What is it?
The latest version of Volvo’s jacked-up estate car, the XC70, which gets body cladding and four-wheel drive.
The Volvo XC70 remains rare enough in the UK to be an eye-catching curiosity. On average, Volvo sells more than four V70s in the UK for every XC70 it shifts. In an odd quirk of statistics, however, that ratio is almost exactly reversed in the US, where the XC70 is five times more popular.
That’s why, alongside the XC90 and the new XC60, this slow-selling soft-roader continues to have a place in Volvo’s product range. It’s also the reason why we’re getting a new XC70 – to fit in with the replacement of the V70 estate later this year.
What’s it like?
As you’d expect, a great many of the updates and improvements that apply to the new V70 are carried over to its rugged companion. It gets a stiffer chassis, a slightly roomier cabin, a bigger boot and a slightly less incongruous SUV-inspired bodykit. This includes plastic bumper and flank cladding, plastic wheel arch extensions, chromed scuff plates and embossed roof rails.
Any off-road ability is provided by a Haldex four-wheel drive system, a raised ride height (74mm higher than the V70) and a new hill descent control system that slows the car on extra-steep slopes.
Power comes from a choice of 235bhp 3.2-litre straight six petrol or 183bhp 2.4-litre five-pot turbodiesel engines. We tested the diesel.
The XC70 may well be an improved car off the road. Volvo crows about greater approach, breakover and departure angles, but it’s still no cleverer a companion on the tarmac. This is a big problem when you consider the huge step forward that Audi recently made with its A6 Allroad.
Unlike the Audi, the Volvo cannot change its ride height with sophisticated air suspension. It falls back on Volvo’s Four-C adaptive dampers to make up the difference on the road. Unfortunately, they are hardly more effective at reigning in the body movements of this two-tonne estate car than they would be at shooting rockets of fire from underneath each wheel to allow it to fly over the bumps and twists in the road.
The XC70 rolls and bucks wildly in the face of only mild provocation. Body control is scant through corners and over swells. Performance is reasonable enough in a straight line – compared with a V70 – but the XC70’s handling is much too compromised almost everywhere else. And improved as its off-road ability may be, we’d be amazed if it was good enough to redeem the car.
Volvo says the chassis tuning is intended to suit the American market, and I’m sure the Americans will love this new, bigger, better-looking shooting brake. This side of the Atlantic, however, we should continue to marvel when one turns up in the supermarket car park, as much for the driver’s skill in getting it there safely as the car’s rarity.
Should I buy one?
Not really. Better off-road agility can’t compensate for soggy handling on the road. The Audi Allroad is a much better proposition. Or the regular V70, which is rather good.