January 21, 2008

Photo Gallery: 2008 Volvo XC70

Specifications: 2008 Volvo XC70

The Guide: 2008 Volvo XC70

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Ottawa, Ontario – I would buy a Volvo for the front seats alone. However, the roughly $28,000 the company charges for its entry-level C30 is quite a princely sum to pay for the privilege of sitting down – never mind the nearly sixty grand those seats will cost you in Volvo’s third-generation XC70 crossover, which I tested a few weeks back. Mine showed up with almost $13,000 worth of options piled onto its $46,495 base price, for a total of $59,145 as the bottom line.

Making it a bit more palatable, of course, is that this redesigned 2008 model starts a full $1,000 cheaper than its 2007 predecessor. And here, at least, less seems to be more. The last XC70 I drove was a 2006 model; it was a treat to drive, but the latest model is an improvement in many respects.

The new XC70 gets the same black body cladding as always, but it seems better integrated on the new car (though part of that could be how it looked against my 2008 tester’s seashell paint). The rear end is more traditionally Volvoesque; check out the taillights and the way the letters in "Volvo" are spaced out on the tailgate.

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Despite the XC70’s traditional wagon look, there is nothing old about this car. There’s a new engine (a 3.2-litre V6), a new transmission (a six-speed automatic) and a new all-wheel drive setup (with Volvo’s Instant Traction technology), all borrowed from the larger S80 sedan upon which this car is based.

While there’s more power here than in the old XC70 (235 horsepower now, versus 208 then), this updated car doesn’t feel much faster than the one it replaces. It’s not hard to find out why, once you start digging through the specs: the new car weighs in at 1,891 kg, which makes the old XC70’s 1,634 kg seem svelte. All that weight takes its toll on fuel consumption, too. According to the car’s on-board computer, it never came close to its Natural Resources Canada ratings of 14.4 L/100 km (city) and 9.2 L/100 km (highway) the week I drove it.

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For 2008, the XC70 gets the same interior treatment as every other current Volvo. Gone is the old car’s interior palette of grey-on-grey, replaced by the always-nifty "floating" centre stack and cooler-than-cool etched aluminum dash trim. As always with Volvos, interior fit and finish was beyond reproach; but while the secondary control layout is simple enough (especially for a high-end European car), ditching the radio tuner’s dial pad for regular preset buttons would be an improvement.

The steering wheel rim is thick and feels great in the hands; the leather it’s wrapped in offers lots of grip, too. Too bad the mechanicals the wheel is connected to don’t offer much in the way of feedback, but that’s a criticism that could be leveled at most Volvos. Otherwise, the controls are great. Throttle tip-in is relaxed (almost too much so, some might argue); brake pedal response is linear and the binders themselves are strong.

Handling is pretty good, given the XC70’s tall ride height. My tester had the standard 17-inch wheels, but 18-inchers are a pricey $1,250 option. One of the extras my tester did have was Volvo’s Four-C Active Chassis, a driver-selectable suspension setup. Of its "normal," "sport" and "advanced" settings, I left it in advanced mode most of the week. This limits body roll – quite effectively, too – while striking a nice balance comfort-wise between the too-soft normal and too-stiff sport modes.

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The Four-C system is bundled into the $2,850 Luxury Package, which also adds active (steerable) bi-Xenon headlights, front and rear parking assist, two-stage integrated booster cushions in back, and rain-activated wipers. The $2,500 Premium Package brought the leather seats (though the leather-wrapped wheel and shifter are standard), power-retractable side mirrors, a power child lock for the rear doors and a power-adjustable front passenger seat. The $1,950 Convenience Package piled on stuff like driver-adjustable speed-sensitive power steering, power tailgate, privacy glass and numerous other useful things. Stand-alone options on my tester were the premium, 12-speaker Dynaudio stereo, complete with a 650-watt amplifier, for $1,500; Volvo’s $750 blind-spot information system (BLIS); adaptive cruise control with collision warning and brake support for $1,500; the Personal Car Communicator (which can tell you, from afar, whether the car is locked and even if someone is lurking within, for $950); and a $650 metallic paint job.

From that long list of fun stuff, the only must-have, in my opinion, is the adaptive headlight system. The bi-Xenons put out a bright and even light (a big improvement over the headlights in the 2006 model I drove), and the additional visibility afforded as they swivel with the steering makes you wonder when this technology will filter down to more affordable vehicles. The least Volvo could do is liberate this option from its pricey package; the only other part of the Luxury group I’d keep are the booster seats.

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As always, the front seats met my high expectations of Volvo comfort; while they don’t offer the most lateral support, they’re great for long hauls. The rear bench is very nice too, even if leg room can’t really match what you’d get in a mid-priced sedan. The rear seats are more notable, perhaps, for how they fold perfectly flat to create an expansive cargo area. There are four metal tie-down hooks in the floor, which fold away when not in use, and there’s a cargo divider built into the carpeted floor. Under the floor is a shallow, divided space to keep small valuables out of sight.

Even the XC70’s now-lower base price is still a fair chunk of cash to spend on a new car, especially when there are far less expensive crossovers that will do the job just as well. But here, at least, the comfortable seats are standard.

Pricing: 2008 Volvo XC70

Base price:
(Luxury Package $2,850; Premium Package $2,500; Convenience Package $1,950; Dynaudio stereo $1,500; Blind Spot Information System $750; Adaptive Cruise Control $1,500; Personal Car Communicator $950; metallic paint $650)
A/C tax
Price as tested:


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