The Truth About Cars » Volvo XC70 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:20:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Volvo XC70 Capsule Review: 2013 Volvo XC70 T6 Polestar – Brown Wagon Edition Wed, 02 Oct 2013 13:00:39 +0000 photo (3)

If you had to pick a Q-Car, the vehicle you see above would be nobody’s first choice. Something like a Camry V6, a Pentastar Avenger, or perhaps even a Verano Turbo with a Trifecta tune would be a more suitably anonymous roller skate with enough power to pummel most “civilian” cars on the street. Or perhaps a Regal GS. In grey or some other nodescript color. I am thinking about this as I wander aimlessly within my lane on Lakeshore Boulevard, the Polestar-tuned I6 humming along at a sedate 1800 rpm in 6th gear. CBC Radio is broadcasting yet another nebulous documentary extolling Canada’s secular state religion of diversity, as my Costco grocery list scrolls through my head. How banal and bourgeois.

And then I hear the staccato vocalization of a small block Chevy V8 breathing through a set of big pipes. A glance in the mirror reveals a 4th generation Camaro convertible coming up fast behind me in my mirrors. In a flash, he’s past me by a few car lengths, and I can just make out the “SS” badge on the decklid. If I were in another T6-powered Volvo, say, my parents XC60 T6, I’d step on the gas, wait a brief second for the turbo to spool up, and hope that I’d be in the powerband long enough to catch him. With a standard T6, peak power (295 hp) comes in at 5600 rpm while peak torque (325 lb-ft) arrives at 2100-4200 rpm In this car though; 354 lb-ft comes in from 3000-3600 rpm, while all 325 horsepower are available from 5400 all the way to redline. From a roll, this car is a monster.

It doesn’t take long after nailing the throttle for the gap to close between us, and while the Camaro is droning out its V8 song, there’s just a muted hum from the Volvo’s blocky hood, while barely audible diverter valve noises can be heard through the open windows. A red light conspires to bring us next to one another, and I can see him regarding me with the faux-menacing glare typical to most underemployed 20-somethings brimming with insecurities. He’s much more handsome than I am, and his girlfriend is in the passenger seat.  I smile and give him the thumbs up.

“You think you can beat me?” No change in demeanor from him.

“Actually, I do.” I respond.

There’s no revving, no theatrics, no Fast and Furious Limp Bizkit sound track despite the corny but spontaneous exchange. But when the light goes green, he disappears behind me. And I didn’t even get a good look at his girlfriend.

This is really a silly car. The XC70 sells in inconsequential numbers, even for a Volvo. Last year,  the smaller XC60 outsold the XC70 by a ratio of 4:1, as Volvo customers, my parents included, opted for the higher driving position, easier ingress/egress and crossover-look of the XC60. Wagon fans insist that if only Volvo would bring back a real wagon, then all would be well, the brand would have its mojo back, and American consumers would finally learn that their enlightened European brothers had it right along.

photo (4), whether we’re discussing social safety nets, rail transportation networks or diesel engines. But there is good news. The XC70 and the XC60 are basically the same car. I know this because I had the chance to test them back to back. It’s true that the XC60 has a bit more ground clearance and a higher ride height, and the XC70 is perhaps a bit higher than a regular V70, but to tar either them with the “crossover” brush, is incorrect. These are as much crossovers as the last generation Outback was, and the extra cladding and slightly taller springs are red herrings. Of course, driving a wagon signifies that one has sophisticated, Continental tastes, which is more important to many than how these vehicles actually perform on the road.

What’s most interesting is the changes in spec between the XC70 and the XC60 owned by my folks. Their XC60 has three adjustable steering programs as well as the Volvo 4C system, which employs active shock absorbers made by both Ohlins and Monroe. Three modes are available, labeled Comfort, Sport and Advanced. Comfort is fairly soft, with Sport cranking it up by just a bit. Advanced, however, is truly stiff, sacrificing ride quality for flatter cornering. The XC70, by contrast, has one steering setting (equivalent to the heaviest setting on the XC60) and no 4C system. My own handling loop was illustrative of the differences: the XC70 felt as if it possessed more bodyroll, whereas the XC60  felt a bit more surefooted with the 4C shocks set to “Advanced”. But Advanced mode also makes the shocks rather unpleasant in everyday driving, and when set to “Sport” or “Comfort”, it’s a wash between the two cars.

