2008 Volvo V70 Review

Alex L. Dykes
by Alex L. Dykes

Volvo is finally coming to grips with the fact that the brand doesn’t stretch much beyond wagons. Reflecting this new/old reality, rumors abound that Volvo’s about to axe their range-topping S80 sedan in favor of an upmarket V100 wagon. Add in a recent Consumer Reports’ study showing that American consumers still rate Volvo number one for safety, and you begin to understand the importance of the new V70 wagon. As wagons are what keeps Volvo’s ost on their smorgasbord, “getting it right” was essential. So, did they?

In the last 10 years, Volvo has gone from Ugly Betty to Swedish beauty. Since 1998, every Volvo model has been bred from the same DNA: restrained styling, sexy hips and hood creases culminating in a grill with the classic Volvo sash. Thankfully, the new V70 has all the requisite shapes, excepting the sloping rear windscreen.

Despite the looks, the V70 is all-new. The hauler is now based on the flagship S80 sedan instead of the mid-sized S60. The larger overall car is also equipped with considerably better interior bits. While the cheaper Volvos’ interiors look like IKEA specials, there’s nothing cheap about the new V70’s interior.

Our Euro-spec tester was swathed in matte finish wood trim and light grey “Sovereign hide” leather, which rivals the luxury feel of [former] PAG mates Jaguar and Aston Martin’s bovine wrappers. Sadly, North American buyers can’t get premium cow, and someone in Sweden figured ventilated seats were more important in the Arctic Circle than the tropical American south. Anyway, all the V70’s seats are supportive and comfortable for long trips.

The wagon’s glove-friendly knobs and switches are placed in the usual logical locations. The now ubiquitous floating centre stack is along for the ride. While the cute cubby behind it will accommodate a few very small oddly sized nick-knacks, out of sight also means out of mind. Speaking of mindless, the V70 gets the new for 2008 keyless start system. As the alternative is the oddly located fob-slot in the dash– which makes your keys bang against the dashboard at gauge level– it’s $500 well spent.

Regardless of continent, all buyers get Volvo’s new two-stage child booster seats with redesigned curtain airbags. After thorough testing with two kids in the proper weight bracket (33-80 lbs), I can certify that the new feature protects adult sanity when struggling to get multiple progeny onboard.

At the back end, Volvo continues to put hauling stuff at the top of their design priority list. Inside the power operated tailgate lie enough organizing options to keep Detective Monk busy for hours (if not an eternity). There are grocery bag holders, cargo dividers, rails with load hooks, nets, straps and locking compartments. The 40/20/40 split rear seats fold flat easily. As with all Volvos, the front passenger seat also bows down to the gods of goods; loading a 10ft ladder or a full-size grandfather’s clock is a breeze.

Volvo’s silky smooth 3.0-liter six-cylinder T6 turbo engine purred under the hood of our Euro-tester. The mill cranks out 285hp and 295 ft.-lbs. of torque. It’s mated to a six- speed slushbox and Haldex AWD (all wheel-drive) system. The V70’s 6.7 second zero to sixty sprint time feels quicker in person, due to the plateau-like torque curve, despite its decidedly porky 4100 pound curb weight.

The V70 AWD system’s “instant traction” feature assures zero torque steer for European buyers. Yes, yet again American shoppers get shafted: both the T6 engine and AWD system are Euro only options. On this side of the pond you must satisfy yourself with the 235hp 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine, endure torque steer and grow old as you attempt to reach 60 from a standstill (7.8 seconds).

Out on twisty roads, the V70 feels almost nimble. The car’s front heavy nature is abundantly evident through the corners, but the cornering limit is surprisingly high. Equally important, steering feel is excellent. And when things do break loose the electronic nannies rein you back to a safer angle of attack. The Euro-only active suspension proves a faithful companion, eliminating any signs of wallow, tip or dive. It affords GTI-stiff dampeners at the corners for that race from the daycare to work.

While the V70 isn’t as dynamically satisfying as a BMW 5-series wagon or as luxurious as a Mercedes E-Class estate, the V70 is nevertheless an excellent competitor in this niche market… If you live in Europe. In fact, this is the perfect example of sending the wrong models to the wrong places. The 20.3 T6 model is too thirsty for Europe. But as a base engine in North America? Perfect. And while we’re at it, where’s OUR luxe leather, AWD and active suspension?

Until Volvo gets their product placement strategy is corrected, they’ll remain a niche player, good wagon or not.

Alex L. Dykes
Alex L. Dykes

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  • Pb35 Pb35 on Jan 17, 2008

    I want my premium cow and I want it NOW! I hope Volvo gets their lineup in order by 2010 when my XC90 lease expires. I would love one of these. Nice review, Alex.

  • Petergottlieb Petergottlieb on Feb 06, 2009

    I just bought a U.S. Spec 2008 V70. At low RPMs, it can feel sluggish, but step on the gas like you mean it and it accelerates like it means it. My attraction to the car was that it could fulfill several missions very well: 1. Haul kids 2. Haul outdoor activity stuff (canoe, etc.) 3. Provide comfort on long highway trips 4. Not be a minivan or SUV. So far, so good.

  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.