The Volvo XC70 isn’t a car you see on every street corner, far from it. Maybe that’s because as a rufty-tufty, jacked-up premium Estate there’s not a huge demographic, or maybe it’s because car buyers don’t see it on their radar, preferring to go for the only other car that offers a similar raft of abilities – Audi’s Allroad.
But if that is the case then buyers are missing a trick; the Volvo XC70 with the D5 diesel engine and kitted out – as this review car is in SE LUX trim – does have a lot to offer.
True, the design isn’t modern cool Volvo – like the V60 – but a butched-up version of Volvo’s now quite long in the tooth V70 Estate with off-road pretensions and 4WD. But actually, as we discovered, the XC70 makes more than a decent fist of tackling muddy ruts and slippery slopes and is, in a relaxed and reassuring way, a better than half decent drive.
Volvo XC70 – inside and out
As you’d expect from a Volvo that’s been round the block for a few years, the XC70 isn’t terribly dynamic looking. In fact it’s rather staid and boxy and the extra bits Volvo bolts on to make the XC90 fit for rougher stuff doesn’t do much to make it look better.
But oddly the XC70 does have a strange sort of appeal. It looks capable of tackling just about anything you can throw at it without batting an eyelid, and there’s a reassuring comfort in its almost old-fashioned disdain for slick looks in a workhorse estate.
True, the plastic cladding to protect the bodywork does look a bit industrial, but the skid plates front and back look quite cool and the twin chromed exhaust pipes and ‘XC’ engravings on the roof rail look good too. The multitude of jarring lines on the back end can look incongruous but the XC70 does – from a lot of angles – look purposeful, if not exactly cutting-edge.
But inside the XC70 you get the same sort of classy Swedish interior Volvo does so well. The seats – piped and leather covered – are amazingly comfortable, the slick floating centre stack is appealing to the eye and ergonomically fine once you’re used to it, and everything look just right.
It doesn’t just look good inside, the XC70 feels good too. There are plenty of nice feeling plastics to compliment the herd of cows covering the seats, and the buttons have a nice tactility. There are plenty of toys, a nice sound system (upgraded on our car for an extra £205), SatNav and all you could really want. True, we’ve got an extra £1690 worth of ventilated Inscription leather and heated front seats (£275), but even without the extra stuff the interior of the XC70 is a joy.
Volvo XC70 – Performance on the road
Actually, that should read performance on and off the road, because the XC90 isn’t just a rufty-tufty looking Estate with off-road pretensions, it’s very competent. The 4WD setup in the XC70, with its electronic diff, increased ground clearance, modified traction control and permanent 4WD puts many SUVs to shame, and if you care about such things it does it without shrieking ‘Planet killing SUV’ to every passing eco-mentalist.
We managed some very slippery grassy slopes with alacrity and mud ruts – admittedly not Land Rover Defender deep mud ruts – were dispatched with disdain and a set of completely unruffled feathers. So although you may not actually buy an XC70 for green-laning it makes a better than decent fist of coping with just about anything you want to throw it at.
And if you bought the XC70 for its comfortable on-road demeanour you won’t be disappointed either. Performance is more than adequate from the 2.4 litre 5-cylinder diesel that offers more than 200bhp and a useful 310lb/ft of torque which will – as long as the road is nice and straight – get you to 62mph in 8.4 seconds and on to 124mph.
What the XC70 won’t do is propel you round a bend sitting flat and squat; it’s just not what it’s made for. It is better than most SUVs, but the steering is a bit off-road woolly and the suspension is set to move – quite a lot. So although you can hustle it’s a bit more like piloting a well-sorted boat than a sporty estate.
But that pillowy ride and quiet, delightful cabin do make for very relaxed motorway cruising where, despite better than average off-road credentials, the XC70 manages to demolish rather serenely and returning 41mpg in the process on a 100 mile trip up a quick dual carriageway (we actually averaged 36.2mpg during a week of playing).
Volvo XC70 – Verdict
There’s an awful lot to like about the Volvo XC70, and not a lot not to. In the ‘Not to like’ category probably comes the way it looks and the way it handles. But in some ways that’s almost the appeal of the XC70.
The rather old-fashioned looks with the rufty-tufty appendages to signal its intent make the XC70 seem reassuringly solid. Do you want a slick coupe estate design when you’re buying a car that can lug stuff and people anywhere in any weather? No, you want reassurance and dependability, something the XC70 has in spades.
As for the handling, well it’s better than a proper SUV even if it’s not boy-racer sharp. We wouldn’t bother with the Active 4C Chassis fitted to our car for an extra £1150 which monitors and tweaks the dampers as needed, because the XC70 just isn’t the sort of car you want to throw around in a way that warrants that sort of high-tech control.
So apart from the twisty stuff handling on-road and the looks – and perhaps a slightly noisy diesel when cold – the XC70 is an awful lot better than you’d expect. It has a cabin that’s as nice a place to be as almost anything else, it can do most of what a full size SUV can but without shouting about it, it can average the best part of 40mpg and – just like the best British cars – it has soul.
But unless someone else is paying then buy one secondhand. With extras our car cost a not insignificant £45,515 (list price is £37,665), but you can pick up a two year old XC90 D5 for around half that.
Volvo XC70 D5 Quick Tech Specs
- Engine: 2400cc, 205bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 8.4 seconds / Top Speed 124mph
- Economy: 39.2mpg - Official / 36.2 mpg - Test
- Emissions: 189g/km
- Price: £37,665 / £45,515 as tested
- Full Volvo XC70 D5 Specifications
- Test car supplied by Volvo UK
(49 photos – click any thumbnail for full gallery)