By on December 12, 2008

Saab’s 9-3 Turbo X SportCombi doesn’t live up to the make’s potential. So, what’s someone seeking a Swede that can haul (cargo as well as ass) to do? Well, Volvo also offers a wagon powered by a turbo six. Any enthusiast would prefer a turbocharged V70 to a turbocharged XC70, the latter essentially a V70 with high ride height, less grippy treads and SUVish exterior styling. But, thanks to lack of enthusiast love for the last R, the V70 isn’t available with a turbo in the U.S. So if you want power in a midsize Volvo wagon, it’ll have to be the XC70.

Stylistically, the 2001-2007 XC70 was a poorly proportioned patchwork, especially when light-colored paint was paired with dark fascias. On some cars, the base model has cheap-looking unpainted bumpers. In the old XC70’s case that look cost extra. The new XC70 looks much better— the SUV cues integrate with the brawnier new design. Even with light paint, the dark cladding no longer appears tacked-on. Instead, the various bits now flow cleanly from end to end. Best of all, the silly rearmost side window-shrinking inserts are gone. Aside from plus-one rims, the turbocharged T6 looks just like the regular XC70— a clue to the point of the extra horses.

The current Volvo V70/XC70 is essentially the S80 in wagon form. In a $56k flagship sedan, the mostly shared interior doesn’t impress. In a $46k wagon, it does. Materials look and feel first rate. The combination of heavily grained off-black soft leather, matte-finished dark wood and real chrome accents oozes tastefully restrained Scandinavian style. Comparisons to the Saab 9-3 also play heavily in the Volvo’s favor.

Traditionally, the primary reason people buy Volvos has been safety. The second reason: seat comfort. Or at least it ought to be. The XC70’s front seats are among autodom’s most comfortable chairs. Lateral support is also good, considering this car’s mission. The rear seat is merely adequate in terms of both room and comfort, but still considerably better than in the Saab 9-3.

In previous generations a rear-facing third row, good for occasional child use, was available. Volvo has decided that anyone who needs to carry more than five people should get the full SUV treatment offered in the XC90. So no more third row in the wagons. Thanks to an unapologetically wagonish rear roofline, the XC70’s cargo area ranks as the most voluminous among today’s shrunken population of U.S.-market wagons. The cargo area carpeting looks and feels so nice that you’ll want to put it into protective custody beneath the optional accessory load liner.

When it moved from the old S60 platform to the new S80 platform last year, the XC70 picked up a few hundred pounds of curb weight, for a total over two tons. As a result, the new 235-horsepower 3.2-liter inline six wasn’t up to the task, even when hitched to a six-speed automatic. Enter the turbo, which bumps output to 281 horsepower even with a reduction in displacement. That’s not a lot of power for a 3.0-liter turbo; this is clearly a low-pressure design optimized for driveability rather than full-throttle performance.

And so it plays out on the road. The XC70 T6 doesn’t feel quick the way the top Saab does, but it feels considerably stronger than the 3.2. With the boost, acceleration in regular driving feels appropriately effortless. A Haldex all-wheel-drive system that preloads the rears means no embarrassing tire squeal (even if you floor the throttle mid-turn) and no torque steer.

Chassis tuning is much the same. You won’t want to seek out a curvy road. But when pushed, the XC70 behaves better than a wagon-on-stilts on SUV-wannabe treads has a right to. We’re torquing limited amounts of roll and plow, very good composure and a workable amount of grip. The all-wheel-drive system lacks enthusiast-friendly tricks, but helps balance the chassis. And the extra power provided by the turbo reduces perceived bulk on the road (the base XC70 can feel ungainly). Sadly, numb steering remains embedded in Volvo’s DNA. Aside from the occasional unexpected jolt, the car rides smoothly and quietly.

By avoiding a sportwagon mission and the expectations that follow, Volvo has crafted a more satisfying wagon than Saab. Though not fun to drive, the XC70 T6 is exceedingly pleasant to drive, thanks to the butt-and-back-cosseting front seats, premium interior and smooth, quiet ride. The regular XC70 falls short on oomph even for the mainstream market; the turbo fixes this. So, if exceedingly pleasant is what you’re looking for, and the $40k+ price looks good compared to the German competition, then Volvo has a wagon for you. If, on the other hand, you’ve been waiting for a better R, you’ll be waiting for a very long time.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!


