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 V70 is one of a raft of 2012 model-year Volvos that will be in the showrooms very shortly. Inside, the V70 and S80 are now available with an upgraded infotainment system called Senus. The screen now sits on top of the dashboard and offers useful features such as the ability to stream music from your phone via bluetooth. Volvo has also produced it’s own app (Android and iPhone) that allows you to ‘contact’ the car and remotely lock or unlock the doors, for example. City Safety, low-speed auto braking is also now standard.
The new D5 and D3 diesel engines have also been upgraded with a number of tweaks including a new camshaft and conrods, low-friction piston rings, a chain-driven oil pump and a stop-start system on the manual versions. Volvo also claims that the drivability of the D3 has been ‘far improved’ thanks to a fine-tuning of the turbocharger.
What’s it like?
The V70 is the company’s second best-selling model globally (after the XC60) but since it was launched at the beginning of 2007 it has failed to grab the imagination. It delivers Volvo’s traditional big-estate benefits (safety, space, a super-long loadbay and a comfortable and clear driver environment) but, otherwise, it has lacked both character and driver appeal.
This particular V70 provides three big surprises. Firstly, it looks good, especially inside thanks to the extensive polished aluminium trim and shaped leather seats. The newly-fettled D3 motor is also smooth and subtly tuneful, delivering an impressive seam of torque despite the very long gearing. On the motorway, at a steady trot, the engine spins at just 1600rpm, but even from such low revs, the D3 motor pulls away strongly without lag or hesitation. It also has brisk overtaking on tap.
Helping get the best from this impressive engine is the equally impressive shift and clutch action (which I hope makes the translation to right hand drive), both of which are beautifully weighted and very clean-acting. These, combined with the cultured engine, make a compelling proposition.
But the really unexpected step forward comes with the R-Design’s driving dynamics. Volvo calls this a ‘sports chassis’. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s actually just what all mainstream Volvos should be: nicely damped, smooth riding (even on 245/40 tyres and 18in wheels) and just about briskly responsive enough to be satisfying. A quick call directly to the engineers at Volvo HQ revealed that the steering is unchanged, but it gets new springs and dampers, a modified self-levelling system and is 20mm lower at the front and 15mm lower at the rear.
OK, the V70 has not been transformed into a B-road rocket, but I’d bet this chassis is another product of Volvo’s development programme on UK roads.
Should I buy one?
The entry-level four-pot diesel V70 is pedestrian, very dull to drive and dull to look at. It costs £25,995 on the road. This car is swift, stylish, rides and handles briskly. It also gets a very smart leather interior, better fittings and a ‘premium’ sound system which did a conspicuously impressive job of decoding the compressed music on my iPhone. This V70 R-Design costs £30,300 on the road. If you fancy a V70, it’s a no-brainer. If you’ve never considered a V70, this model is genuinely worth a test drive.