2004 Volvo V70R
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Review and photos by Russell Purcell

When the local Volvo representative offered me a V70R for a test-drive, I found myself both excited and full of anticipation. Who would have guessed that a station wagon would have this effect on me — an enthusiast with absolutely no need to consider a family hauler like the Volvo wagon? To be fair, the V70R may share the look and utility of its lesser stable mates (V70 and XC70), but it’s quite capable of holding its own against many sport sedans and GT cars.

Volvo has dabbled in high-performance road cars in the past, most recently with the 850 T5-R wagons and sedans of the mid-nineties, but the company didn’t see the need to delve deeper into the so-called ‘factory-tuner’ high-performance arena until they saw the success of rivals like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. For 2004 Volvo has rolled out two offerings to represent its ‘R’ line-up, the sultry S60R sedan for automotive purists, and the subject of this review, the V70R (for purists with baggage – kids, dogs and cargo).


When the average consumer thinks about performance cars it is unlikely that Volvo comes to mind. The company is best known, on our shores, for offering a well-rounded line-up of ultra-safe passenger cars.

2004 Volvo V70R
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This is a situation that Volvo’s marketing and design teams are trying to change with the ‘R’ cars. The Swedish automaker knows a lot about performance: the company has backed factory and privateer racing efforts in touring car and endurance categories for decades. In fact, a decade ago they even chose to run their 850 wagons in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) with the help of legendary race car constructor Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR). The program was so competitive that the car was effectively outlawed by a revision to BTCC rules at the end of the season that required all cars to wear front and rear spoilers in an effort to increase down force – an aerodynamic advantage that the wagon body had already held over the competition. The new regulations had been written in such a way that it would have been impossible to mount a rear spoiler to the wagon, so 850 sedans were quickly constructed to take up where the ground-breaking wagons had left off.

The eye of the storm

Swedish Stormer, Volvo V70R
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Both the V70R and S60R share most of the same go-fast parts, the most substantial being the potent 2.5-litre, all-aluminum 5-cylinder engine. Volvo engineers have managed to massage 300-horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque out of the compact, transversely mounted power plant, making the S60R and V70R pairing the most powerful Volvo automobiles to ever grace the streets. This was achieved through the addition of a high-pressure, large-volume KKK turbocharger complete with twin intercoolers. Volvo has long embraced this technology as a means of maximizing the output of smaller displacement motors, and their years of expertise shine through in this application.

As you flick your way through the 6-speed, close-ratio transmission your ears are tickled by the subtle whine of the turbo spooling up with each short throw of the bootless gear lever.

2004 Volvo V70R

2004 Volvo V70R
Click image to enlarge

A 5-speed automatic with ‘Geartronic’ manual-shift capabilities as well as ‘Sport’ and ‘Winter’ modes is available as a $1,500 option for those buyers looking to make the act of driving a little simpler, but I should point out that it robs the car of a substantial torque, dropping the rating to 258 lb.-ft. @ 1,850 rpm verses 295 @ 1,950 rpm for the stick. My test vehicle was outfitted with the manual transmission, so driving impressions discussed in this review are for the more powerful car.

Pop the self-supporting hood on either model and you will quickly realize that these cars are loaded for bear. A heavy-duty cross brace bridges the gap between the strut towers, ensuring the cars’ rigidity will remain intact during enthusiastic driving. Coil-over shocks also peek out from the corners. The engine casing is encased in a deep blue shroud, while breathing tubes snake through the tidy compartment ensuring the turbocharger will get the requisite air with ease.

The two models also share a very trick suspension system which features comfort, sport and ‘advanced’ sport settings which the driver can further dial in through manipulation of the DSC switch. Of course Volvo engineers chose the ‘sport’ setting as the default mode. It is important to note that being a wagon, and no doubt likely to carry added weight in the back, the rear stabilizer bar in the V70R is 2 mm larger than that fitted to the S60R.

At the wheel

Volvo claims the V70R can reach 100 km/h from a standstill in just 5.9 seconds (7.7 seconds with automatic), and once I got comfortable with the firm feel of the clutch and the unique shift lever, I would say that that claim is supported.

2004 Volvo V70R

2004 Volvo V70R
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The turbo spools up quickly and the added boost comes on without much drama, which is a good thing when focused on executing the perfect launch or cutting perfect lines through tight corners and switchbacks.

