2002 Volvo V70
Photos: Volvo Cars of Canada. Click image to enlarge

by Greg Wilson

A good value in the luxury wagon segment

It may be an understatement to say that Volvo has a lot of experience with station wagons. After all, they’ve been making them for five decades! After the Second World War, Volvo began with the 1953 PV444 wagon, 1956 120 (Amazon), 1966 Volvo 240 wagon, 1972 1800ES, 1982 740 series, the 1993 850 wagon, 1995 960 wagon, the 1997 V70, the recently-redesigned 2001 V70 and Cross-Country models, and the soon-to-be-available XC90 sport-utility wagon.

The popularity of Volvo wagons can be attributed to their strong reputation for crash safety, their spacious interiors and cargo areas, and their unusually handsome exterior styling. But often overlooked is their value for money. The 2002 V70 lineup – V70 2.4, V70 2.4T, V70 AWD, V70 T5, and Cross Country models — range in price from $37,995 to just under $50,000 without options. That compares with mid-size offerings from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi which range in price from $55,900 for the Audi A6 Avant to almost $70,000 for the Mercedes-Benz E320 Wagon — without options.

It can be argued that the V70’s competitors have V6 engines rather than inline five cylinder powerplants, and that they are slightly bigger than the V70 models. However, it’s also true the V70’s match their competitor’s performance (particularly the turbocharged models) and offer better fuel consumption to boot. While Volvo’s mid-size wagons are sometimes compared with compact wagons, in truth, they are closer to the mid-sized category. In fact, when the V70 was redesigned in 2001, it adopted the S80’s larger platform.

Base V70 is a good value in its class

2002 Volvo V70
Click image to enlarge

This week, I drove the base V70 2.4, the least expensive of the V70 lineup. It’s not a sparsely-equipped vehicle, though. Quite the contrary, it has all the features you’d expect in a luxury car with the possible exception of a standard automatic transmission.

For its $37,995 base price, the V70 2.4 includes a 168 horsepower inline five cylinder engine and 5-speed manual transmission (a 5-speed automatic is optional), dual zone automatic climate control with pollen filter, AM/FM/CD/cassette with eight speakers and steering wheel controls, heated front seats that are height adjustable, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, cloth upholstery, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks and a ‘fold-flat’ front passenger seat, remote key fob with hatch release, power windows and mirrors, sunroof, headlights with wipers and washers, 15 inch tires and alloy wheels, and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.

2002 Volvo V70
Click image to enlarge

The list of standard safety features is extensive: dual stage front airbags, dual side airbags and SIPS side impact protection system, head curtain airbags, whiplash protection system, five three-point seatbelts and five head restraints, seatbelt anchors and tethers, childproof door locks, alarm and remote panic button, and automatic stability traction control.

Though not much has changed since last year, the 2002 V70 2.4 now includes a standard cargo area cover and CD player, and the availability of a new Family Package ($650) which includes dual integrated booster seats, folding table with cupholders, waste bin, and cargo net.

My test car was also equipped with a Premium Package that included leather seats and power driver’s seat ($2,500), 5-speed automatic transmission ($1500), premium stereo system ($1200), and 16 inch tires ($500). Total as-tested price, including $650 freight, was $44,345.

Driving impressions

2002 Volvo V70
Click image to enlarge

Despite a fairly low roofline, the V70 is easy to get in and out of. Its wide front and rear door openings provide easy access — and unlike an SUV, you don’t have to ‘climb up’ into the cabin.

Outward visibility is very good because of its large side and rear windows, and to help visibility in the wintertime, the rear window has a defogger, wiper and washer, and the rear side windows have defroster vents. There are three head restraints at the rear, but the centre one is lower than the others allowing the driver to see clearly through the rearview mirror (unless someone is sitting in the centre rear seat).

Fire up the V70’s 2.4 litre inline five cylinder engine, and you’ll find it’s not quite as smooth as BMW’s and Mercedes’ six cylinder engines. I could feel a slight vibration in the steering wheel and driver seat during idle. But under acceleration and at cruising speeds, it’s a very smooth engine. With 168 horsepower at 5,900 rpm and 170 ft. lbs of torque at 4,500 rpm, it doesn’t have the bottom-end torque of Volvo’s turbocharged engines, but it does have a nice, clean torque curve with adequate acceleration for city and highway driving needs. The V70 takes 8.8 seconds to go from 0 to 100 km/h (with the 5-speed automatic transmission), and stops from 100 km/h in just 41 metres (134 ft.)- shorter than an Audi A6 Avant and BMW 525iT, and better than a typical mid-sized SUV. I found the V70’s standard four wheel disc brakes, which include electronic brake distribution and ABS, needed just a gentle squeezing motion to stop the car very quickly — pedal feel was excellent.

2002 Volvo V70
Click image to enlarge

At freeway speeds, it’s a very comfortable wagon. The suspension soaks up the road undulations and concrete divisions with ease, and there’s little engine or wind noise. At 100 km/h, the engine does just 2000 rpm, and only 2500 at 120 km/h — very relaxing. The car feels very stable and easy to control.

Ride and handling are exceptionally good – with its wide track, independent suspension, and low centre of gravity, the V70 handles as well as a sedan — in fact, I have this theory that front-wheel-drive wagons handle better than front-wheel-drive sedans because there’s more weight at the rear to counterbalance the car’s nose-heavy weight distribution. My car had the optional Michelin MXV4 205/55R-16 tires which are wider than the standard 195/65R-15 inch tires and add extra grip — I’d recommend upgrading to the bigger tires for the $500 asking price.

