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?
It’s the latest iteration of the staple Volvo – the big estate car. It carries the same name, silhouette and much the same style as the outgoing car, but engines-apart it is all-new.
This V70 is also bigger, to the benefit of its crash performance, passenger space and luggage room, if not the ease of berthing it, though an optional parking camera, and a squared off rear, help here.
Key aims with this remake have been to build in a more luxurious aura through classier detail design, improving front seat comfort and providing more convenience through items such as a powered tailgate, a sliding load floor, a neat pair of built-in two-stage child booster seats and intelligent rear light clusters. These last automatically switch the location of the brake lights from the section of cluster that lifts with tailgate, to the area mounted within the rear wings, so that there are brake lights visible even if the rear door has been left open to accommodate a long load.
New safety systems include a radar controlled collision mitigation system to avoid you impacting with objects up front, second generation WHIPS (whiplash protections system) and a stronger side structure.
Engine-wise the car is much as before, although you can now order six cylinder petrol motors as well as the familiar five and four cylinders petrols and diesels. We’ve already tried the new T6; this is the popular 183bhp D5, which has been carried over largely unchanged from the outgoing V70, although it has recently been upgraded.
What’s it like?
If you’re familiar with the previous V70, this new V70 will seem, well, familiar. In detail exterior design terms it’s actually different in a whole heap of ways, but its essential outline remains much the same. That’s because Volvo was keen to preserve the very practical shape of the loadbay, whose real-world volume it claims to be significantly more usable than those of either the BMW 5 Series Touring or the Audi A6 Avant.
The new V70’s cabin looks far newer, its architecture entirely new and featuring the same floating centre console theme trialled on the S40/V50 and reprised on the S80. Though it doesn’t quite convey the aura of precision sophistication that Audi’s A6 presents, this is nevertheless a convenient and attractive design that can be configured with a wide array of wood, aluminium, leather and high gloss finishes to achieve quite different ambiences.
Just as impressive are some particularly comfortable front seats that make this V70 a soothing place to be. A more relaxed driving style best suits this car in D5 diesel automatic form, even if this engine can punch pretty hard when you have it in the right gear. That takes commitment, either with your right foot or by shifting manually; the auto’s slightly slow-witted kickdown and the engine’s relatively gentle power delivery makes this a car for going with the flow rather than seeking sport.
Still, the V70 handles quite tidily for a big ‘un, even if punting it fast requires concentration. But that is far from the point of this car, which scores with impressive high speed refinement, a decent (if occasionally choppy) ride, good rear room and a supportive back bench and, of course, a massive boot that is easily extended by dropping the 40:20:40 split rear backrest.
A surprise is that the cushion doesn’t fold to form a protective bulkhead (optional netting prevents loads straying) though that does mean you can get more in. The load deck is actually quite high, too, rendering the boot relatively shallow. Nevertheless, there are 60 more litres worth of load bay than before.
Should I buy one?
If you have a family, lug lots of stuff and want a safe, high quality wagon that’s a pleasure to live with, then yes. Its practicality and convenience will soon seem indispensable, while its safety systems and aura of robust good quality will repeatedly remind you that you have bought a durable beast of burden.
Yet this is no frill-free mule, being tastefully trimmed, equipped with exceptional seats, high standards of equipment and the scope to turn it positively luxurious. If you want a sports estate look elsewhere, and the same applies if you can’t live with the (light) grumblings of a stout(ish) diesel. But for lightly luxuriant load-carrying this renewed V70 remains a sound choice.