In August 2005 we tested the top-of-the-range
Volvo XC70 (see Volvo XC70)
“After a week with the Volvo, the XC70 departed
our stable leaving behind an impression of a comfortable, competent car that
handles its dual-purpose role very well. It won’t be a killer off-road knee-deep
in mud or snow, but it also won’t be a thirsty, lumbering beast when driven
interstate on the bitumen...”
At AUD$64,450 (in five-seater guise) we thought
the Volvo XC70 was a pretty decent buy. But here we are a few months later
testing essentially the same vehicle - except with a RRP of AUD$56,960 (a saving
of AUD$7490)! At this price, the newly released XC70 SE should really catch the
eye of Subaru Outback and Holden Adventra buyers.
The XC70 SE uses an identical driveline to the more expensive LE version. You get the same wonderfully punchy 2.5-litre
five-cylinder turbo engine (which puts out 154kW at 5000 rpm and an impressive
320Nm between 1500 and 4500 rpm) and a five-speed sequential shift automatic
transmission. It’s a brilliant combination that lets you use the massive torque
of the turbo engine without down-changing for gradual inclines. You can also sprint away from a standing start with real urgency (Volvo claims 0 – 100km/h in
8 seconds flat). The XC70 engine is everything a modern turbo engine should be –
the only criticism is a slightly growly note and so-so fuel consumption. The
lack of steering wheel mounted gearchange buttons is also surprising.
In a mixture of heavy traffic and motorway
driving, the XC70 returned 12.6 litres per 100km fuel consumption. Not bad given
the spritely performance and 1655kg kerb weight but, interestingly, a ‘big’
4-litre Ford Falcon gives slightly better consumption in identical conditions.
Oh, and the Volvo comes with a recommendation for 95+ RON fuel.
The XC70 gets its torque to the ground via an
electro-mechanical Haldex AWD system. The Haldex centre coupling channels 95
percent of torque to the front wheels at cruise and increases the rear-drive
torque split when slip is detected. On hard launches, the system allows some
front tyres scrabble before torque is sent to the rear wheels; torque split is
With its electronically-controlled AWD system teamed
with front strut and rear multi-link suspension, the XC70 is sure-footed
and gives mild understeer when pushed. Dynamic Stability and Traction Control
(DTSC) is available as an option to further improve driver control. The ride is
comfortable and there’s plenty of suspension travel for the majority of
conditions. Unlike many larger SUVs, the XC70 has only a slight feeling of
having high unsprung mass. Wheels are 16 inch alloys wearing 215/65 Pirelli
Scorpion STP tyres.
The Volvo’s power-assisted rack and pinion
steering is light but our test car had some kickback when tackling rough corners
under power. The brakes are also light to operate and come augmented with ABS
and EBD control. Electronic Brake Assist (EBA) is optional.
So far the XC70 SE manages to run lineball with
the more expensive LE version – but not when you look inside.
The SE model does without electric adjustable and
heated front seats, an interior air quality system, electric glass sunroof and
comes with standard aluminium highlights instead of timber. But, despite being
stripped of some good bits, the XC70 SE never feels under-equipped. Standout
features include rear park assist, an auto dipping rear view mirror, a trick
multi-function centre armrest (with a folding drink holder than can be flipped
for use by rear passengers), six airbags, an easy to use trip computer, and
dual-zone climate control. The eight speaker sound system is also brilliant.
The standard leather seats are very comfortable
but the XC70 doesn’t offer abundant occupant space. Headroom is generous in all
seating positions but the transmission tunnel and centre console eat into front
space while rear passengers will complain of the limited foot space.
If you’re the sort of person who will take the
XC70 on regular long trips you’ll appreciate its vast cargo area. The XC70 has a long
and wide load space together with a low loading lip and a relatively high-lift
hatch. With the rear backrests upright, there’s 485-litres of cargo volume but
it’s easy to tumble the rear lower cushion and fold the backrest perfectly flat.
Then you have an enormous 1641-litre cargo volume at
your disposal. A cargo blind, tie-downs, a 12V power socket (one of three
throughout the cabin) and an under-floor storage stray can also be found in the
The XC70 doesn’t pretend to be a serious
bush-bashing machine but it can certainly cope off the bitumen thanks to its
impressive suspension travel, front and rear bumper skid plates, and
considerable 209mm ground clearance (which is more than a Holden Adventra). The
biggest limitations are the lack of a centre diff lock, low-range gearing and
the provision of only a space saver spare wheel.
The body looks tough with its wide track, elevated
stance, wheel arch extensions, lower sill trims and aluminium roof rails. We
love the large exterior mirrors (which cleverly combine a flat and curved mirror
element for a wider field of vision) but, unfortunately, you miss out on the
bi-xenon headlights and headlight washer system which come standard in the LE
model. Our test car showed exceptional build quality and a feeling of solidity
thanks to its thick doors (which shut beautifully), beefy sill panels and
There are no big changes over the XC70 LE
version but the bargain priced SE certainly has great appeal. With its AUD$7490
saving, the base-spec XC70 stacks up very well against the other station-wagon
type AWDs on the market. It’s w-a-y cheaper than the Audi Allroad while being
only a few grand dearer than the top-line Subaru Outback and Holden Adventra.
But, really, we reckon the XC70 SE should appeal to a very wide buyer market –
in many instances it’s what people should be driving instead of larger
It doesn’t matter which end of the AWD segment
you’re looking at – take a Volvo XC70 SE for a drive and you’ll be
The XC70 SE was provided for this test by Volvo
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