The V70 comes standard with Stability Traction Control, an advanced traction control system that automatically prevents front wheel spin in slippery situations. However, Volvo’s even more advanced Dynamic Stability Control System which helps prevent spin-outs, is not available as an option on the base V70 2.4. DSTC is not a necessary option for most Canadians, but it would be nice if it was available.

2002 Volvo V70
Click image to enlarge

There’s no doubt the V70’s handling and ride are better than a mid-size SUV, and that’s worth considering when you remember that you (and your family) will have to put up with the vehicle’s ride characteristics every day for as long as you own the car.

Although the current V70 hasn’t been crash-tested by government and insurance industry organizations, its close cousin the S80 sedan earned a ‘Best Pick’ designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and received five stars for frontal and side impact crash tests from the National Highway Transportation Authority.

On the downside, I thought the V70’s power assisted steering felt a tad stiff at slow speeds (turbocharged V70’s have speed sensitive power steering) and its turning circle of 11.9 metres (39 feet) was wide for a mid-sized car. However, I did like the V70’s thick, grippy steering wheel with integrated thumb grips.

Interior is high class

2002 Volvo V70
Click image to enlarge

The interior of the V70 has a high quality appearance with excellent fit around the seams and joints. My test car had a beige dash with a durable textured finish, and a grey-coloured instrument control panel with Volvo’s trademark large dials, pictograph climate control and white markings.

My car had the optional leather seats which looked expensive and durable, and provided good support and comfort. The seats were adjustable for height, tilt, and rake, and combined with the standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel, it was easy to find a good driving position. I also noted that there were seat heaters to warm up the leather in the wintertime.

The large round gauges are clear and easy to read, and include a digital clock and outside temperature gauge. The centre instrument panel is easy to use, but some functions like radio band selection, are operated with a dial rather than a button — not hard, just different. My car had the optional in-dash 4-CD changer, digital tuner, Dolby ProLogic Surround Sound, 9 upgraded speakers, and four 50 watt amplifiers ($1200) — it sounded great, but other than the ability to put four CD’s in the player, I’m not sure that it’s worth the extra $1,200 over the standard AM/FM/CD/cassette system with eight speakers. An optional, improved navigation system with a larger screen is available too, but it’s priced at a rather steep $3750.

2002 Volvo V70

2002 Volvo V70
Click image to enlarge

For storage, there’s a storage container between the front seats which will take about eight CD’s, unique storage flaps on the front of the front seats, large door pockets, and a hole in the dash where a trip computer might otherwise be — there’s also a pen holder!

Kids and adults will like riding in the rear seat. The second row seats are slightly higher than the front seats, and have plenty of legroom and headroom. The V70 is wide enough for three passengers if necessary. Air vents in the side pillars direct a refreshing flow of air to the rear passengers. The back of the front seats are sculpted out, leaving room for a handy mesh pocket. There are also 12 volt powerpoint on the back of the console. The rear bench seat has a fold-down armrest that includes a covered storage compartment and two flip-out cupholders.

The split folding rear seatbacks fold flat on the floor to provide a long cargo area. To do this, the seat cushions pull up vertically, and the seatbacks fold down. An innovative feature are rear head restraints that flip over when the seatbacks fold down — in other words, you don’t have to pull them out when folding the rear seatbacks. As well, the front passenger seatback folds flat, allowing storage of long items, like ladders, that extend from the tailgate to the front dashboard.

The V70’s rear hatch door lifts up easily and reveals a wide cargo opening with a low floor and a fully carpeted cargo area. The rear hatch actually extends down into the rear bumper for a lower loading height. Under the cargo floor are two handy, hidden storage areas. The rear window includes a wiper, washer and defroster, but does not lift up separately from the hatch.

Competitor overview

The V70 2.4’s closest competitor is probably the rear-wheel-drive BMW 525iT ($57,600) which has a 180 horsepower 2.5 litre inline six cylinder engine. Other competitors are the Audi A6 Avant AWD ($55,900) which offers a 220 horsepower 3.0 litre V6, and the Mercedes-Benz E320 ($69,200) which has a 221 horsepower 3.2 litre V6 — the latter two are more comparable with the turbocharged V70 2.4T and T5 models.

The 525iT is a better-handling car than the V70, and has more power — it’s better suited to someone who wants a family wagon that handles like a sports sedan — and who is prepared to ante up an extra ten thousand dollars.


The Volvo V70 2.4 wagon is a great value for the well-to-do family that wants luxury, safety, cargo room and stylish looks at a comparatively reasonable price.

Technical Data: Volvo V70 2.4

Base price $37,995
Freight $650
Options $5,700
Price as tested $44,345
Type 4-door, 5 passenger mid-size wagon
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 2.4 litre inline 5 cylinder, DOHC, 20 valves, CVVT
Horsepower 168 @ 5,900 rpm
Torque 170 ft. lbs @ 4,500 rpm
Fuel type Premium unleaded
Transmission 5 speed automatic w/Winter Mode (5 speed Manual std.)
Tires 195/65R-15 Michelin MXV4+ all-season
Curb weight 1,528 kg (3369 lb.)
Wheelbase 2,755 mm (108.5 in.)
Length 4,711 mm (185.5 in.)
Width 1,804 mm (71.0 in.)
Height 1,490 mm (58.7 in.)
Towing capacity 1,500 kg (3307 lb.)
Cargo capacity (Seats Up) 1062 litres (37.5 cu. ft.)
  (Seats Down) 2025 litres (71.5 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 11 L/100 KM (25.7 mpg)
  Highway: 7.8 L/100 KM (36.2 mpg)
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km

Connect with Autos.ca