Volvo XC70 Performance
The 2008 Volvo XC70's new six-cylinder engine is only adequate when called on to propel the 400 plus pounds that the XC70 has gained since the 2007 model. But the big news is the XC70s off-road capabilities, which transform it into a kind of SUV lite. "Volvo calls the new XC70 a 'family adventure vehicle'," says The Auto Channel, "and it fits that description well."
Acceleration and Power
Volvo only offers one choice of engine for the 2008 XC70, a 3.2-liter in-line six cylinder that generates 235 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. Although it's an improvement over the previous engine, it still could be better. "It's a nice engine," says Edmunds, "but we can think of other straight-sixes with not only more power but also more personality." The Car Connection says the engine is "smooth, but it's not butter-smooth. There's a faint vibration at lower speeds and a throaty resonance at the top of its range." A major problem is the new XC70's added weight. "At 4,200 pounds, the XC70 is no scorcher in the acceleration department," says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. But they add that "there's adequate power for hauling passengers and cargo, as well as for the occasional off-road jaunt."
The Environmental Protection Agency rates this engine at 15 miles per gallon in the city and 22 miles per gallon for highway driving. Although some note this is better than a typical SUV's mileage, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel feels the XC70's "fuel economy is nothing to brag about."
The new automatic transmission with Geartronic manual mode is decent. "The six-speed transmission shifts well on highways," says The Car Connection, "and in manual-selection mode, answers the call for power with a brisk gear change." The Auto Channel adds, "The competent 6-speed automatic transmission with manual mode makes up for the lack of grunt nicely."
Handling and Braking
The XC70's comfort-oriented handling is well received. While the XC70 will never be mistaken for a sports car, it combines good on-road handling with light off-road capabilities best used on unpaved back roads. "It is by no stretch of the imagination a rally car," says The Auto Channel, "but it can quite happily and safely be driven briskly in the twisties, and can deal well with poorly-paved and improved unpaved surfaces thanks to its clearance and standard all-wheel drive system." They add that the XC70 offers drivers better handling than a comparable SUV: "Despite over eight inches of ground clearance, that and the XC70's low height and 4092-pound curb weight mean much better handling than is available from a higher, heavier SUV." The Car Connection feels that the XC70's off-road ability "hasn't changed its light, deft touch."
The XC70's suspension is tuned for a comfortable, not taut, ride. "Road feel is filtered out in all settings," says Motor Trend, "Being too soft for the handling course is okay for this sort of car, but it doesn't reward with a supple ride." Edmunds agrees: "Even with the adjustable Euro dampers turned up to their most aggressive setting, the ride is rubbery rather than harsh." However, The Auto Channel says, "This suspension is tuned beautifully to feel competent on the smooth roads and the rough ones as well."
Volvo has given the XC70 an adjustable steering system so that drivers can set the feel to suit their driving styles. Nonetheless, reviewers can't find a steering setting they like. "Steering effort, of all things, also can be adjusted by the driver," notes Edmunds, "though it's still too light for us even in its heaviest setting. An ongoing dialogue between the steering and the driver's fingertips does not appear to have been a priority here." Motor Trend adds, "The variable-effort power steering is adjustable in three settings: ridiculously light, too light, and almost right." But The Auto Channel says, "Steering feedback was excellent." The XC70 comes standard with four-wheel antilock brakes. The Auto Channel says that "the brakes felt firm and in control with no grabbing or unpredictability."
The real news story of the XC70 is its considerably improved off-road driving capabilities -- but this is not a vehicle that can ford streams and crawl over boulders. Instead, the XC70 is designed for a smooth, safe ride on rough pavement and dirt roads. The Auto Channel says the XC70 is "particularly adept on these rough back roads," and Edmunds says it has "enough all-terrain capability to get to a ski resort or your summer cabin."
One key to the XC70's off-road abilities is its electronic Hill Descent Control, which limits speeds when it detects that the vehicle is going down a steep slope. "When you're slowly bumping along on a steep downhill off-road grade," says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "the hill descent control automatically and selectively applies the brakes to maintain control and ease your passage. Like others of its type, it works with uncanny ease and imparts a feeling of control and comfort in rugged environments." Another secret is its standard all-wheel drive, which The Auto Channel says was "much appreciated during the scoot along mountain roads that sometimes edged close to dropoffs."
For more serious off-roading, the XC70's abilities are limited. While tackling a course set up by Volvo, Motor Trend noted that the "suspension never bottomed out, but it did hit the top of its travel rather harshly several times ... The harshest bumps elicit a clompity-clomp racket that smacks of excess unsprung weight-or perhaps is the car's way of saying 'slow down.'"