I had the opportunity to play with this most capable of wagons while on a trip into the sunny Okanagan Valley in the British Columbia interior. Little-used Highway 8 features a stretch of ribbon-like asphalt that dips and winds for nearly 50 kilometres between Lytton and Merritt. If any road could reveal the inherent weaknesses of a car, this would be it. The combination of near 40-degree Celsius temperatures, substantial altitude, and a challenging layout of twists and climbs would hinder most cars, but the V70R seemed to revel during this smile-inducing adventure. Downshifting into the corners followed by short bursts of speed as I blasted down the short straight-aways proved that the car benefits from almost no turbo-lag, while the traction of all-wheel-drive and the instantaneous adaptability of the trick chassis delivered the power to the ground and kept my wheels planted and tracking true. I WANT this car.

The 6-speed manual transmission has a short-throw, and selection of each gear is easily executed using the comfortable to grasp shift lever. With a little exploration of the chassis adjustment (which allows the driver to set up the suspension damping ranging from luxurious comfort to a hard-edged, bone-jarring stiff set-up) this car would be a lot of fun on a racetrack.

The well-insulated cabin keeps both road and mechanical noises to a minimum unless you are driving the V70R near its upper limits, and then the subtle growl generated by the combination of the engine, turbocharger and exhaust is music to the ears.

Type ‘R’ styling

There are numerous ‘R’ badges found around the car. There is the requisite one affixed to the narrow, egg-crate grille as well as one low on the rear trunk.

R logo, Volvo V70R
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The 18-inch, 5-spoke alloy wheels feature it etched boldly into one of the spokes, while the theme continues with R branding on the titanium-coloured brake calipers. The marketing team chose to tackle the interior as well, imprinting the R logo on the steering wheel, a pair of brushed metal door sill plates, and on both the tachometer and speedometer.

The S70R is bereft of excessive body skirting, body flares and wings, giving it a Q-ship invisibility that also comes with the wagon body. A trick looking (and fully functional) spoiler hovers over the rear window hinting that this is not a garden variety V70 wagon. The larger wheel and tire package gives the car an aggressive look which is complimented by the addition of a subtle front air dam with a larger air intake (to improve engine cooling) are the aero tweaks up front, and all are executed with taste and impeccable fit-and-finish.

Classy interior

Swedish Stormer, Volvo V70R
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My test unit was trimmed in Atacamma ‘Cinnamon’ leather, an eye-popping (but attractive) near orange colour (that kind of reminded me of ‘Nacho-cheese’) that graced the seats and door panels, and was paired with colour-matched wool floor mats and carpeting. A couple of other options are available including Nordkap – which is a two-tone black and blue combination – which would be my choice as Volvo has selected blue as the colour to help demark the ‘R’ models from lesser offerings – the engine and camshaft are blue, as are various interior trim pieces. Stainless steel door pulls and dash trim are another interior highlight and it is important to note that they are real, not metal-look plastic like found in many rivals.

2004 Volvo V70R

2004 Volvo V70R

2004 Volvo V70R
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Volvo designers always manage to produce top quality switchgear that is perfectly placed and whose operation is intuitive to driver and passengers alike. In fact, the V70R’s HVAC controls (as well as those in all models) feature a cluster of soft-touch buttons grouped together to allow a pictogram of a seated individual to be printed on them. This makes each buttons function immediately visible to the end user.

The V60 R comes standard with an up-rated AM/FM stereo complete with a four-disc in-dash CD player and thirteen speakers. The sound is marvelous, as four 75- watt amps power the Dolby Pro-Logic system, and tweaking of the different sound levels is a simple affair. An optional sub-woofer is available as a bass-thumping option, but buyers electing to add the optional 3rd-row seat will have to forego this option, likely to protect the ears of the rearmost occupants. Steering-wheel mounted controls allow the driver to adjust the audio system’s major functions without taking his/her hands off the task at hand – driving the car.

Dual zone HVAC controls are featured prominently up front, but as in many cars and much to my chagrin, there is only one fan switch. Eight-way adjustable power seats with onboard heaters, one-touch operation windows, power adjustable mirrors, power retractable rear headrests, B-pillar adjustable rear seat vents and a glass moon-roof all ensure you and your passengers will be comfortable.

A very special set of blue-coloured, metal faces were designed for the gauges in both ‘R’ models which feature stylish brushed alloy rings along their edges. Their appearance is striking, and everyone that sees them feels compelled to let you know it. Volvo’s design team wanted the gauge faces to reflect the dials of a high-end sports watch. They have succeeded. Green LED windows scattered throughout the cluster give it a high tech look.

