Yes, it's from Goteborg, Sweden, but the Volvo XC70 is the automotive equivalent of a Swiss Army knife: Capable of handling most any task, excelling at none, perhaps, but more than competent at all of them.
The XC70 is basically the Volvo V70 wagon on steroids -- all-wheel-drive, increased ground clearance and some minor body modifications to give it more the appearance of an SUV than a station wagon. Redesigned for the 2008 model year, the 2009 model gets one major update -- the availability of a more powerful, more upscale model, the T6, which we tested.
The base model is still offered at a starting price of $37,250, powered by a 3.2-liter, 235-horsepower six-cylinder engine. The sportier T6 model starts at $39,500, and it has a smaller but more powerful engine, a British-built turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder with 281 horsepower.
The transmission is a six-speed automatic, built in Japan. I had no complaints about the XC70 with the less powerful engine, but the T6 model is a little more fun to drive. This is a fairly heavy vehicle at just more than two tons, and with either engine, towing capacity is 3,300 pounds, great for a station wagon, not that good for an SUV. Fuel mileage for the T6 is an EPA-rated 15 miles per gallon in the city, 22 mpg on the highway.
Inside, the XC70 is exceptionally comfortable up front, moderately comfortable in the rear seat, which will handle three adults. Built-in child booster seats are an option. Gauges are easy to read, controls thoughtfully placed and easy to use.
While the XC70 really is equipped to handle Jeep-caliber trails, it does do well in light off-roading. It has front and rear underbody skid plates, reasonably big 17-inch tires and wheels, and hill descent control that allows the vehicle to ease down steep inclines. All this ruggedness is better suited to bad weather than outright trail-busting.
On the road, the XC70 hits a near-ideal combination of nimble handling and a smooth ride. It's a superb long-distance machine, and it's more fun than you'd expect on winding backroads. It's very quiet inside, even on rough pavement.
As you would expect from a Volvo, the XC70 T6 is loaded with safety features, including stability control, anti-lock brakes with brakeforce distribution, a whiplash protection system, side and side-curtain airbags, plus the confidence-inspiring all-wheel-drive. The test car had an optional "Premium Package" ($2,995) that included leather upholstery, a power moonroof and woodgrain interior trim.
A second package was a $3,170 catch-all that added, among other features, the aforementioned child seats, an upgraded stereo, adaptive headlights that turn slightly as the steering wheel turns, and an upgraded sound system. With all the options and $795 in shipping, the test XC70 listed for $46,985, a little pricey, perhaps, but lacking nothing.
Like any good Swiss Army knife.
Steven Cole Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 407-420-5699, or through his blog at Enginehead.com.
2009 Volvo XC70
Base price: $37,250
Price as tested: $46,985
EPA rating: 15 miles per gallon city driving, 22 mpg highway
Details: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive wagon with a 3.0-liter, 281-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine with a six-speed automatic transmission.
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