From £25,590
Volvo rolls on agreeably
5 October 2004

Earlier this year I was at the launch of the Maserati Quattroporte with European editor Peter Robinson. At the end of a long day in the hills with the new car, Robbo extended an index finger in the direction of the Maserati bosses and proceeded to hit the nail on the head.

‘Imagine,’ he said, ‘that you are a high-flying executive. It’s Friday. It’s the end of a long week and it’s dark and raining. You’ve got to get in your car and take a long drive in heavy traffic from London to your weekend place in the Cotswolds. Is this the car for the job?’

The answer was, of course ‘no’. The Quattroporte is too demanding of the driver. A glorious thing when the driver is alert and eager. But not so much fun stuck in nose-to-tail traffic on the M40.Robbo’s lashing of Maserati came to mind when the freshened Volvo V70 arrived. When I finally got behind the wheel, it was a dark, rainy Friday evening. But the Volvo couldn’t have been a more different proposition to the Italian supersaloon. Here is a car that can positively soothe away the effects of a long week at the office.

Volvo’s facelift of the V70 is not striking. There are new bumpers front and back and ‘new-look’ clear headlights and tail lights. The car’s smoother, more bulbous snout (called ‘soft nose’) has a new chrome grille that looks oddly inappropriate: as if Volvo was on the verge of a big stylistic change and then bottled out.

Inside, the centre console has been re-designed with a very slick sliding cover for the cubby hole-cum-cupholders. There have also been minor tweaks to the audio kit and, in this test car, fresh and very stylish aluminium trim. The ‘new generation’ front seats are as exceptionally comfortable as ever, but the pillowy cream hide in the test car looked more World of Leather than Habitat.

The new 260bhp T5 motor has had a significant workout. It’s been fitted with continuously variable valve timing (on both inlet and exhaust cams) and the capacity is up from 2.3 to 2.4 litres. The upshot is a punchy torque delivery, which now offers 258lb ft from just 2100rpm. With the six-speed manual ’box (clean-shifting, with a fine clutch action), the T5 can hit 60mph in just 6.8 seconds and offer a combined mpg of 29.7.

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Who can resist the soul of the ultra-smooth, warbling five-cylinder engine? It’s one of the best aspects of Volvo ownership: easily eager enough for swiftish motoring but with noticeably deep lungs and broad shoulders. And although this manual transmission is good, I’d recommend the self-shifter. It more closely matches the V70’s character.

There’s no point pretending that the V70 will ever be anything but a very luxurious multi-purpose wagon. So there’s no point – aesthetics aside – in ordering the Sports Pack. The bigger 18in wheels spoil what should be a loping ride and the (also optional) Four-C adaptive damping, while clever, is another unnecessary complication. This car is a sumptuously finished, effortless cruiser (and one capable of switching to capacious carry-all in two clicks of a seat back), not a tool for attacking bends.

There’s a more pressing reason not to entertain the Sports Pack, too. The ‘speed-dependent’ steering is, at town speeds, comically, ridiculously overlight and detached. Steering feel has always been a weakness of the V70, but this one was absurd. But it’s a very, very agreeable car, especially if you accept it as a glorious cruiser and not a pretend BMW 5-series.

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