Volvo's XC70 is essentially a repackaged V70 wagon, originally intended as a stopgap until the company launched its first true sport utility vehicle, the larger XC90. Debuting as a trim level for the 1998 V70, the XC70 became a separate model in 2003, though nothing had changed significantly about the car.

Like its chief competitors — the Audi Allroad Quattro and Subaru Legacy Outback — Volvo's XC70 is essentially an all-wheel-drive wagon with a raised suspension and beefy body cladding to mimic the look of an SUV. Although capable in foul weather, the XC70 is not designed for serious off-roading or towing. Think of it as an evolutionary step between a sedan and a car-based SUV such as the Volvo XC90 or Subaru B9 Tribeca.

The XC70's all-wheel-drive system has been enhanced for 2006 to deliver power to the wheels more efficiently and expediently. The system improves traction on slick roads and also acceleration and stability when traveling in a straight line by kicking in automatically during a launch from a standing start.

A sophisticated self-regulating suspension from Volvo's high-performance midsize sport sedan (S60R) and wagon (V70R) also makes it to the XC70 for 2006. The system operates in conjunction with optional stability and traction control systems, adjusting itself continuously to maximize vehicle stability. Driver's can choose between a firm and sporty suspension setting or a more comfortable and softer setting.

Having received some cosmetic changes last year, the XC70's styling carries over virtually unchanged. Power continues to come from a turbocharged, 2.5-liter, in-line, five-cylinder engine that generates a decent 208 horsepower. It requires premium fuel and gets 19 miles per gallon in city driving and 24 miles per gallon on the highway. The car's automatic transmission has six speeds and manual-shift capability.

As is Volvo's tradition, standard safety features are plentiful, including antilock brakes and front-side and side-curtain airbags. Comfort and convenience items are plentiful, with options such as a voice-activated navigation system, integrated child booster seats, rear-facing third-row seats, headlamp wiper/washers, rear parking assist proximity warnings and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Unlike many SUVs, however, a DVD entertainment system is not offered.


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