2008 XC70 New Car Test Drive
The Volvo XC70 is all-new for 2008. One of the first of that new breed of vehicles called crossovers, the new model is easily the best XC70 yet. It's a great alternative to conventional sport-utility vehicles, and a more practical, rational choice than a truck-based SUV for most buyers.
Volvo has been almost synonymous with wagon since the company began selling cars in the United States in the 1950s. In many respects the XC70 is a conventional station wagon, and closely related to the Volvo V70 (also all-new for the 2008 model year). Yet the XC70 is different. It comes standard with fulltime all-wheel-drive, and its suspension is raised to increase both movement range and ground clearance. The XC70 also features dent-resistant lower body cladding and protective skid plates underneath, as well as an electronic system called Hill Descent Control, which makes driving down steep trails easier and safer.
We found the XC70 offers as much off-road capability as most sport-utility buyers will ever need. It can handle some fairly rugged backcountry trails, and it's rated to tow up to 3300 pounds, which is enough for a small boat. Its maximum cargo capacity of 72.1 cubic feet is on par with some mid-size, truck-based sport-utilities.
Yet the XC70 doesn't extract a significant toll for its off-road or cargo-hauling potential. It's maneuverable and quite comfortable on paved roads, where most of us drive most of the time. It isn't the most exciting vehicle to drive, and probably not as sporty as Volvo's V70 wagon, but it makes a good grand tourer and great daily transportation. It rides smoothly and doesn't float or lean excessively through the curves, and it should deliver better real-world gas mileage than most mid- and full-size truck-based SUVs. On gravel roads and rough, unpaved roads, it handles well and is fun to drive, making it an enjoyable companion in the backcountry.
Those familiar with previous XC70s will have a good handle on the new one's basic potential. Still, the 2008 model is new from the wheels up, and better than its predecessors in just about every way. It's the first XC70 with a six-cylinder engine, rather than a five-cylinder. Volvo's new 3.2-liter inline-6 generates 235 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, which is on par with most engines of similar displacement.
We prefer its styling. The new design is tighter and probably not as odd, though it still has the rugged, outdoorsy look many buyers embrace.
Inside, the XC70 has one of Volvo's best interiors ever: very Scandinavian, and elegantly understated. More important, it's easy to master its multitude of controls, and it's simpler and more efficient than many of its European luxury competitors. The 2008 XC70 has more room inside than the 2007 model, and it comes well-equipped compared to some other vehicles in its price range. The seating arrangement is flexible and the cargo compartment has tie-downs and other useful accessories. With the rear seats folded, the XC70's flat floor and low lift-over height make loading bulky cargo easier than with many SUVs.
Finally, the 2008 Volvo XC70 continues the brand's longstanding emphasis on safety. And it has more standard safety features than the previous-generation model. The essentials come standard, including advanced multi-stage, multi-compartment airbags, seats designed to limit whiplash injuries, electronic stability control and the latest anti-lock brake (ABS) technology. New safety options include a blind spot warning system, and radar-managed accident avoidance package and built-in child safety seats that adjust as children grow to optimize crash protection.
The 2008 Volvo XC70 ($36,775) comes with a six-cylinder engine, a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive.
Standard features include fabric upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat with three-position memory, dual-zone automatic climate control, 160-watt AM/FM audio with single-CD and eight speakers, a leather-wrapped tilt/telescoping steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and remote garage door opener, fog lights front and rear, a fold-flat 40/20/40 split rear seat with a locking cargo-floor storage bin and a fold-flat front passenger seat that considerably increases cargo flexibility, and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Options include the Premium Package ($2,995), which includes a power glass sunroof, leather seating, a power passenger seat and walnut or walnut-root trim. The Convenience Package ($1,195) adds front and rear park assist, a humidity sensor for the climate control system, Interior Air Quality filtration system, a power tailgate, dark tint rear windows, a Grocery bag holder and 12-volt power outlet in the cargo area. The Climate Package ($875) includes heated front and rear seats, headlamp washers, heated windshield washer nozzles and Rainsensor windshield wipers. The Audio Package ($1,650) includes a 650-watt amplifier, Dolby Pro-Logic II Surround Sound processing, 12 speakers, a 6CD changer, rear-seat headphone jacks and Sirius Satellite Radio. The Volvo Navigation System ($2,120) uses DVD-based map data with driver controls on the steering wheel and remote control. The rear-seat DVD system ($1,800) adds two seven-inch LCD monitors in the front headrests, with an auxiliary jack for video games or cameras, wireless headphones and remote control. Stand-alone options include Active Bi-Xenon high intensity gas discharge headlamps ($800), metallic paint ($475), 17-inch alloy wheels ($550) and satellite radio prep ($95).
Safety features that come standard include multi-stage front-impact airbags and curtain-style head protection airbags for all outboard seats. The front passenger side-impact airbags have two compartments: a lower one for the hips, which can handle more force without injury, and a second one that deploys more gently around the shoulders. Volvo's latest generation Whiplash Protection Seating System (WHIPS) is design to minimize neck and back injuries in a significant rear impact. Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC), the latest-generation anti-lock brakes (ABS) and a tire-pressure monitor are also standard.
The new XC70 also offers several new safety options. Integrated child safety seats ($495) are built into the rear outboard seats, and can be adjusted specifically to the child's size. This optimizes the seatbelt geometry regardless of the child's stature. The safety belts have specially adjusted force limiters to reduce the risk of restraint injury, and the side-curtain airbags are lengthened for better coverage.
Volvo's Blind Spot Information System, or BLIS (($695), is one of the original systems designed to warn the driver of approaching vehicles that might not be visible in the mirrors. Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Mitigation by Braking ($1,495) uses the radar-managed active cruise control to warn the driver of a possible collision. The system issues a warning if the XC70 is closing quickly on an object and pre-loads the brake system, and it can actually engage the brakes if the driver fails to respond.
Finally, the Personal Car Communicator ($495) adds keyless starting. More to the safety point, it allows you to determine from anywhere whether you locked the car, though you'll have to call your spouse or friend to lock it for you if you are already on the plane, because it can't actually lock XC70 out of range of the remote. This device also allows you to tell if the car has been tampered with as you approach it in a dark parking lot, and includes a heartbeat sensor.