All this talk of performance for a station wagon may seem out of place, but when the car’s main marketing proposition is the Polestar engine tuning, it’s hard to ignore it. The XC70 is also a very practical vehicle. Despite my bearishness on wagons as a commercial proposition in the marketplace, I quite like them. I tried in vain to convince my parents to buy the XC70, hoping that the giant stuffed German Sheppard in the back of the showroom demo model would sway them (it looked identical to an old stuffed dog from my childhood). Instead they hemmed and hawed and made vague remarks about the “height” of the XC60′s cargo area (for the one time of the year when they’d bring home tall garden plants) and the extra length (8 inches longer, which does count when parking in urban areas) as reasons to get the XC60. This time, I was determined to induct them in the “cult of the wagon”.

Tossing the keys to my parents for a “blind taste test”, they were more impressed with the revised interior than the driving dynamics or the lower seating position (which they also enjoyed, in a reversal of their previous stance on the car). While my folks car invokes the usual “Swedish furniture” cliche, with black baseball stitched leather and aluminum trim (no surprise if you know them: they wear more black than an amateur theatre troupe and my mother obsesses over modern furniture like we do over rear-drive BOF Fords), the XC70 is much more organic, with generous helpings of wood and natural tone leather. Volvo’s IP and telematics interface remains unchaged, and is thankfully devoid of touch screens or haptic controls.

It takes a few minutes to learn the ins and outs of the buttons-and-knobs, but once you do, it becomes second nature, and one can navigate their iPod music selections without taking their eyes off the road. The navigation system was far less cooperative – while the controls were easy enough, it failed to recognize even well known streets, forcing me to use my iPhone as a navigation aid. The XC70 also came with Volvo’s “Premium Sound System”, something my father chose to forgo when he declined the navigation system in the XC60. It’s worth the money, something he readily acknowledged after one playthrough of Gil-Scott Heron’s Bridges. Cargo proved to be one area where the extra length didn’t lend the XC70 too much of an advantage. The XC60 has 67.4 cubic feet of space, with 30.8 cubic feet with the seats up, while the XC70 has 72.1 in total, with 33.3 if the rear seats remain intact. In practical terms, it’s possible to easily fit a full-size mens bicycle with the seats down in the XC70, while the XC60 takes a bit of finagling. For most every day items, it was inconsequential, with grocery bags and suitcases fitting fine in both cars. The XC60′s reduced length does make it easier to park, something I can appreciate given that my parents live in an area with abundant street parking that seems to be sized for C-segment cars at best.

In that light, it’s understandable why they chose the XC60, but after driving the wagon, I am not ready to take their side. Nonwithstanding my mocking of the commercial viability of the station wagon, I like this one a lot. It’s difficult to find a car that does it all so well. Where else can you find something that can turn on a dime from being an invisible luxury commuter appliance, to a bike hauler to a stoplight dragster that can be used in every weather condition, 365 days of the year? It just makes so much sense. Which is its biggest problem. We as humans rarely want what makes sense for us, whether it’s choosing an incompatible lover, a consumer item we can’t really afford or voting for a politician that sways us with charming rhetoric rather than policy that may be beneficial to our station in life.

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At $50,310, it’s not exactly within the reach of the common American family either. This car, even without the Polestar, is an incredibly niche proposition. But that’s a big part of its charm. It will never be loved like the Brick Volvos of yore, nor the upcoming V60 (which will be lauded as a return to form for Volvo), but it has earned its place, along with the Subaru Legacy 2.5GT and Audi S4, in the lore of “great wagons we got in America that nobody appreciated”.

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Review: 2013 Audi allroad Fri, 12 Oct 2012 17:26:03 +0000

If you haven’t been paying attention to my life story (discretely woven into my reviews), I’ll spell it out clearly: I live in what is considered to be a temperate rainforest on the California coast, the nearest asphalt or concrete surface is over a mile away, and I have a deep (some say questionable) love for station wagons. If you combine this with liberal political leanings, my DINK (Dual Income, No Kids) status and a passion for Costco runs, I am the target market for an off-road wagon. Enter the 2013 Audi allroad. (No, for some reason “allroad” doesn’t get a capital letter.) Audi invited Michael Karesh to a launch event, event a few months ago, but what’s the XC70′s only competition like to live with for a week? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.


