This isn’t the first time we’ve touched on Volvo, after all, we love the C30. However, this is the first time N2G as you know it has handed over the reigns to another word whittler. This time, it’s Canadian-stuck-in-England, Jake Belder. He knows a thing or two about motors, and he also happens to like the Volvo V70. Take it away, Jake…
It is a truth universally acknowledged that wagons are cool. Well, perhaps it is not universally acknowledged, but it should be. As a case in point, take the second-generation Volvo V70. It more or less started out life as an S60, not a bad car in its own right, but rather forgettable. Turn it into an estate, however, and it suddenly becomes desirable (which is pretty much true of any Volvo, actually). Whilst retaining Volvo’s characteristic civility and restraint, the estate becomes eminently practical, more comfortable, and better to look at, not to mention that it will trick your neighbours into thinking you are refined and sensible.
Volvo first unveiled the V70 in 1996, retaining many of the traditional Volvo lines. The second-generation, however, took on a much fresher and more modern look, in some respects, quite a step forward for Volvo. Most of the design and engineering was complete before Ford’s takeover of Volvo in 1999, and the new model was released in 2000, receiving a minor facelift in 2005.
It continued in production until 2007, at which point, according to the Volvo Owners’ Club, nearly 900,000 of them (including XCs) had rolled off the assembly line. Peter Horbury, the British designer behind the second-generation V70, said of the styling, “The V70…was the best combination of functionality on the back of the car, where you need it, and a very nice, elegant, sporty, soft, voluptuous front that blended into that functionality — showing you can have both.” Thankfully, Horbury is much better at designing a car than crafting a sentence.
A range of engines were fitted to the V70, though if you wanted an even number of cylinders, you were out of luck (and you would be strange, because who doesn’t like the warble of a 5-pot?). At the bottom of the food chain sat an underpowered 2.4L 140bhp petrol, while ordering your V70 in the entirely unreasonable R-spec would bump you up 0.1L and 160bhp thanks to a high-pressure turbo. Given the type of driving most V70 owners did, it’s not surprising to find the diesel engines were popular, and their reliability and efficiency means they are still commanding higher prices on the used market. For those who prefer gas, Volvo even offered two bi-fuel options from the factory.
If your regular commute involves twisty B-roads, the V70 probably wouldn’t be your weapon of choice. It is most at home on the motorway, where fantastically-comfortable seats, a well-laid out dashboard, and good equipment levels all work together to ensure a most pleasant journey. That’s not to say it doesn’t handle well, but it’s known to roll a bit more than the equivalent A6 Avant or 5-series Touring.
The V70 also features elevated rear seats, meaning your small children can more easily see out the windows; built-in booster seats were also an option. As befits a Volvo estate, lugging all your family’s stuff poses no problem, and folding the rear seats down means you can take about half of IKEA home with you. A rear-facing seat was an option should you need seven spaces, or if you get tired of hearing your little darlings scream in your ear. The rear-facing seat doubles as a safety feature – that Audi driver will think twice about tailgating you when he sees the kiddos making faces at him.
Build quality on the second-generation V70 is good, so if you find one that’s been looked after properly, not only will it happily provide many more years of service, but
all the bits of trim should still be where Volvo originally put them. The latest series of Top Gear even featured a 570,000-mile, bi-fuel V70 as a testament to the longevity of this Swede. As always, look for one with a full service history, but also check to see that the cambelt has been done recently – they have a good lifespan, but it’s a fairly big bill should it need replacing. The V70 was known to go through front suspension bits more quickly than usual, so ensure they have been replaced too. The automatic gearboxes are fine so long as they are cared for, and proof of a recent gearbox service will demonstrate that. But manual gearboxes are plenteous, so you won’t struggle to find one should you prefer keeping your left arm active.
If fuel economy is a concern, find yourself a diesel, but my pick would be a 2.4T, the 200bhp low-pressure turbo petrol, nicely straddling the line between performance and economy. Avoid the R, as the chassis can’t really handle the power, but for those of you who are power hungry, ex-police T5s can occasionally be found, which featured some minor suspension upgrades. Should you live in the farthest reaches of this fair land, or on a posh estate, you might opt for the V70 Cross Country, which adds all-wheel drive, a few inches of ride height, and some pretty substantial plastic cladding.
Everyone needs a wagon in their life at some point, and for those of us on N2G budgets, the V70 can neatly tick that box. When life calls for a spacious, comfortable, well-equipped, stylish, appealing, sensible, safe, and reliable estate (oh dear, in my admiration of Horbury’s V70, I seem to have adopted his excessive use of adjectives), get yourself a big Volvo.