-10 engine, like the one in the Ford Excursion, would take care of that problem – wouldn't it?

Safety abounds
As you full well expect with a Volvo, the V70 Cross Country is engineered to be as safe as the company's legendary image implies. Beside the requisite front airbags, it also has side airbags. And not just two of them: there are bags for both the front passengers' heads and torsos for a total of four side airbags. (The head side-impact bags are new for the 1999 model year.)

Besides being stuffed

1999 Volvo V70 Cross Country interior

1999 Volvo V70 Cross Country interior

The Cross Country’s interior has cushy
chairs and nickel-plate door handles.
with multiple inflatable safety restraints, the interior of the V70 Cross Country is also brimming with comfy interior amenities. We found the front seats to be extraordinarily cozy. In the vehicle we tested, they were finished in leather and had seat heaters – which were particularly handy in taking the edge off the cold Michigan weather we experienced while driving the V70 Cross Country. The look of the interior impressed us too. Nickel-plated door and glovebox handles blended well with the walnut trim and charcoal leather in our test car. They impart a unique look to the interior that seems in harmony with the staid Swedish character of the car's exterior.

In the end, the V70 Cross Country represents a stopgap measure for Volvo's product lineup. The company decided to produce the car mainly because it saw an increasing number of its buyers trading in their Volvos for sport-utes. Accordingly, Volvo says that 19 percent of Cross Country buyers owned a sport-utility vehicle before their Cross Country. That number suggests that the V70 Cross Country is doing a pretty good job stopping the gap. But in a few years, with a little help from Ford, Volvo will have a vehicle that Volvo Cars North America President Hans-Olov Olsson told us will "attack" the sport-utility market head on. In the meantime, the V70 Cross Country might be just what you are looking for if you don't need a land yacht to surf the high waves of urban traffic.