If you remember the original A6-based (2001-2005) allroad, this isn’t it. That allroad remains a European delicacy not available on our shores. Instead we get the European A4 allroad (but we drop the A4 prefix in America) which replaces the A4 Avant as the only Audi wagon on sale in the United States. While the new allroad is a bit more than just a jacked up A4 Avant, it’s far less of a transformation than the A6 allroad. First Audi lifted the Avant by 1.5 inches to allow for 7.1 inches of ground clearance, then they borrowed the wider track from the A5 to compensate for the height increase. The added width meant the body was too narrow so they added some rugged plastic wheel arches. To to convince shoppers this is more than just a “jacked-up-station-wagon,” Audi fitted a baleen inspired front grille to the A4, because in Audi-speak cars have horizontal grilles and SUVs have vertical schnozes. Transformation complete.


While Audi butched up the exterior of the A4 for allroad duty, little has been done to the cabin. Inside we find the same A4 interior introduced in 2008. While the A4′s cabin was class leading in 2008 and it has aged well, it does show its age when compared to the newer Volvo and BMW interiors, especially in the black-on-black-on-black color scheme of our tester. While I found nothing wrong with the trappings, I found myself continually asking if the plastics that surrounded me were fitting of the $40,495-$57,170 price range. One thing is for sure, the camel leather and brown dash combination with oak wood trim make the interior a far more attractive place to spend your time.

The natural competition for a soft-roading wagon that will set you back 50-large is limited to the Volvo XC70 AWD which ranges from $35,450 to $54,754. Comparisons are tricky because the allroad has shrunk over the past 6 years going from an A6 to an A4 based wagon and the XC70 has grown from an S60 to an S80 wagon. As a result the allroad’s seats are more compact than the XC70′s Barcalounger-sized thrones, the difference is most obvious in the rear where the allroad has troubles swallowing four adults comfortably. The cargo situation is similar with the XC70 swallowing 33 cubes of widgets with the seats in place and 72 with the rear thrones folded while the allroad’s cargo hauling rings in at 27/50.


The Germans have cornered the market in joystick based infotainment systems since BMW first introduced iDrive in 2001. Since then Audi has been in a gadget arms race with the Roundel. Taken as a whole, MMI isn’t as intuitive as iDrive with more confusing menus and illogical button placement. While I’m sure you would get used to it over time, even after a week I found myself needing to stare at the array of buttons for way too long to find what I needed. See that little knob in the upper left of the picture above? That’s the on/off button, volume knob and track forward/backward toggle. You probably don’t want to know what happens if you spill your Slurpee on there.

On the flip side, MMI has probably one of the most advanced feature sets on the market thanks to their well-executed Google integration. While iDrive allows you to search for Google results (as do a number of other systems), MMI takes it a step further and overlays your traditional map images with Google satellite imagery and even allows you to zoom in and view Google Street View images so you can creep your neighbors. On the down side, the Google map function requires a $15-$30 a month subscription after the first few years for the built-in cellular modem, and when traveling at freeway speeds the system has troubles downloading maps fast enough to keep up leaving you with a blank screen at times.

Since the XC70 is the logical competition, a comparison to Volvo’s Sensus system is inevitable. Volvo’s system lacks the online data, app integration and Google snazz that MMI brings to the table, but it counters with a considerably easier to use system. Volvo’s screen size and graphic quality is easily on par with MMI and in sharp contrast to MMI, most of the system’s commands can be fully utilized via the steering wheel button which means you eyes are off the road less.


Nestled inside the “classically Audi” (read: long) front overhand is a 2.0L turbo charged four-cylinder engine. This 2.0L TFSI (in Audi speak) is a rework of the classic 2.0L turbo engine that Volkswagen and Audi have had on the books for a while. Despite having the latest in direct injection and variable valve timing tech, the engine puts out just 211HP. Thankfully torque is on par with the other entries in the Euro D segment at 258lb-ft from 1,500-4,200RPM. Sending the power to all four wheels is a ZF 8-speed automatic and Audi’s Quattro AWD system. Like many in the Audi lineup, this system is now programmed to send 60% of the power to the rear wheels under most situations. The rear bias delivers a driving feel more similar to a RWD vehicle than Quattros of the past.

Pitted against Volvo’s XC70, the allroad is livelier than Volvo’s base 3.2L inline six thanks to the turbo, the XC70′s curb weight and Volvo’s 6-speed automatic. Rather unexpectedly however, the XC70 T6 with 300 turbocharged horses and 325lb-ft of torque is the performance leader in this shoot out. If 300HP in your Swedish sled is insufficient, $1,495 will bump the T6 to 325HP and 354lb-ft. Volvo of course continues to use a FWD biased Haldex system to send power to the rear. While the system isn’t capable of sending more than 50% of the power to the rear wheels, this fifth-generation Haldex system spends more time than ever in AWD mode making the system’s FWD heritage unnoticeable in 99% of driving situations.


