Sport-utility vehicles are so popular it seems nearly every manufacturer makes one. Even though most sport-utes, or SUVs, come from truck chassis, we are beginning to see the proliferation of car-based utility vehicles that fulfill many of the same functions but drive like a car and get better fuel economy. Volvo's XC, or Cross Country, typifies that concept.Urban utes make a lot of sense because most SUVs rarely turn a wheel off pavement; consequently, many of their capabilities are wasted in daily use. Subaru actually started this concept with the Outback, then refined it with the Forester. Toyota, Honda and even Lexus now have similar models, although the RAV4 and CR-V are smaller. Look for more from various manufacturers. For 1998, the 850 wagon was restyled and given a new name: V denotes versatility and 70 is the front-wheel-drive platform. Three V70 AWD (all-wheel-drive) wagons were created to provide greater safety and traction than the standard front-wheel-drive model. The XC differs from the other two because it sits about 2 inches higher. The 6.5-inch ground clearance lets it step lightly over moderately rugged terrain. It has the benefits of four-wheel-drive in bad weather, yet it doesn't inflict a trucklike ride or poor fuel economy on its owner. Fog lights, an egg-crate grille and body cladding distinguish it from the other Volvo wagons but gives it a tough look. Power comes from a light-pressure, turbocharged, 2.4-liter, five-cylinder engine. Horsepower is 190. Under moderate throttle, the five cylinder feels smooth, but let it have its head and its raspy exhaust note turns coarser as revs build. It accelerates to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds. The EPA fuel economy ratings are 18 mpg in the city ad 24 on the highway. The automatic transmission has Sport, Economy and Winter shift modes so the driver can tailor its shift habits according to conditions. Volvo's all-wheel-drive system consists of a differential next to the transmission, and it sends power to the rear wheels where a viscous clutch determines how the drive is allocated. In normal driving, 95 percent of the power goes to the front wheels. When the viscous clutch detects wheelspin it then transfers power to whichever wheels have the most traction. Up to 95 percent of the drive can be shifted to the back wheels. And it all happens transparently. Anti-lock disc brakes are standard. The XC is capable of limited off-pavement use but nothing more challenging than a rutted dirt track because it has no transfer case or extra-low gear. It would be most useful for skiing trips, country living and outdoor recreation such as camping. Despite the restyle that rounded the front end, the overall shape is still fairly square. That makes it easy to get a lot of gear in back. The split-folding rear seat back flops forward at the squeeze of a single button, creating a wide, flat load floor that can easily swallow two bicycles. Around back, the wide liftgate pivots up out of the way for easy access to the cargo floor. The ease with which the seat folds down makes it easier to use than some of the more popular SUVs. Once you slide behind the wheel you can see how much this car has changed. The dash is taken directly from the C70 coupe, and it is a significant improvement, both in terms of ergonomics and aesthetics. Switches are now placed more logically, knobs have rubber nibs that can be gripped with gloves and the interior textures and finishes are elegant and understated. The front seats are as comfortable as lounge chairs. Safety items include side airbags built into the front seats and a three-piece steering column that breaks away from the driver. If you want a luxury vehicle that has the safety and security of all-wheel-drive yet doesn't have the size and heft of an SUV, then Volvo's XC is a worthy compromise. Price
The base price of our test car was $35,595. Standard equipment included power windows, heated front seats, heated outside mirrors, power driver's seat with three-position memory, AM/FM stereo with compact disc player, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cruise control and dual-zone automatic climate control. The only option was the Grand Touring sunroof package ($1,790) that brought the sticker price to $37,960. Warranty The standard warranty is for four years or 50,000 miles. Vehicles for The Star's week-long test drives are supplied by the auto manufacturers. Point: The V70 XC is a luxury alternative for folks who want the safety and security of all-wheel-drive, the hauling capacity of a station wagon and the maneuverability of a car. Counterpoint: The five-cylinder engine is a bit coarse at high rpm, and dry-road handling is somewhat reduced by the XC's taller-than-normal stance. SPECIFICATIONS: ENGINE: 2.4-liter, 5-cyl. TRANSMISSION: automatic WHEELBASE: 104.3 inches CURB WEIGHT: 3,768 lbs. BASE PRICE: $35,595 PRICE AS DRIVEN: $37,960 MPG RATING: 18 city, 24 hwy.
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||April 3, 1998|
|Bob Golfen||AZCentral.com||March 28, 1998|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||February 20, 1998|
|Tony Swan||Detroit Newspapers||January 29, 1998|
|George Moore||IndyStar.com||January 4, 1998|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||November 14, 1997|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||November 14, 1997|
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