2008 Volvo XC70 3.2 AWDPosted on September 24th, 2007
Likes to get dirty: gets on well with bears
By Nina Russin
Does a bear shift in the woods? Perhaps yes. The new Volvo XC70 can comfortably transport five adult bears through the back woods of Montana with standard all-wheel drive, an inline six engine and six-speed automatic transmission.
Ground clearance of 8.3 inches protects the chassis underbelly from rocks and roots, while standard hill descent control enables the driver to maintain directional control on steep grades in either forward or reverse gears. The XC70 won’t climb trees: yet.
But it will ford water. The cargo bay is large enough for fishing poles, a tackle box, and any picnic baskets Yogi and Boo Boo steal from the local tourists.
“In Montana, there is a lot of dirt between light bulbs.”
The quote, I’m told, comes from a former governor. In Montana, paved roads are as scarce as people. Miles of single-lane fire roads wind around lakes and over mountains. Some of the roads are graded: all are full of chuckholes. I’m not sure why Volvo decided to turn journalists loose on these roads with their pre-production XC70s. The fact that all the cars survived, except for one punctured oil pan and a few bent rims, is testament to their durability.
Base camp was the town of Whitefish, just outside the entrance to Glacier National Park. Late September is cold in Montana: cold enough to snow. Our 170-mile drive took us over about 150 miles of dirt roads, climbing from 3500 feet to about 6,000. Morning cloud cover turned to rain in the afternoon, all the better for the chuckholes. As the snowflake indicator in the instrument panel illuminated, we saw the rain change to white flakes that blanketed the Ponderosa pine forest.
Not only is the XC70 off-road friendly; it’s also comfortable. The suspension does an exceptionally good job of isolating passengers from road input, without bottoming out. Equally important, the rack and pinion steering has a turning radius of just over 37 feet. It made a difference when we had to double back on a narrow dirt trail.
The XC70 shares major components with the Volvo S80: the automaker’s flagship luxury sedan. The previous model was based on the smaller S60. The new XC70 is 4.4-inches longer, with a two-inch longer wheelbase than the outgoing model. The 235-horsepower engine on the 2008 model is also larger and more powerful.
Since our drive route didn’t include highways, I can’t speak for the XC70’s high-speed performance. Volvo’s specifications include a zero-to-sixty acceleration time of just over eight seconds. Peak torque is 236 lbs.-ft. at 3200 r.p.m.: a speed most drivers reach during moderate acceleration. The wide torque curve is ideal for the all-wheel drive platform. The XC70 can power up short, steep hills with very little throttle, so the driver can control the car on wet and uneven surfaces.
Traction and stability control are standard on all models. Buyers can opt to upgrade the standard sixteen-inch wheels and R-rated tires to a seventeen-inch package. But standard wheels and tires on the test cars were more than adequate. The XC70’s low center of gravity keeps it stable on steep pitches, and the tires’ footprint is sufficiently wide to provide good traction.
The test car had the Climate option package ($875), including heated front and rear seats, rain-sensing wipers, heated washer nozzles and headlamp washers. The heated seats kept us almost too toasty as the temperature dropped. As the mud piled up, I was happy to have front and rear wipers engaged, with clear headlamp lenses to light the path ahead. Bi-xenon headlamps are available as an option.
Standard safety for bears of all sizes
Safety is a priority for Volvo. The new XC70 contains more high-strength steel than the outgoing model, to strengthen crucial areas on the sides of the car. Crumple zones are designed to protect pedestrians by deforming more on the front end. There is also room behind the transverse engine to protect the passengers during a head-on collision. Whiplash control is standard, as well as front, side and extended side-curtain airbags.
Buyers with small children can opt for integrated booster seats that raise small passengers up so the seatbelts fit properly. The booster seats are in the two outboard positions in the second row. Volvo’s blind spot information system and personal car communicator that tells the owner when someone has broken into the car, is optional.
Urban commuters can add adaptive cruise control with collision warning. Later this year, Volvo will offer optional driver alert with autobrake. The system includes an audible warning when the driver veers out of his lane. When a crash is imminent, the autobrake automatically applies the brakes to reduce the severity of the crash.
The optional power liftgate has pinch protection that keeps it from closing if there’s a finger or hand in its path.
The leather interior on the test car felt similar in character to the S80 sedan: light, elegant, and Scandinavian to the core. The seats are exceptionally comfortable, with or without the optional eight-way power driver’s seat. A storage compartment behind the center stack is large enough to stash a purse or small pack.
The center console has another good-sized storage bin, with a MP3 plug in. There is also a 12-volt power point. There are map pockets in the doors but no bottle holders. Cupholders in the center console are good sized.
The driver and front passenger have separate temperature controls so both can ride comfortably. Visibility around the vehicle is excellent with no obvious blind spots. Designers made the rear glass taller to increase visibility out the back.
The second-row seats are split into three sections, all of which fold flat to extend the load floor. I didn’t have a chance during the test drive to try folding the rear seats flat, but the cargo area is quite spacious with the seatbacks in place. Aluminum cargo rails on the floor with four tie-down cleats make it easier to secure large cargo. Buyers can also add grocery nets.
Audiophiles can upgrade the standard audio system to Dolby surround-sound with Sirius satellite radio. Our test car did not have the optional DVD-based navigation system or the two screen, rear seat entertainment system.
The cargo floor flips up to reveal an under-floor storage area. Unlike most cars, the floor is spring loaded to stay open. The tailgate locks the cargo floor in place when closed. Tail lamps are integrated into the tailgate, so there is a wider opening when the door is open. Aluminum roof rails are standard.
Towing capacity for the XC70 is 3300 pounds, just shy of our 3500-pound ALV standard.
The 2008 XC70 rolls into dealerships this October. Base price, not including the $745 destination charge is $36,775. While the luxury price tag might put Volvo’s new crossover out of some buyers’ budgets, it’s a great alternative to comparably priced sport utility vehicles. Not only is it more maneuverable; it also gets better gas mileage. The new XC70 loves to run trails almost as much as I do.
Likes: A durable crossover vehicle with off-road capability, a large versatile cargo area, and exceptional safety. The XC70 should meet the needs of active buyers who want a luxurious ride around town, but need the versatility of all-wheel drive.
Dislikes: The $37,520 price tag will put the XC70 beyond the reach of some active lifestyle vehicle shoppers.
Base price: $36,775*
Price as tested: N/A
Horsepower: 235 Hp @ 6200 r.p.m.
Torque: 236 lbs.-ft. @ 3200 r.p.m.
0 to 60: 8.1 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: No
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 15/22 m.p.g. city/highway
Comments: *Base price does not include a $745 destination charge.
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