Don’t get too excited about those performance numbers from the Volvo just yet. When you’re out on the road the XC70 is faster in a straight line, dispatching 60 in 5.6 seconds (T6 Polestar) vs the allroad’s 6.3 second time, but the extra 261lbs, taller ride height and skinnier/higher profile tires mean when the road bends, you’ll be seeing the XC70 in the allroad’s rear view mirror. That being said, the allroad feels less confident out on the road than the XC70. Why? Mostly because that engine is hanging out in front of the front axle. The weight balance, coupled with the rear wheel bias makes oversteer and understeer close neighbors in the allroad. While I found the dynamics entertaining, even pleasing, I know a few drivers that found it disconcerting and preferred the XC70′s understeer-all-the-time dynamics.

Road noise and engine noise in the allroad were higher than I expected even on smooth roads. We can probably chalk this up to A4 platform’s age and the wide 245-width tires, but at these price points I expected things to be quieter. BMW’s new 2.0L turbo engine is a pinnacle of four-cylinder refinement, this is not something that can be said of the Audi mill which sent more vibrations into the cabin than a number of modern economy cars. This is another area where the XC70 comes out ahead as even Volvo’s anemic base engine is a smooth inline six.

Out on the trail, its obvious that Volvo and Audi’s missions were different. The XC70′s higher profile tires, 1.2-inch higher ground clearance and shorter front overhang meant that despite having an AWD system that many in the industry describe as “less sophisticated,” the XC70 is better equipped to handle mild off-roading than the allroad. When the road gets icy, the Haldex system is slower to respond than the Quattro’s always-engaged AWD system to send power front/rear but Volvo fights back with a traction control system, that was far more willing to send power left/right on either axle.

With a starting price of $40,495, the allroad is $3,200 more than the 2012 A4 Avant it replaced, $4,150 more than an XC70 3.2 and $395 more than the powerful XC70 T6. Audi’s premium pricing doesn’t just stop at the base points however. Should you want a nav system in your allroad, expect to shell out $46,795 for the Premium Plus trim with Audi Connect which widens the gap to $1,100 over the XC70 T6. Adjusting for feature content further widens the divide to between $2,590 and $4,595 in favor of the Swede. After a week with the allroad I was still unable to figure out who it is really for. Despite my rural lifestyle, I have never honestly felt the need for a jacked-up AWD vehicle that couldn’t tow 7,500lbs. When pitted against the Volvo competition, the Audi has trouble justifying a larger price tag due to an unrefined engine and reduced soft-road ability. If I lived in Europe, the allroad might make more sense to me (taking into account my love of wagons) but as it is, the allroad ends up being an expensive landing at the wrong airport. Maybe it really is time to say goodbye to the Euro wagon?


Audi provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.4 Seconds

0-60: 6.3 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.9 @ 93 Seconds

Average Fuel Economy: 23.5MPG over 811 miles


2013 Audi Allroad, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, cargo area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exteruir, wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Engine, 2.0L TFSI Turbo, 211HP, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Engine, 2.0L TFSI Turbo, 211HP, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Engine, 2.0L TFSI Turbo, 211HP, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Interior, MMI controlls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Interior, HVAC Controlls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, rear seat HVAC vents, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, cargo area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail


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Review: 2013 Audi allroad Tue, 10 Jul 2012 13:00:44 +0000

Americans are smart people. Avoid the word “wagon” in favor of “Avant,” and they still see a wagon. And don’t buy it. So for 2013 there are no more Avants for us. Instead, the “allroad” is back. Audi promises that it’s more than just a fancy name.

The original allroad differed quite a bit from the A6 Avant. Terribly late to the SUV party, Audi took a midsized A6 wagon and flared the fenders, widened the track, raised the ride height, and fitted an over-engineered height-adjustable air suspension that rendered the 2001-2005 allroad both more capable of venturing off the pavement and less capable of staying away from the dealer. Unlike in the Avant, a manual transmission was available. Between a 250-horsepower turbocharged V6 borrowed from the S4 (and not offered in the Avant) and a 4,167-pound curb weight (a gain of 100 kilos), the SUV-like wagon’s EPA ratings were an SUV-like 15 city, 20 highway (14/21 with the manual). When the Q7 SUV finally arrived, Audi dropped the allroad from its U.S. line.

