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Car Review: Volvo XC70

Family friendly, not flashy



By Frederic Fane Wolfer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Sticker price: $37,520
Dealer cost: $35,349
Horsepower: 235
MPG: 15 city, 22 highway
3-yr Resale value: 49% 5-yr: 34%
Cargo space: 20.3 cu. ft.


Highs: Spiffy interior; family-friendly features and space; first-rate safety.
Lows: Pricier and less fuel-efficient than the V70; not what you’d call entertaining to drive.

Volvo makes a nice station wagon. But station wagons are, well, dull. They’re utilitarian. They’re unfashionable. Crossover SUVs are where it's at. But even after Volvo introduced its XC90 SUV five years ago, it never retired its sporty, rugged, crossover-light version of its V70 wagon, the XC70.

The XC70 is a nice wagon that stands a bit taller than the V70 and has all-wheel-drive, an electronic descent-control setting that keeps speed in check as you go down a steep grade, and a base price about $4,000 more than the V70. Relaxed performance

The XC70 is a relaxed highway cruiser. Its drivetrain, a 235-horsepower, 3.2-liter V6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic, is lugging two tons of station wagon, so its power feels merely adequate. (Note that the front-wheel-drive V70, which uses the same engine, is 500 pounds lighter.) It gets 15 miles per gallon in the city, 22 mpg on the highway (versus the front-wheel-drive V70’s ratings of 16 mpg city, 24 highway).

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Volvos aren’t known for being involving, driver-oriented cars, and the XC70 is no exception. Handling is generally sure-footed -- just keep its station-wagon mission in mind. The car doesn’t encourage swift motoring. Mid-corner bumps occasionally induce wallowing, which probably has to do with the car’s higher center of gravity compared with the V70.

Inside look

The first thing you notice when you get into the XC70 is the top of its dash, an interesting piece of high-quality plastic. It has a grain that reminds you of tree bark, and it sweeps all the way across the car and up over the instrument binnacle without interruption. Below, a "floating" center console holds the ventilation and audio controls. Very stylish.

My test model came with a few extras that bumped up its price to $44,065, including a $1,650 premium-audio option and a $2,995 package that added a glass moonroof and leather and wood to the interior. The audio system has 650 watts of power in all, 12 speakers, and electronics to create a host of different effects. But to this listener it sounded just okay.

An $875 package added heated front seats, a heated windshield, headlamp washers and integrated, two-height child booster seats in the second row. The booster seats are slick and very useful for parents with small children (I can report no complaints from my 6-year-old).

Family-friendly

But the great thing about wagons, of course, is that they have room to carry a whole bunch of stuff -- in the XC70’s case, up to 72.1 cubic feet of room with the second-row seats folded flat. There are aluminum rails, with integrated hooks, running along the sides of the cargo area for tying stuff down, and beneath the floor in back are cubbies and bins for smaller items. All in all, quite useful, and very family friendly.

Of course, protecting families is the car’s reason for being, and Volvo’s reputation for safety lives on in the XC70. The car comes with, among other things, beefed-up front, side and rear crash protection, front and side airbags, side-curtain airbags, and a whiplash-protection system. An optional collision-avoidance package ($1,695) offers a radar-based warning system that primes the brakes should it sense that you need to stop quickly.



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