Story and photos by Justin Pritchard

2013 Volvo XC70
2013 Volvo XC70. Click image to enlarge

I’d rather eat a large hornet’s nest than delve into the world of real estate ever again.

Simultaneously selling and buying a house is a maddening experience that consists of going back and forth, signing things, waiting, sleeping poorly, storming about, and contemplating one’s ability to sustain oneself in the woods, in a tent, indefinitely.

This frenzied process resulted in tremendous tension and malevolent thoughts towards any device that could send me emails, text messages or calls about showings and arrangements and more forms to sign.

This stress-fest all went down during a test week with the Volvo XC70. Having been informed that I needed to visit my real-estate agent (again) to sign something (again), or that I (again) had seven minutes to vacate my house for a slew of last-minute showings, the XC70 frequently watched me approach with gritted teeth and a clenched fist on the end of my arm.

2013 Volvo XC702013 Volvo XC70
2013 Volvo XC70. Click image to enlarge

Can’t a guy just have some peace and quiet while enjoying a coffee or four, and catching up on some writing? Not if you’re in a springtime bidding war.

After a week, the stress of my sale and purchase were like a spotlight shining on a single aspect of the XC70: its character. Volvo’s high-utility, jacked-up station wagon was developed for comfortable and confident family travels first and foremost – but for your wound-up writer, the calming demeanour really stood out the most.

This is a machine that is intensely soothing, laid-back, welcoming and comforting. It’s not any one single thing about the XC70 that does it. You can’t measure this stuff. But you feel at ease in here – even if your phone’s nearly vibrated the pocket right off of your jeans with calls related to conditions and amendments and that one place on that one form you forgot to initial.

It’s some combination of the comfy seats, the abundant space, the creamy-smooth ride, and the fact that controls are almost always where your hand will reach for them. The XC70 is a car that makes it easy for you to relax in, even if you’re not traversing a Swedish mountain pass in a blizzard with a bunch of snowboards on the roof.

First, the tester’s cabin was coloured in browns and beiges and cream shades, similar to those you’d find on a chocolate cheesecake. If there’s anything more relaxing than chocolate cheesecake that doesn’t contain alcohol, I don’t know what it is.

2013 Volvo XC702013 Volvo XC70
2013 Volvo XC70. Click image to enlarge

Then, there are automatic features. All of them. Just get in, press START, pick your gear and get going. Rain? Wipers self activate. Dark? Ditto the headlights. Tailgate? Closes with a button press. Climate control? Keeps onboard temperature where you’d like it, even if you roll down the windows and scream frighteningly while leaving the real estate office park.

And sure, automatic features aren’t unique to the XC70. You can get most of these features in a Kia Rio. But the real relaxation comes from how the interior designers set the stage for it. It’s no secret that Volvo carefully studies the interaction between man and machine, and that they build a distinctive ‘feel’ into their machinery. All the switches and buttons and dials feel solid, dense, and substantial. The control layouts are unique and distinctive, but mainly easy to use. The overall shape and design to the dashboard is even laid back – especially with the centre console swooping downwards and gently towards the driver. It’s a friendly and understated cabin that blends ergonomics, technology and various interfaces together in a way that’s not ‘in your face’.

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