Now, after a seven-year hiatus, the allroad is back. Or is it? The new one is based on the A4, not the A6. Audi refers to the new car and last year’s A4 Avant as “cousins,” but the DNA suggests a much closer relationship. Both cars have the same, single powertrain option, a 211-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine driving all four wheels through a manually-shiftable eight-speed automatic transmission. There’s no S-worthy six and no available manual transmission. Also no air suspension, though the fender flares (second tone standard, body color an extra grand), wider track (from the S5 coupe), and suspension lift (by 1.5”) reappear. Oh, I almost forgot: the allroad also gets a bespoke chrome grille and fascia-mounted stainless steel skid plates, “giving you the right kind of armor to help battle even the toughest backcountry roads.” The interior appears identical to that in the A4, typical tasteful Audi fare.

Audi suggests that, despite the platform and powertrain downgrades, the new allroad comes pretty close to the old one. Its cars have been growing with each redesign, so the current A4 isn’t too much smaller than the A6 two generations back. Your eyes will report otherwise. The original allroad felt like a midsize car inside. The new one feels like a compact, especially in the back seat, where both shoulder room and legroom are down by a couple of inches. Cargo volume with the second row folded suffers the most dramatic cut, from 73.2 cubic feet to 50.5.

Audi is on firmer ground with powertrain performance. Peak horsepower might be down, but so is curb weight, to 3,891 pounds. Meanwhile, midrange power is about the same (peak torque is 258 pound-feet for both the previous car’s V6 and the current one’s four) and the automatic transmission picks up three ratios. The 2013 car feels a little winded passing on an uphill in the Colorado mountains, but then so would the original. (Audi apparently selected the route for ambiance, not for showing off its powertrains.) The 2.0T feels fairly energetic near sea level in the A4, and it should feel much the same in the new allroad. The various changes do strongly benefit fuel economy, which the EPA rates 20/27. (Audi notes that the new car does as well in the city as the old one did on the highway. They don’t note that the discontinued Avant managed 21/29.)

I personally prefer compact cars to midsize ones, as they can feel much more agile. Despite a strong supercharged V6, the latest A6 is too large to play. The problem with the allroad is that a higher ride height tends to harm handling. Well, forget that tendency. The new allroad drives very much like the A4, too heavy and mature to qualify as tossable but carving the mountain roads with a solid structure, no slop, moderate roll, and good balance. The all-wheel-drive system’s default 40/60 rearward bias contributes to the last. Consider my fears unfounded and my expectations exceeded. The steering, as in all of Audi’s “B-segment” cars for 2013, gets its assist from an electric motor rather than a hydraulic pump. For better or worse, the new system feels very similar to the old one, with moderate heft and good weighting but minimal feedback. The standard seats lack lateral support, but a $500 “sport interior” option fixes this.

The 2012 A4 Avant started at $37,275. The 2013 allroad starts at $40,495. The “Premium Plus” package added $4,600 last year but adds $3,300 with the new car (because 18-inch wheels and rain-sensing wipers are standard), leaving a difference of just under $2,000. (Which might explain why the Avant is gone and the allroad is back.) Google Earth-based nav (which includes WiFi hotspot capability and moves the MMI knob from the center stack to a much more ergonomic location on the center console) adds another $3,050. A decade ago, the original allroad listed for about the same price when equipped similarly (but with a few more inches, a couple more cylinders, and the trick air suspension). Checking all the boxes on the 2013 (B&O audio, layered wood trim, sport seats, 19” wheels, adaptive cruise, active steering) takes the sticker all the way up to $56,695.

Seeking something more the size of the original allroad? Well, Volvo offers the XC70 (but no longer the V70) for about $3,200 less when both cars are fitted with heated leather seats and 18-inch wheels (based on TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool). The bigger, softer, heavier Swede doesn’t handle as well as the Audi, and won’t go as far on a gallon of gas (18/24), but its roomier interior includes some primo front seats. Best of all, for a mere pittance ($200!) you can literally boost the inline six-cylinder engine from 240 horsepower to 300.

The original Audi allroad acquired something of a cult following. This won’t be happening with the new one. It’s a good car, but not a special one. Then again, Mom always admonished the intended market against joining a cult. Perhaps good is good enough, and the SUV stylings will actually sell more wagons. Though it didn’t stand out in any particular way, the “right sized” allroad looked and felt the ideal tool for a round trip between Denver and the posh mountain resort.

Audi provided insured and fueled cars, airfare, deluxe accommodations, an abundance of gourmet food, all we cared to drink (a single beer in my case), and a gift that contained the press kit (since regifted to a reader).

Michael Karesh operates, an online source of car reliability and pricing information.

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