36 Comments on “Review: 2009 Volvo XC70 T6 Review...”

  • avatar

    Excellent review Mr. Karesh

    I like the comparison to the SAAB.

    Item of note, wasn’t 2006 the last year you could put a third row in one of these?

    Thank you.

  • avatar

    Either 2006 or 2007. The seat might have been a dealer-installed accessory when it was available.

    Results in TrueDelta’s Vehicle Reliability Survey have been unclear, with average repair rates in some years and high repair rates in others. We need more participating S60, V70, and XC70 owners to provide a precise result in this case.

  • avatar

    Ah, but you can get the 9-3 in a 6-speed manual, and you have the option of getting a more fuel efficient 2.0 liter turbo four. Seems like in the US the only new Volvo you can get with a manual is the c30.

    I sat in both the Saab and Volvo recently at the New England auto show. I was actually sort of surprised at how disappointed I was with the XC70’s interior. I actually thought the v50 had a better interior.

  • avatar

    Hmmm… A good car, but it’s got a lot of obstacles in front of it.

    One, why would you buy this over a regular V70? I mean, other than Volvo having handicapped the V70. A shame that they’re playing the “sell them a crossover at increased margin” that’s playing out so very, very well for other makes. So now we have an expensive crossover and an unappealing wagon that don’t sell, instead of a single model that does.

    Another problem is that you get the same platform for more than ten grand less in the Ford Taurus X or Flex. More space, same safety, about the same fuel economy, no “European Dealership Service Department Experience” and higher statistical reliability. And then there’s cars like the Legacy Outback on the low and the A4 Avant on the high. It seems like you really have to want the Volvo.

    The comparison with the 9-3 is an interesting one. The 9-3 is tiny, especially in the rear, and the trunk’s load floor is very high, cutting into available space dramatically. It handles well enough, but otherwise it’s not a very practical car. If I thought the XC70 had problems, the 9-3 is in a world of hurt, in market terms. Sized like the V50, priced like the V70 and hamstrung by GM’s best efforts to discourage people from buying Saabs.

  • avatar

    Most lamentable about the R models demise is that they took the best seats even Volvo has made with them. They have more lateral support than the regular models, even in back.

  • avatar

    Results in TrueDelta’s Vehicle Reliability Survey have been unclear, with average repair rates in some years and high repair rates in others.

    The somewhat-anecdotal evidence I have is that these, like most Europeans, are structurally stout but suffer from the usual electrical gremlins and over-engineered mechanicals. Again, since you can get a similar car with a much lower TCO in the Ford Taurus X, why go Swede?

    I mean, the seats are good, but they’re not that good.

  • avatar

    The 2004-2007 V70R is probably the most fun you can have in a station wagon. It could have been a much better seller if Volvo had just priced it right. Instead they put a hefty premium on it, required buyers to choose from special (ugly) paint and interior combos, and then dealers ordered them mostly with automatic transmissions (the 6-speed is quite nice).

    So, if you’re looking to buy a Swedish wagon the question isn’t why you would buy a Volvo instead of a Saab. The question is why you would buy a new one instead of a used one.

  • avatar

    Does the XC70 still have more cargo space than the XC90?

  • avatar

    You are dead-on about the excellent Volvo seats. They are way better than anything the Germans have. And I think Ford may have learned a thing or two because the newer Fords all have excellent Volvo-like seats.

  • avatar

    That’s why I chose the red. Their expensive special metallic light green was seriously ugly; late production had a dark metallic blue that was nice, but never the original show car’s bright blue metallic. Must have been too much like the WRX. I found the manual shift to be a bit vague and drive enough in traffic to appreciate having the computers shift for me. As I have said, “S60R — the WRX for grownups!”

  • avatar

    I’m one of those wagon geeks, so this was a fun read for me.

