Volvo V70R AWD Review

Alex L. Dykes
by Alex L. Dykes

A Volvo sports car is like a porno star wearing a condom: it makes perfect sense, and none at all. And yet, for reasons lost in the notes of a Ford strategy session gone bad, the brand best known for passenger fortification has developed an ongoing need to engage in protected sex appeal. Currently, the 300 horse S60R and V70R are the lead characters in this oxymoronic endeavor. Snicker if you must, but Volvo has publicly proclaimed that their R’s are suitable competition to BMW’s unassailable M3. Them’s fighting words!

On the face of it, the V70R wants to make love, not war. Despite distinct visual clues to its adrenal agenda– a lowered stance, aggressive grill, rear spoiler, twin exhaust tips and “R” badges– the basic design embodies the same mellow two box gestalt that won the hearts and minds of generations of New England grad students. In that sense, the V70R is as good an example of respectful evolution as Porsche’s 911 S; it’s slightly aggressive, thoroughly modern and instantly recognizable.

A non-sporting V70’s cabin rivals Audi and Lexus’ caverns for materials’ quality, subdued interior design and ergonomic excellence. That said, there are a few notable exceptions: the V70’s plastic disaster door handles, its Rubbermaid instrument cluster top, the “pleather” infecting the doors and a ho-hum shifter and steering wheel. And now the good news: the R model banishes ALL of these beancounted banes of pistonhead pride and joy.

While full leather interiors in $50k cars are as rare as raven-haired, sauna-aversive Swedes, the V70R goes hog wild for cow hide. Everything that looks like leather is, including the dash, airbag cover, door trim and parking brake boot. The R’s sports steering wheel blends a thick rim with excellent two position grips and well placed controls. Equally reassuring, the V70R’s seats envelop you in supple yet supportive leather, caressing your frame with side bolstering worthy of the mighty M3.

The V70R is powered a 2.5-liter five cylinder transverse-mounted mill stumping-up the aforementioned 300hp. The KKK turbo blows good fortune upon the V70R driver; maximum torque arrives early (295 ft. lbs. @ 1950 rpm) and stays for a late night slice of Västerbotten (5250 rpm). In less technical terms, the V70R offers more mid-range overtaking power than you’ll ever need, exactly when you need it. And you can pin the Labradors to the rear window, blasting from zero to sixty in 5.6 seconds.

This little feat arrives courtesy of the V70R’s combination of Haldex all wheel-drive, a DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control) handling Nanny and Volvo’s all new semi-active suspension. The V70R's trick Four-C (Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept) computes the wagon's longitudinal and lateral acceleration, body yaw, chassis and wheels’ vertical motion, engine torque and throttle position, degree of braking, steering wheel position and turn rate, and insurance coverage.

Damping forces are adjusted 500 times a second according to your choice of settings: Comfort, Sport or, intimidating enough, Advanced. Unlike the vast majority of these doo-hickeys, the V70R’s Four-C system offers discernible differences in ride and handling. Comfort mode is suitably squidgy, Sport stifles body roll and Advanced removes both your fillings and the high speed pucker factor.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to connect the Four-C system to the V70R’s steering rack. The wagon’s power assisted rack and pinion steering remains resolutely untweaked; the tiller is as numb [albeit accurate] as the regular family hauler’s helm. Thankfully, the same cannot be said of the V70R’s slick shifting and perfectly matched six speed gearbox — although the third pedal’s decidedly binary action prevents it from being a clutch player.

Extensive autobahn testing indicates that the V70R’s claimed zero to 60mph time is accurate (providing it’s cold enough for the turbo). The stated 155mph top speed is both attainable and effortless. And there’s no question: the V70R in Advanced mode will give the significantly shorter Audi S4 Avant a decent run for the money through all but the bandiest bends.

Here’s news: in a seeming rejection of Volvo’s safety shtick, the driver can switch off the V70R’s stability control system. Once disabled, truly determined full throttle application (after initial turn in) yields a smidgen of understeer. Due to the AWD, any desire to initiate a lurid rear wheel-drive tail slide is destined to remain unfulfilled. The V70R’s enormous Brembo brakes will gladly put a stop to such thoughts, repeatedly, without fade or drama.

While the V70R power and poise are an amazing not to say ridiculous achievement, the company’s claim that the wagon is an M3 rival is proof positive that the marketing guys had too much lutefisk that day. Anyway, who cares? The M3 is at least $10K more expensive and can’t haul half as much butt as the Swedish Ford.

Alex L. Dykes
Alex L. Dykes

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  • Sandy Sandy on Jan 29, 2008

    I own a 2007 V70 R and love it. I like the sleeper factor it has. Nobody expects it to be as fast as it is. A friend of mine has a WRX and keep calling my car a grocery getter, but all I can say is bring it on!! With some recent upgrades I'm putting 349 HP to the wheels and 347 on torque. Not too bad for a grocery getter!

  • Bunk Moreland Bunk Moreland on May 25, 2010

    About a week ago I was driving by an imported car joint and spotted a silver 2005 S60R. six-speed. I parked my trusty Civic and went in for a closer look. the salesman eyed me and asked if I wanted to take it for a test-drive. He didn't know the car had Brembos, told me that the rust could be painted over, and thought the car had 400hp. When I informed him it was 100hp lighter than his guesstimate, he said, "Oh I got it confused with the M5 we've got over there." Yep, confusing an S60R with an M5 happens to just about... nobody. Regardless of the glaring ignorance, we took the turbo-charged S60 out for a spin. The car was slower than I expected. On the upside it felt sturdy as a tank. My Civic could handle far better than it, which surprised me. But then again, the Honda weighs about as much as a sandal, and it's pretty easy to make tight turns when you consider 80mph to be "pushing it." But I digress. The S60R is not on the level of anything else out there. It is a punchier Volvo, that's all. Fun? Nope. The sleeper factor is incredible. The only way I can tell is by the front end and larger wheels. A very good looking car. Very comfortable. I like it. But if you want AWD and a kick, get a WRX.

  • Cprescott I'm sure this won't matter to the millions of deceived Honduh owners who think the company that once prided itself on quality has somehow slipped in the real world. Same for Toyoduhs. Resting on our Laurel's - Oh, what a feeling!
  • Jrhurren I had this happen numerous times with my former Accord. It usually occurred when on a slow right curve in the road. Somehow the system would get confused and think the opposite lane (oncoming traffic) was an impending head-on collision.
  • Cprescott The Ford Shamaro is ugly, thick bodied, and a Mustang pretender.
  • Analoggrotto Speaking of mud, does anyone here enjoy naked mud wrestling?
  • Jkross22 Nope. Too expensive, too little wear. Besides, there are so many great all seasons that are great to use that last longer, the use case for summer tires has gotten smaller.