Even Volvo’s company insiders admit the V70 (along with its XC70 crossover twin, the S80 exec saloon and the XC90 SUV) is ‘getting on a bit now’. But then, does a family estate need to be at the cutting edge of what’s new and trendy? Surely wrapping up do-it-all practicality in a refined, safety-focused package is timeless?
Volvo refreshed the V70 in early 2013 with exterior tweaks and slight powertrain efficiency improvements. We drove the mid-range £29,520 D3 version to find out if it’s still worth considering in among a swathe of common German wagons.
So what’s changed for the 2013 Volvo V70?
Crisper light clusters front and rear, with a clever new tech party piece in the headlights: it’ll recognise when you’re following traffic while using main beam, and dim the middle aspect of the light, so the driver ahead isn’t dazzled, but you’ve still got a bit of extra light either side for long-range peripheral vision. Handy for overtaking at night, we suspect. There are new alloy wheel designs too, but that’s your lot. Styling is subjective, but there’s a case to be made that the V70 is a refreshing charge from the heavy-handed styling swooshes adorning most BMWs and Audis right now. On the other hand, you might find it as beige as, well, the interior…
Nothing new inside then?
A few tech updates: the V40’s button-heavy but likeable infotainment interface is on-board, and the adaptive digital display for the main instrument binnacle is available as a £350 option. Given it’s a good 350% more attractive than the dated physical dials, it’s worth shelling out for. Otherwise it’s the same V70 we’ve known since 2007, but it’s ageing gracefully, thanks to clean, simple lines and an air of wellbeing and comfort. No sports seats, steering wheel thumb-hooks or go-faster stitching here: it’s just light and welcoming. Mind you, our test car benefits from range-topping SE Lux trim, and a smattering of cost options. The result? A £36,645 price tag. By no means obscene – it is a delightful spec, after all, but a good £7000 more expensive than standard.
Is it practical like Volvo estates of old?
The boot litre count is reassuringly high: there’s 575 of ’em with the rear seats up, and 1600 with the rear backrest folded into a flat load bay. But if bootpsace bragging rights are your main concern, Germany just about beats Sweden. A BMW 5-series Touring sports 560/1670 litres, an Audi A6 Avant 565/1680 litres. The undisputed king of posh estates to moonlight as removal vans remains the giant Mercedes E-class Estate, with its gaping 695/1960-litre Space Shuttle cargo bay. The Volvo does boast a well-integrated automatic tailgate though (standard-fit on all models except the Spartan but fleet-friendly Business Edition): it’s swift enough not to be an irritation, and can be overridden manually without gnashing and whirring from a recalcitrant mechanism, as in some rivals.
Rear cabin space is commendable, with plenty of head-and knee-room for six-footers, and all the seats are mounted a good deal higher than an ‘I’m schporty too’ autobahn refugee. Even the standard V70 feels almost crossover-like in its loftiness, and that pays dividends when manoeuvring this 4.8-metre into the Ikea car part. The XC70 adds yet more ride height and a nod to off-roading with all-wheel drive and rugged body trim.
Is it much cop to drive?
The V70 hails from an era just before someone in Volvo’s marketing department decided to tackle the Teutonic foe with a faux-dynamic manifesto. As a result, the V40, S60 and V60 all suffer from a knobbly, stiff ride. The V70 doesn’t. It’s no driver’s car, and doesn’t even play-act the role.
Like all Volvos, the V70’s seats are supremely comfortable, the driving position multi-adjustable. Try to attack the road from this position and you’ll be met with seafaring body roll, and a predictable transition to understeer. Accept that the doughy steering and absorbent ride are there to direct and suspend the car rather than set a personal-best commute time and you’ll realise this is a refreshing comfortable, refined car that deals admirably with Britain’s rubbish road network. The cabin remains exceptionally quiet until wind noise invades the ambience at a fast motorway cruise, but for the most part this is a supremely refined car that belies its age.
Is the powertrain as relaxed?
We tried the D3 version mated to the £1285 ‘Geartronic’ automatic transmission. Again, it’s not The Ultimate Vorsprung Durch Machine, but it’s a commendable powertrain. The five-cylinder diesel’s warble isn’t dissimilar to a petrol five-pot; the 2.0-litre derv boasts a linear power delivery at ease with the V70’s near 1800kg kerbweight. It’s mainly let down by its eagerness to cut out: stop-start systems ramp up economy figures, but when you’re rebooting the motor once every 50 yards as you creep along in urban traffic, the system becomes tiresome.
The six-speed automatic gearbox has flaws at the opposite end of the speed spectrum. It slurs slow-speed changes easily enough, but can be caught out when slowing from say, 60mph to 30mph for a village limit, taking too long to shuffle down the ratios. Squeeze the right pedal for an overtake on an A-road and it’ll also kickdown perhaps one more ratio than is strictly necessary for this torquey engine.
Don’t bother with manual mode either: the lever action is as tactile as a games console controller and in any case, it’s mounted the wrong way round to a ‘proper’ sequential lever. Don’t go hunting for paddles behind the steering wheel either – it’s not a sports estate, dammit!
It’s difficult not to like the Volvo V70, even if it’s easy to pick holes in its vintage, lack of dynamic edge and slightly staid image. Fact is, if you’re after an easy-going family workhorse, you could do far worse than consider the quintessential box on wheels, best sampled – as here – in D3 diesel automatic guise.