    I really like the styling on the XC70 – as mentioned, it’s much more cohesive than it’s predecessor even if it is trying to mock an SUV. Truth be told, the V70 ain’t bad looking either, but it smacks of bland where the XC has attitude. Props to Volvo though, for not being afraid to make a wagon look like a wagon. The minute you try to shove anything larger than a grocery bag in the back – you will thank them gratuitously.

    However I imagine that the Volvo suffers the same dichotomy as Subaru. I own an ’05 Outback XT with the 250hp turbo 4. It looks better than the Legacy wagon IMHO in the same vain that the XC looks better than the V70 (meaning the Leggy is still a decent looking car). My XT goes like snot (bonus for Subaru offering a man-u-row gearbox), but unfortunately expounds the disadvantage of ride height – it goes fast, but doesn’t dance. So the smart enthusiast choice lies in the slammed versions. Thus, I’m left a conflicted owner when I’m not stoplight racing.

    That said, I’m one of those 6 people in the US who would salivate over a new V70R… which is exactly why we’ll never see it here again.

    But GAWD… $46K? What a buzzkill. Volvo’s seats are mighty damn comfy (indeed, the standard of the industry IMHO), but not worth that much.

  • avatar

    I find it weird that there’s so much black plastic cladding on the bottoms but the roof rack doesn’t have standard cross-bars for actually holding stuff without scratching the paint. Seems like it’s mostly a lifestyle statement than an actual adventure vehicle.

    I wonder why they didn’t decide to put the 4.4 in here? They wouldn’t even need the XC90!

  • avatar

    Nice review, and a good choice of words.
    Regarding the seat comfort. I tested the driver seats of many models of different makers for proper back support, especially the lumbar support. I tested Volvos, as well. I found the seats OK, but nothing extraordinary. (Oh, yeah, I should mention – 6’2 and 187 pounds.) The most comfortable seat was the sport seat in BMWs, then the leather chair in the top Accord, and then…surprise…the seat in the new Honda Fit. I was completely amazed.
    It is my experience that a comfortable seat is one of the most important aspects of a car, especially with the huge distances in NA.
    98% of the time we get on a highway, reach a cruising speed and that’s it. Whether there is a sport suspension or a zillion-HP engine makes little difference; but when I drive hundreds of km a day, or even sit over an hour in a traffic jam, my butt and back need a proper support. Anyone wants to join and form a Car Seat Back And Ass-ociation?

  • avatar

    romanjetfighter : I wonder why they didn’t decide to put the 4.4 in here? They wouldn’t even need the XC90!

    How awesome would a V8 sleeper wagon be? Oh wait, shame on me – V8s are for terrible earth-killing death mongers.

  • avatar

    I have a 2005 with the turbo inline-5. A great vehicle, though one year earlier and it wouldn’t be real wood inserts. I wonder how different the 09 is.

  • avatar

    ” psarhjinian : Another problem is that you get the same platform for more than ten grand less in the Ford Taurus X or Flex.”

    I believe Ford uses the previous generation Volvo chassis for the Taurus X and Flex.

    Maybe the Chinese can do something about the pricing since Ford missed the opportunity to build them here in the U.S.

  • avatar

    Volvo seats are good, but they aren’t spectacular, or hugely better than the Germans. I prefer the seats in my A6 to any Volvo. Some BMW seats are good, some (X3) are horrible. Japanese seats are almost universally terrible, good for maybe 2hrs max before the backaches set in. On the other hand I can drive the A6 all day.

  • avatar

    I really, really want to like Volvo wagons, but I really, really cant. Volvo has totally lost its way — what does it stand for, other than safety (which most car makers can now match?)

    The new XC70s They aren’t sprightly, have modest at best rear seat room (an apocalypse in the making if your spawn is north of toddlerdom) and don’t really get that great mileage. The T6 is rated 22 mpg highway which is truck-like.

    Volvo really needs to decide what it wants to be.

  • avatar

    Michael – I’m a little surprised you like the XC70 so well compared to your review of the V70. But I guess the engine has swayed you. The previous gen XC70 also had slightly tighter steering feel than the V, which may also be true in this generation.

