– Very very fast
– Nice cabin and space
– Good handling
– Pricey with options
– Steering feel
– Limited respect
The Volvo XC70 happens to be one of the biggest surprises this year for us. When we were offered a test-drive with this car, we weren’t particularly looking forward to driving it, especially with the rep that wagons have in this region. But for 2012, Volvo has made the T6 variant of this car the standard choice. Which means there’s a turbocharged mill under that bonnet that does much more than the specs suggest.
Styling-wise, it hasn’t changed for the last half-decade. It still looks like a slightly-lifted V70 wagon with black plastic cladding. We think of it as the ultimate definition of a crossover. It is an honest car that doesn’t pretend to do anything more than cross the odd weather-beaten path, and we like it for that. The only issue is that in the Middle East, nobody is going to believe what you paid for this car, because wagons are looked upon as fleet vehicles.
It costs a fair bit of money, enough that you can buy a proper-sized 4×4 for the same money. And it costs that much because the interior is nothing short of upscale luxury. Redesigned for 2012, the cabin boasts firm “soft-touch” surfaces everywhere, leather upholstery in all the right places, and even real aluminium trim all across the dash as well as the “floating” centre-console.
Space inside is excellent both front and back, as can be expected from a long boxy wagon. The front seats are only moderately-bolstered, while the rear is a split-folding bench. But that rear bench actually can be configured into two built-in child seats! The boot is expectedly huge on floor-space, although visibly shorter in height compared to a regular SUV. And there are enough cup-holders, cubbies and door pockets for four, with fair space for a fifth passenger as well.
There’s a fair number of tech available for the T6. In our test car, there was a new LCD computer screen bulging out of the dashboard that integrated various stereo, a/c and car settings. The screen is controlled by a rotary knob on the centre-console and can be very fiddly to use, but thankfully there are redundant buttons for the great stereo and the strong a/c for quicker control. Volvo continues to put a telephone-like numerical pad on the centre console as well, though it doesn’t really add to the clutter.
Other gadgetry includes Bluetooth, USB port, little screens within the gauges, more that enough airbags, blind-spot monitor, cruise control, HID headlights, powered front seats, LED tail lamps that blink on hard braking, and even that “City Safety” gimmick that auto-brakes when an iPod-totting idiot steps in front of you at speeds under 40 kph. Even the shifter is an awesome glow-in-the-dark affair. But some of the features are intentionally half-baked, such as the basic keyless-entry system that requires the key to be inserted in the dash to start the car using the starter button, or the power-operated tailgate that opens with the remote, but can only be closed with the button on the tailgate.
The XC70 T6 AWD comes with a direction-injection turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-6 straight out of the S60, mated to a smooth 6-speed automatic. We’ve come to love these boosted six-shooters after seeing what they can do in Fords and BMWs, and the Volvo one is no different. Supposedly rated for 300 hp at 5600 rpm and 440 Nm of torque at only 2100 rpm, we think the GCC-spec motor is possibly tuned for much more. Because when we timed it in our October 0-100 kph runs, we got a best time of 5.9 seconds! Even the slowest timed run was 6.2 seconds, so it is still quicker than a Chevy Camaro SS even. We even drag-raced this 1948-kilo box against an older supposedly-faster Volvo C30 T5 and won. We can’t fathom any other reason how it can be so darn fast, unless Volvo is intentionally downplaying the numbers.
On the other hand, we got poor fuel economy numbers, as per the trip computer. We averaged 16.8 litres/100 km, pretty much a result of us bombing around all over the city. The car certainly takes its toll on your wallet if you don’t ease up, but if you do, you’ll get excellent figures such as 7.8 litres/100 km on the highway.
The XC70 delivers a fairly smooth ride, quiet up to 100 kph, but with some wind noise noticeable beyond that thanks to its boxy styling. In the city, it can be slightly tougher to park in the tighter parallel spaces since the front corners aren’t as visible as it would be in a taller SUV, although the rear parking sensors help. There is no rear camera.
It does handle fairly well too. The handling is largely flat, and some body roll is obvious only on the sharpest turns. There is tons of grip from the 235/50 tyres on 18-inch alloys, aided by the full-time all-wheel-drive system. As good as the AWD system is, we still noticed a tug on the steering wheel on taking off hard from a standstill, a sign of minor front-wheel-drive torque-steer.
And yet, when we turned off the stability control and threw it on gravel, the XC70 was pulling off mild powerslides, so enough power does go to the rear wheels when pushed. On the road, when thrown into S-curves at speed, the car lightly rotates its rear around for a quick recovery, without going off into wild drifts or extreme understeer. Even with ESP on, the nannies don’t cut the power suddenly, but do so in a level-headed manner. Still, while the steering is nicely weighted and the brakes are perfectly linear, the XC70 isn’t as sporty as it could be, with zero feedback from the controls and an electric parking brake that limits gravel fun.
It’s certainly fun to play on gravel without having to worry about paint chips, thanks to the extra ground clearance and unpainted bumpers. But despite what certain marketeers and media monkeys might claim, the XC70 is not a true offroader in the vain of a Toyota Prado. It is more at the level of a Toyota RAV4, good for traipsing through gravel trails, mud tracks, rocky inclines and minor dunes. You can make it do the desert-safari stuff, but with plastic skid-plates, long bumpers and limited suspension travel, you’ll soon become a mechanic’s best friend.
The XC70 “Cross Country” is still a great example of crossovers used to be before it became all about appearance rather than functionality. With this new T6 variant, it harks back to the days when Volvo’s turbo-wagons were taking sports cars by surprise. With its new upscale interior, amazing performance and all-weather capability, it is the ideal car for any family. The only reason these cars will be rarer than Ferraris here is that few would be willing to pay the asking price for a station-wagon, no matter how capable it is.
Current Model Introduced in:
Test Acceleration 0-100 kph:
Observed Test Fuel Economy: