2001 Volvo V70
This 2001 review is representative of model years 2001 to 2007.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
With zippy power from turbocharged engines, fine road manners and Volvo safety features, Volvo's biggest station wagons are a surprisingly pleasant alternative to boxy, mainstream minivans.
Remember when station wagons were considered passé? To some American car shoppers, who will only consider a minivan as an acceptable family hauler, they still are.
Open-minded shoppers, however, cast a wider net, and if they can afford a vehicle with a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price over $32,000, they might want to make sure their shopping "net" of potential new vehicles includes Volvo's V70 wagons.
Simply, these wagons—all with turbocharged engines—give driving enthusiasts a sportier alternative to the more mainstream minivan choices.
Heck, the uplevel V70 T5 model has more horsepower than a Honda Odyssey, and a standard sport-tuned suspension that nearly makes a Ford Windstar seem unwieldy. It also comes standard with—get this—a 5-speed manual transmission.
He noted the V70 wagons are built on the platform of Volvo's large sedan, the S80. But he insisted the V70 isn't just a sedan turned into a wagon.
"It's an entirely new vehicle," Lundin said. "Starting from scratch meant we could optimize size, roominess and versatility . . . We (also) wanted it to be as comfortable and dynamic as the best sedans, offering driving characteristics just as good, maybe even better."
Spirit for a driving enthusiast
Later, needing to make a quick getaway from a stop sign, I squealed the front-wheel-drive V70's front tires when I slammed down the accelerator. This is a station wagon? I wondered.
Adding to the surprise was the fact that power comes from a 2.3-liter, high-pressure turbocharged engine that doesn't bother riders with any telltale, noisy air rushes. This 5-cylinder engine just gets down to work, efficiently providing 242 horses at 5200 rpm and 243 lb-ft of torque as early as 2400 rpm.
This compares with a maximum 210 horses in the V6-powered Odyssey. It also tops the performance of the most powerful Volkswagen Passat station wagon—the 190-horsepower 2.8-liter V6 GLX. Saab's 9-5 Aero Wagon offers 230 horses and as much as 258 lb-ft of torque from its 2.3-liter, high-output turbocharged 4-cylinder.
Even with the performance quotient, though, the new V70 T5 offers decent fuel economy of 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. The Passat wagon with V6 is rated at 18 mpg in the city.
And the V70's 21.1-gallon gas tank is bigger than those in the Passat and 9-5 wagons, so drivers don't have to stop and fill up as often as they might in the other cars.
Even the lower-level V70 engine—a 2.4-liter, light-pressure turbocharged 5-cylinder producing 197 horses—is competitive. Its torque rating is 210 lb-ft.
Easy to maneuver
Volvo noted torsional rigidity was increased by 65 percent for the 2001 models compared with the previous V70 wagons.
What I noticed was how the V70 T5 stayed in control during evasive maneuvers and seemed poised for the next surprise move.
All V70s have a strut suspension up front and a multi-link design in back. The V70 T5 comes standard with a sport-tuned suspension.
Long safety list
Every rider has full, 3-point shoulder belts in these wagons. To help keep seat belts from tangling when the V70 cargo area is expanded by lowering the rear seatbacks, attachments points for the rear shoulder belts are all integrated into the seat.
And, in a novel promotion, Volvo is offering one free child booster seat to every person who buys a new 2001 V70 in the United States during calendar 2000. Volvo estimates some 20,000 V70 sales in the period. The booster seat, designed for children weighing 33 pounds to 80 pounds, retails for just over $68.
In addition, anti-lock brakes are standard on the V70, and they include electronic brake distribution, which helps activate full braking faster in a sudden stop.
More traditional driver position
The V70 seats are all Volvo—comfortable, supportive and accommodating—and terrific during long trips. The test car had optional leather.
Because of the open back cargo area, station wagons can be noisier than sedans. Volvo recognized this and installed a special "silencer" in the air outlet at the back of the V70s. Air must travel through a labyrinth that includes several noise absorbers.
So, bumper protrusion on the V70s is minimized. But to keep repair costs low, Volvo engineers suspend the car radiator in elastic elements so it can spring backward without damage in a minor fender bender.
Some thoughtful touches
A grocery bag holder is offered for the cargo area, and a ready trash bag holder not only is built in at the back of the front center console, it's designed to hold the trash bag open for easy use.
"We know features like these aren't going to bring some kind of automotive revolution," Lundin said. "But . . . they're useful, thoughtful—they're uniquely Volvo. It's our way of connecting with the everyday life of our customers."
Overall, the new V70 cars are a bit roomier than the previous models, offering a maximum 71.4 cubic feet of cargo area if the back seats are folded down.
But Saab's 9-5 wagon, which is nearly four inches longer in overall length, has a maximum 73 cubic feet of cargo room, and minivans such as the Windstar offer substantial more cargo room—more than 130 cubic feet.
Exterior styling is updated
Walking up to a 2001 V70, riders are sure to take note of the prominent, side shoulders in the sheet metal, too.