    As to the XC vs other choices:
    My wife drives an ’07 XC70. The reasons to prefer it over a V70 are limited, but here are a few — slightly higher ground clearance that helps in the hilly area we are in; most of the ATMs and similar drive thrus are set pretty high and the few inches help; better turning radius. You also get about 70% of the benefit of an elevated ride height compared to an SUV with few of the negatives in terms of ride comfort and control.

    In general, the V70/XC70 have great all-round visibility. These cars tend to be ones you appreciate more the longer you drive them.

    Why an XC70 compared to the Flex and such? Well, the Flex is A LOT bigger. Our XC70 is just about perfect — plenty big on the inside, not too big on the outside. A darn good around town and distance vehicle.

  • avatar

    So, how many stars you giving it? 4?

  • avatar

    The question is why you would buy a new one instead of a used one.


    On a European car, if it’s not new or CPO and you’re not good at wrenching, you’re taking an awful risk. Granted Volvo is better than Saab, but we’re talking degrees, here.

  • avatar

    I thought the old V70 XC was a cool car – this is just trying to be a crossover bimbo box.

    Blame it on the added weight and dumbed down styling.

  • avatar

    # jgh :
    December 12th, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    “How awesome would a V8 sleeper wagon be? Oh wait, shame on me – V8s are for terrible earth-killing death mongers.”

    Do you think there´s a market for another thirsty Volvo?
    Not over here.

  • avatar

    New vs used? Go with the Certified Pre-owned — 6 yr / 100k bumper-to-bumper warranty.

    For day in/day out driving, Volvo seats are the best – just the right level of support and comfort. I tend to find the german seating a bit too stiff. Besides, Volvo has been a leader in whiplash protection with their WHIPS system.

  • avatar

    In the old XC70’s case that look cost extra.

    “costs extra”

  • avatar

    I feel it is a shame what this wagon has become. I have always lusted after an old model V70 but could never afford one new and never wanted to take the risk of a used one (fellow wagon geek). The seats on that baby were great. But this one puzzles me. Aside from the price and never used cladding, it is too big. And the fuel economy is now downright criminal. The old 2.4 could get close to 30 on the highway and this thing gets the same mileage as an Escalade? WTF?

  • avatar

    As a current Volvo lessee, I would consider a V8 XC70. I bet the V8 would be nice in this application. I love my V8 XC90 Sport, probably the nicest car I’ve owned. Actually, what I would really like (Volvo, are you listening?) is an AWD V70 T6, something we can’t have here in the US. I’ve read on some Volvo forums that the V8 is going away for the 2010 model year. I think it’s a bad move as you need a V8 in the lux/near lux segment (hello, Acura).

    Maybe I’ll look at the XC60 when it’s released.

  • avatar

    So why do you buy one of these rather than an excellent $34k optioned out Outback 6-cyl, or for that matter the excellent and equally priced Lexus RX? For $46k in this segment Volvo needs to bring it’s corporate A game.

  • avatar

    amcado: past tense, so “cost.”

    XC70 vs. V70: I’d rather have a V70 T6, but none is offered. These cars are too heavy for the non-turbo six.

    XC70 vs. Ford: IMHO, the interior is much nicer in the Volvos, and they feel like premium cars in a way Fords don’t.

    XC70 4.4: the V8 is horrendously expensive. So Volvo will avoid offering it. Instead, they’ll push the T6.

  • avatar

    We have last year’s version (2008) in the base engine, and while it is a touch anemic, we didn’t buy the xc70 for sportiness. I can think of only a handful of times where I wished we had more power available. Seems kind of strange to purchase a Volvo wagon, and then question its power and handling. One buys a Volvo wagon for safety, space, and better fuel economy than a SUV. Any sporting pretensions, absent the much misunderstood R version, should be left outside the Volvo dealer’s lot.

    Long-Term Report

    We’ve had the car for one-year and 15,000 miles. We have had a few issues with trim pieces. All have been fixed, and sadly seem to be typical of first-year cars. We have not had any serious mechanical issues . . . yet. On a trip through New England last summer we averaged 23.8 mpg. Which is not that bad considering we had a full car, a roof box, and had the air conditioning running non-stop. A few traffic jams in Boston and Portsmouth, New Hampshire (seriously) brought down the average.

    The xc70 is what it is. A comfortable family wagon that excels in foul weather. It has performed marvelously in the snow. And finally, the seats are exceptional


    Before we bought this car, we tested a number of others.

    The Subaru Outback is typically mentioned as a the closest competitor, but it is significantly smaller. Our Goldens could not fit in the back, and the rear seat was borderline mean. The Subaru definitely handled better, and the XT was fun. It should be noted that we took the Subaru on a two-hour test drive, and the seats left my back sore when I climbed out of the car. If we needed an around the town car, I would seriously consider the Subaru. Interior does not compare to the Volvo

    The Ford Taurus X is also a worthy comparison, but the dealership experience was horrendous. The interior was not the same, although, the ride quality seemed on par. I might consider the Taurus X, but it is a step-down.

    I always loved the Audi A4, but have yet to meet anyone that has had decent reliability, and friends have told me that it generally takes three trips to the dealer to resolve any problem: first trip to diagnose the problem, second trip a few weeks later after the dealer has ordered the part, and a third trip a few months later when the correct part arrives.

    The BMW 5 series is a noticeable step above the xc70, and if I had a money tree in the backyard I would consider it. Similarly equipped 5 series wagons cost an additional $10 – $15k.

    Final note, we have an older v70 which ties my old Honda Civic for reliability (knock on wood). We had a Honda Accord, which had a number of issues, including the requisite transmission failure at 100k miles as discussed elsewhere at TTAC). I would never recommend the Accord, or any Honda/Acura automatic.

  • avatar


    These cars tend to be ones you appreciate more the longer you drive them.

    That about sums it up and that’s exactly why I drive a Volvo over a Ford or Subaru.

  • avatar

    Not really comparable to the 9-3. More similar in size and price to the 9-5 (although the 9-5 does not offer an AWD option).

    V50 = 9-3
    V70 = 9-5

  • avatar

    I have the S60 with Volvo’s low-pressure turbo, and it’s really a remarkable piece of engineering. There’s no turbo lag at all, the power is ample and on-demand, and the fuel mileage isn’t harmed much at all by the addition of the turbo. I’m very pleased to read that Volvo has taken the same approach with their T6.

    Everything I’ve read about the new XC70 is that the T6 is the only way to go for motivation. The wife will be up for a new car in a year or two and I’m hoping to put her in one of these.

  • avatar

    psarhjinian :
    Why would you buy this over a regular V70? I mean, other than Volvo having handicapped the V70.

    Exactly. It’s really too bad a V70 T6 isn’t available, nor a V70 AWD (anymore). I’ve always preferred the look of the V70 over the XC70 as well as its lower ground clearance. I wanted to get a V70 AWD in 2006, but my wife is about a foot shorter than I am, and liked the height of the XC70, so that’s what we bought.

    I’m still not sold on the look of the new V70/XC70. The rear is way too fussy for me: too many different angles and creases. Reminds me of the side of a Z4.

  • avatar

    As an Audi Allroad owner, I wish Audi would still sell the Ar instead of the stupid Q7. When compared head to head the Ar always spanked the XC70.

    See my blinged out AR here:

  • avatar

    hello all you volvo fans and not so fans! im looking for information on a 2001 volvo xc70.

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • schmitt trigger: Interesting that you mention galvanizing on bridges. Some time ago, walking the Brooklyn bridge, I...
  • JohnTaurus: I worry about it simply because “1990s GM Quality (or lack there of)”. My 1995 Blazer and...
  • Corey Lewis: The paint and special assembly won’t make it feel any more special to drive, and that’s the...
  • JohnTaurus: You like the car? But $5 gas will be here any day. Shouldn’t he have bought a Prius C? Oh,...
  • SCE to AUX: This takes salesman pressure to another level.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote


  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States