Shag carpet, bell bottoms and retro colors are all making a comeback. Are station wagons next?
When I think of station wagons, I recall the funny stories of my mom and her siblings in their mother's station wagon they nicknamed "the batmobile." Complete with wood paneling and a mustard-yellow paint job, I shunned the notion that I would ever drive one - until I met the XC70.
There are five aspects of a car I've decided are a necessity for me as a mom: high safety standards; leather seating for easy cleaning; accessible Latch connectors; ample cargo space; and a place to put my purse. Volvo has four out of five (but that's not really a strike against them since I have yet to find a place to keep my purse).
The XC70 is a station wagon with style and brains. It mimics SUV-like qualities with high seating and ample cargo space; I can easily fit a stroller and 16 bags of groceries in the back.
The smart design of this station wagon is in the things that can't be seen like standard all-wheel drive, rear park assist and the BLIS feature (both optional). When backing up, the rear park assist automatically turns on and a beeping sound alerts me when something is detected. According to www.kidsandcars.org, the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All Injury Program (NEISS-AIP) reported that between 2001 and 2003, an estimated 7,475 children from 1 to 14 years old were treated for nonfatal motor vehicle back over injuries in the US. This makes the rear park assist feature worth its price of $400.
In late 2005, Volvo will offer its Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) as an option for an estimated $700, a great feature for those of us who loathe perpetual blind spot huggers. According to Volvo's media Web site, a digital camera is installed on each door mirror and alerts the driver when an object is within the BLIS zone. The system will not function in poor visibility conditions like fog or flying snow. While I haven't tested this feature, it is proof of Volvo's commitment to a safe driving experience.
Impressive safety features aside, there are other likable qualities that make me forget I'm driving a station wagon. The XC70 has passenger room for five but with the optional rear facing jump seat in the cargo area (for $995) two more people can join in, though this isn't recommended for regular driving. There's an optional booster seat hidden in the back row (for $300) which will save the hassle of installing and removing a detached booster seat.
Alas, I really enjoy being able to quickly pass the gravel truck on the highway and the 6-CD audio system. Usually my down time is spent in the car, so I like to crank up my favorite CDs and sing, sing, sing. Though I am far from being the next American Idol I'm getting my dose of entertainment via driving down the sunlit highway with the wind in my hair (thanks to the optional moon roof). I can listen to a random mix of my favorite CDs and I don't have to worry about taking my hands off the wheel or my eyes off the road to change them.
The nicely designed center console offers simple-to-use gadgets for the audio system and air control. The A/C has auto control to maintain a constant temperature, as well as a passenger setting which is great for my husband and I who are polar opposites when it comes to being hot and cold. According to Volvo, climate control can play a major role in safe driving*.
With its combination of brains and style the XC70 just might bring station wagons back into style.
*A Volvo Car Corporation research project examined two groups of test drivers over the same route, with two different temperatures inside the cars; one group at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the other at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The group of drivers operating in the higher temperature showed an increase in mistakes over the group of drivers in the lower temperature. Researchers explain that there was a 50 percent increase in the number of signals missed and a 22 percent slower response time in the group driving at the higher temperature. Volvo argues that air-conditioning in cars in the summer may substantially increase driver vigilance just as heating the car in the winter can have the adverse affect.
*For more information about the Volvo XC70 and its safety features, visit Cars.com.