The Volvo V70 is spacious, but suffers from vague steering and old engines
First DriveBig Volvo estate gets a mild refresh and remains as dependable as ever, although we're not sure this specification is the best in the range
First DriveThis particular V70 is swift, stylish, rides and handles briskly. New D3 engine has been ‘far improved’ thanks to a fine-tuning of the turbocharger.
What is it?
This is Volvo’s venerable V70 estate, equipped with the firm’s new twin-turbocharged D5 diesel engine. The 2.4-litre unit gets turbochargers of differing size, in a bid to boost low-end response without sacrificing the mid-range urge that comes in handy when towing or carrying a load big enough to fill the V70’s cavernous loadspace.
It also features ceramic glow plugs, which warm up to 1000deg C in a couple of seconds, improving start-ups and efficiency at low revs.
The new unit produces 20bhp more than the old D5, at 202bhp, and 310lb ft of torque. But it’s cleaner too; CO2 emissions on the V70 drop from 178g/km to 169g/km, and claimed fuel economy on the manual model tested here is a respectable 44.1mpg.
The V70 has been given a (very) mild refresh, too; there are tiny revisions to the front grille, and the interior features a little more chrome trim. Our test vehicle was an R Design edition, which brings 18in alloy wheels, silk metal finish on the grille and fog lights, different seats and a sports steering wheel.
What’s it like?
Upon start-up? Well, pretty much like the old unit, really. There’s that characteristic five-pot rumble as the D5 turns over, then it settles down to a smooth (if audible) burble.
On the move, though, things have improved. Those new-spec turbochargers do give the D5 a bit more urgency at lower revs; I’d even go as far as to call the V70 spritely if you give it a prod at around 1500rpm. And that willing nature continues through to around 4000rpm; you can push the engine further round the dial, but it runs out of puff pretty quickly. Still, the claimed 0-60mph time of 7.7sec feels doable (just).
On the motorway the D5 is a refined beast – but then, that was always one of the old unit’s strong points as well. And under hard acceleration it still has a metallic rasp that would grate if you were trying to make decent progress along a B-road.
The V70’s chassis set-up is unaltered, incidentally, so the handling and steering are still uninspiring. The ride can feel choppy on poor surfaces, too.
The manual gearbox of our car was positive enough, if a little notchy. But we’re curious to try the new engine with Volvo’s automatic transmission; the old motor and the ’box arae curiously badly matched in our XC60 long-termer.
Should I buy one?
Tricky one. On the face of it, the V70 remains a left-field choice supported mainly by its considerable load space. But that practicality does have its attractions, particularly when obvious rivals such as the Audi A6 Avant are considerably more expensive. The new D5 and tiny spec changes aren’t enough of a revelation to turn the V70 into a mainstream benchmark – it’ll take a new platform for that – but it does strengthen its hand.