The new 2001 Volvo V70 wagon uses the exterior styling, platform and suspension of the S80 sedan, but offers two turbocharged five cylinder engines instead of the six cylinder engines offered in the S80. With flexible seating arrangements, a myriad of safety features, and a roomy, comfortable cabin, the V70 wagons makes a perfect upscale family car.
Redesigned V70 Wagon is big on safety and versatility
I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering why the new Vovo V70 Wagon looks like the recently-introduced, top-of-the-line Volvo S80 sedan (at least from the front). Is the V70 Wagon really an ‘S80 Wagon’ with a V70 badge? Well, yes and no.
The V70 Wagon shares the S80’s platform, suspension, and frontal styling, but offers two different engines. While the S80 is available with two inline six cylinder engines (one turbocharged and one not), the V70 offers two smaller displacement inline 5 cylinder engines (one with a light-pressure turbocharger and one with a high-pressure turbocharger).
In addition, the V70 Wagon is available with front-wheel-drive or full-time four-wheel-drive. The latter model, called the V70 Cross Country, has a higher ground clearance and distinctive dark bumpers and bodyside cladding. The standard V70 Wagon is available now, but the Cross Country won’t be available until August.
The 2001 V70 Wagon is slightly shorter and wider than the model it replaces. Its new styling incorporates the S80’s rounder, softer contours, notably the larger headlamps, new grille, and the prominent wide ‘shoulders’ that extend the full width of the car. At the rear is a new variation of the V70 Wagon’s tall taillights which reach from the bumper to the roof. Their tall height makes them easier to see by drivers who are following two or three cars back, thus increasing safety. Overall, I think the V70 Wagon’s styling is more successful than that of the S80 sedan – I’m not a fan of the S80’s unusual half bell-shaped taillights.
Interior designed for families
Station wagons have always made great family vehicles, but the new V70 takes station wagon design to the next level. Versatile seating and cargo-carrying configurations and first-rate safety features make this a practical and safe family car – at least for those families who can afford its $45,000 price tag.
The V70’s split folding rear seatbacks fold flat, creating a cargo area that is 1850 mm (72.8 in.) long, 1130 mm (44.5 in.) wide between the wheel arches, and 810 mm (31.9 in.) high. With the right front passenger seatback folded down, the V70 Wagon will carry very long items up to 2820 mm (111.0 in.) long.
5-passenger seating is standard, but an optional, rear-facing third-row bench seat that seats two children brings the V70’s total passenger capacity to seven.
Unique V70 interior features include a folding rear table with a cupholder for children in the rear seat to draw on, and a small litter bin for wrappers, juice boxes, tissues and other items that might otherwise end up under the seat. Other unique interior features include a hook near the front passenger for securing a purse or a litter bag, and a special grocery bag holder under the cargo floor.
The V70 Wagon’s well-finished interior includes standard leather upholstery, and such luxury features as walnut trim and aluminum door handles. The grey-coloured dashboard offers big, easily-readable controls and dials, and everything is within easy reach.
A standard air particle filter in the ventilation system removes pollen and airborne contaminants from the interior air – and an optional active carbon filter and gas sensor system reduces smog gases such as oxides of nitrogen, and hydrocarbons which can often be smelled as diesel or gasoline fumes. The system automatically shuts off the air intake when it reaches unhealthy levels.
My test car included an optional navigation system which includes a James-Bond-type screen which rises out of the top of the dash with the push of a button. The advantage of this position is twofold: it’s easy to read, and it doesn’t take up valuable ‘real estate’ on the dashboard. Unfortunately, CD map software is not yet available, so I wasn’t able to test it.
“Safest wagon Volvo has ever built”
When the 2001 V70 Wagon was introduced, Volvo Cars of North America CEO, Hans-Olov Olssen, stated that, “The new V70 is the safest wagon Volvo Car Corporation has ever built, and likely the safest wagon anyone has ever built..”
That’s a pretty significant statement for a company known for its safety features. The V70’s comprehensive list of standard safety features includes dual-stage front airbags, side airbags and the SIPS (side impact protection system), inflatable head curtain airbag for front and rear passengers, whiplash protection system (seats designed to reduce whiplash), five three-point seatbelts and five adjustable head restraints, and seatbelt pre-tensioners.
The V70’s body structure is designed to absorb significant frontal, rear, side and roll-over impacts. And the V70 features active safety features such as ABS with electronic brake distribution to reduce the chance of wheel lockup, and Dynamic Stability & Traction Control anti-skid technology which automatically prevents loss of control on slippery surfaces.
In addition, the V70 Wagon offers the world’s first rearward-facing ISO-FIX child safety seat mounting. An optional child seat system includes a dual purpose seat for babies up to nine months old and a larger seat for children between nine months and three years. The rear bench seat also includes integrated booster seats for larger children.
The V70’s radiator has a unique coating that helps convert smog-causing ozone to oxygen. The Prem-Air system includes a catalytic coating on the radiator which, when it is up to operating temperature, converts up to 75 percent of the ground-level ozone in the air passing through the radiator into oxygen. The Prem-Air system was developed by Engelhard Corporation in the U.S., and will likely show up on other cars in the future.
Two turbocharged engines
V70’s are offered with two engines: a 197 horsepower light pressure turbocharged 2.4 litre 5 cylinder engine and a standard 5-speed automatic transmission; or a 242 horsepower high pressure turbocharged 2.3 litre 5 cylinder engine, available with a choice of 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic. With the automatic transmission, the former has a 0 to 100 km/h time of 8.3 seconds while the latter is 7.5 seconds – quick for a hefty, mid-sized wagon.
My test car had the optional five speed automatic transmission with optional manual operation. Move the floor shift lever to the left gate, and then tap forwards to change up, and push back to change down. Manual changes are fairly quick and painless, but personally, I got no satisfaction out of changing gears with this, or any other electronic manual transmission. It does not replace a conventional manual transmission, in my opinion. I preferred to leave the transmission in automatic mode where it does such a good job of shifting anyway.
Like the S80, the V70 wagon has a fully independent suspension (front struts/rear multi-links) for better handling characteristics, and offers standard four wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake distribution. The V70’s turning diameter is 10.9 metres (35.7 feet), a comfortable turning circle for a mid-sized car.
The V70 Wagon has a solid, ‘well-built’ feeling about it, something like a Mercedes-Benz E320 Wagon. The turbocharged 2.3 litre five cylinder engine is not as smooth as Mercedes’ V6, but it is a powerful, quiet powerplant that provides excellent acceleration for a mid-sized wagon. On acceleration, there’s a dull engine drone, but at speed it’s very quiet, turning over just 2000 rpm at a steady 100 km/h. The 5-speed automatic transmission is a superb unit that adds some unexpected sportiness to the driving experience. On smooth pavement, the V70 has a wonderful ride, but on bumpy pavement, I thought the suspension was a bit stiff – a little more shock absorption would make the ride nicer. The brakes are very powerful, but sensitive on initial application. With good outward visibility, and a multi-positional driving position, the V70 is easy to drive although the right rear head restraint partially obscures lane-changing vision. The centre rear head restraint is cleverly recessed when not in use so as not to obstruct rear-view mirror visibility.
Considering all the standard luxury, safety, and performance features, the Volvo V70 wagon is a relatively good buy in the upscale wagon market. Mid-sized import competitors like the Audi A6 Avant wagon, BMW 528iT wagon, and Mercedes-Benz E320 wagon range in price from $53,000 to $67,000 – quite a bit more than the V70’s base price of $45,000.