Room to stretch

Swedish Stormer, Volvo V70R
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Do to the rectangular shape and extended roofline of the wagon design I found the back seat area quite comfortable for my 6’2″ 260-lbs. frame. A long trip might be taxing, but for short hauls, I would be comfortable, as long as a third passenger was not added to the mix. I was more than comfortable when seated behind the wheel or in the front passenger seat, but you would be hard-pressed to pry my hands from the controls of this car once I hit the driver’s seat.

Various storage cubbies and bins populate the V70R’s interior cabin, including two cup-holders up front, and two in the rear centre armrest. The front passenger seat folds flat while the second row offers a 60/40 split configuration that when deployed, creates a very versatile, near flat cargo area. A retractable and removable cargo cover is standard, and acts to keep prying eyes from seeing into the rear cargo area when it is in use.

Safety features

Volvo has always been regarded as a forward thinking company when it comes to the advancement of safety. As a result, the V70R features all the latest features including advanced dual threshold airbags up front, and inflatable side-curtain airbags to protect occupants from cockpit intrusion and flying glass. Volvo’s innovative Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), side airbags and Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) also find their way on board, making the car one of the safest in the world.

The Volvo design team knew that the increased performance levels of this car would require some extra measures to help keep less experienced drivers from getting in over their heads so they chose to equip it with the added security of all-wheel-drive. Volvo’s advanced Haldex all-wheel-drive system is designed to activate seamlessly at the first hint of wheel slippage or traction loss, and to interact with both the Dynamic Stability and Traction Control and the ABS brakes to ensure you retain control of the vehicle.

The V70R also benefits from an active suspension which features a driver adjustable set-up to match road conditions and driver enthusiasm, but also adjusts automatically to help keep the car planted on the road.

Last but not least, the V70R comes wearing race-worthy, four-piston aluminum brake calipers on big 330-mm ventilated discs, engineered by the brake experts at Brembo. These units pull the car down from triple digit speeds with almost no effort, and even after long, hard use, seemed resistant to fade.

As a wagon you know that the car was designed for hauling kids, so the car is equipped with rear door child safety locks, several child-seat tethering options, and an anti-trap ‘no-pinch’ feature for the windows and moon-roof.

2004 Volvo V70R
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I must note that Volvo has equipped both the ‘R’ models with an exceptionally designed steering-wheel. Its ergonomic design offers troughs for your thumbs while gripping the rim at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions, and its thick, leather wrapped rim remained comfortable even during long hauls and spirited driving. A very light power assist and the car’s exceptional turn radius added to the driving experience by giving the car a nimble feel.

The shrouded headlamps on the V70R are unique to the model. These self-leveling bi-xenon units blanket the road with a swath of bright light without casting the usual glare associated with this type of design. The bright setting is outstanding, and seemed to offer a spread pattern of almost 180-degrees, again, pitched forward without too much interference with oncoming vehicles. A pair of high-intensity driving lights is also set low in the front spoiler for when conditions are truly soupy and a rear fog unit is also selectable for white-out and extreme overcast conditions.


With seat-pinning performance, class-busting power figures, a close-ratio 6-speed manual gearbox, big Brembo brakes, and Volvo’s active, driver-selectable suspension, the V70R really is something special. Add to this an advanced Haldex all-wheel drive system (which is worthy of comparison to Audi’s famed Quattro set-up) and this vehicle becomes the ultimate four-season road-rocket. If you like to drive the V70R is well worth a test drive.

Technical Data: 2004 Volvo V70R

Base price $60,995
Options $1,700 ($500.00 sub-woofer; $1,200 Atacama Cinnamon leather)
Freight $875
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $63,670
Type 4-door, 5-passenger mid-sized sport wagon
Layout transverse front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 2.5-litre, inline 5-cylinder, high pressure turbocharger, DOHC, 20 valves with CVVT
Horsepower 300 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque 295 lb-ft. @ 1,950 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual (optional 5-speed automatic w/Geartronic)
Curb weight 1,713 kg (3,776 lb.)
Wheelbase 2,755 mm (108.5 in.)
Length 4,711 mm (185.4 in.)
Width 1,804 mm (71.0 in.)
Height 1,490 mm (58.7 in.)
Cargo capacity 1,061 litres (37.5 cu. ft.) seats up
  2,024 litres (71.5 cu. ft.) seats down
Fuel consumption City 13.1 l/100 km (22 mpg) (Imperial gallons)
  Hwy: 8.6 l/100 km (33 mpg) (Imperial gallons)
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km
Popular options $1,500 – 5-speed automatic with Geartronic, Sport and Winter modes; $2,500 – navigation system; $1,200 – 3rd row seat; $500.00 – sub-woofer; $500 – integrated child seat

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