Volvo V70 XC wagon brings car-like ride, sport-ute attitude
Date Posted: 5/10/2005
HATCHER PASS, Ak. -- Buckle up and keep an eye cocked toward sideline underbrush because it's the opening day of hunting season and there's no telling when the next bull moose may dash out of the forest and interrupt our progress while making fresh tracks on a desolate trail draped across foothills of the Alaska Range.
Loose gravel on the primitive roadbed crunches under each tire, setting up slippery driving conditions which demand careful attention to throttle and steering wheel.
This isn't a place to get stuck: The remote route, threaded between Bald Mountain Ridge and Bullion Mountain west of the Little Susitna River, climbs through faint northern daylight to a high saddle at Hatcher Pass. The situation demands a serious vehicle capable of providing powerful muscle, sure-footed traction and sophisticated safety systems, plus a good heater and great headlamps.
To reach this particular summit, we were armed with a Volvo wagon jacked up in suspension and rigged with a permanently engaged 4-wheel-drive device for rough trekking.
Sweden's definitive automaker builds sturdy sedans and station wagons designed to tackle Scandinavian snows and arctic darkness while still coddling passengers in comforts typical of deluxe European touring cars. In this instance, though, the Volvo steered through outback reaches in Alaska bore an alphanumeric name and showed aggressive sheetmetal shapes up front plus a boxy station wagon's superstructure in back, with special equipment attached, both outside and in, to mark it as a rugged road warrior.
Call it the V70 XC AWD wagon, Volvo's clever car-like alternative to a truckish sport-utility vehicle.
Marketeers at Volvo refer to the revised mid-size platform as the 70 Series now instead of the former 850 that it replaced in 1998. An alphabetical letter preceding the numeric class of vehicle indicates its style: S70 for sedan, V70 as an all-wheel-drive wagon (with the V meaning "versatile"), and C70 for a coupe and convertible.
The XC AWD package for the V70 wagon stands for Cross-Country All-Wheel-Drive, implying an ability to plow down gravel roads to reach a back country fishing hole or camping spot, but also deliver sophisticated traits of a fine road car with agile handling and refined ride quality.
In a series of pavement and dirt tests conducted in Alaska's heartland, we steered the V70 XC AWD wagon through a variety of venues, including a freeway out of Anchorage and two-lane highways wrapped around the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet, that gravel road leading eastward from Willow to Hatcher Pass, plus some off-road dirt patches near Palmer where we could slip around to play with the 4-wheel-drive system and test the on-board traction control mechanism.
With each challenge -- fast-paced freeway or curvy mountain road, slippery gravel chute or pancake dirt flats -- the XC behaved itself with smooth ride sensations but an uncanny agility and quick throttle response. Its lively power and lithe attitude, working with inherent safety features and plush interior comforts, produced a soothing sense of confidence for driver and riders.
The implication from this can-do kind of car is that it's a tough world we travel with pitfalls in our path but the going doesn't have to be dangerous or uncomfortable when you're steering the Volvo.
To create it, designers relied heavily on the former Volvo 850, which debuted in 1991 as the first front-wheel-drive car for the Swedish automaker -- and the first to exhibit an athletic, even sporty, attitude. The 70 Series models use the 850's chassis, front suspension and brakes, as well as its various 5-cylinder engine options.
Where the cars differ most apparently concerns the exterior treatment, particularly at the front end, and for a host of interior appointments in the cockpit and safety systems stretched throughout the structure.
To differentiate the wagon from tank-like shapes of some previous Volvo designs, subtle curves at front corners now replace former square ends and a severe cant to the front hood sets up a more pronounced wedge-like profile which extends toward the boxed back end.
The XC goes further with more aggressive styling at nose and tail, the suspension kicked up slightly in height, and stronger roof rails plus bold side moldings added.
Inside, everything's plush but efficient, from seats and instruments to wood and leather trimmings.
The plan provides for twin bucket seats separated by center console and followed by a bench for three as well as the rear cargo compartment. Special upholstery -- dubbed Arctic Canvass -- marks the XC with twill canvas seat and back panels mixed with bolsters of soft leather.
Instruments, in a dash design shared with the C70, consist of easy-to-see analog gauges, while fingertip power control buttons for seats and windows and doors mount on the driver's door for easy access.
Concealed safety assets surround the Volvo passenger compartment, including front and side air bags, steel added to side doors and reinforced B pillars, crumple zones installed fore and aft, plus features of a lively vehicle capable of quickly maneuvering out from harm's way.
Several sophisticated electronic mechanisms govern the active safety features, such as anti-lock brakes and traction and brake distribution controls.
The wagon uses a front suspension lifted out of the front-wheel-drive 850, with anti-roll bar added to stem lateral sway. In the rear a multi-link system taken from the former 960 rear-drive wagon is in place with a viscous clutch installed in front of the rear differential to set up Volvo's all-wheel-drive system.
With that apparatus about 95 percent of engine torque normally channels to front wheels, but when sensors detect wheel spin the mechanism redirects power to the set of wheels with better grip.
It's a seamless system which functions automatically, so the driver never must make a conscious decision to shift into the 4-wheel-drive mode.
Regarding engines, the 70 Series brings three 5-cylinder choices, each linked to a smooth automatic 4-speed shifter. The AWD V70 relies strictly on a light-pressure turbo 2.4-liter, 5-cylinder plant that musters 190 hp. With high torque achieved at relatively low engine speed and typical turbo lag minimized, the powertrain impresses with its quick surges for passing and quiet demeanor.
It runs from zero to 60 mph in only 8.3 seconds and can achieve a top speed of 127 mph, as limited electronically.
Optional equipment includes a power sunroof and deluxe sound system, plus outdoor gear like load cross bars.
1999 VOLVO V70 XC AWD WAGON
| Vehicle Specifications:
| 1999 VOLVO V70XC Specs
| Model Options:
| Overall Length:
| Engine Size:
||DOHC 2.4-L I5 LP Turbo
||2 (front) + 2 (side)
| Gas Mileage:
||$ 36,000 to $ 40,000