For those of us old enough to remember the '80s and '90s (that's most of us, right?), the 2014 Volvo XC70 is a time machine, a throwback to the days when Volvo wagons were the quintessential premium family vehicle. Doctors drove them on weekend trips, tenured professors nursed them along for decades and car-crazed kids always looked for the "Turbo" badge on the back. These days, of course, there are countless premium family vehicles, almost all of which are SUVs of some sort. But there was something special about Volvo wagons back in the day. Our roads aren't quite the same without them.
Happily, you can still buy a direct descendant of those lovable family haulers: the 2014 XC70. Notice that it's jacked up a bit, Subaru Outback-style, so it's not a wagon in the classic sense. But fundamentally, the XC70 is not a crossover SUV; rather, it's a V70 (Volvo's discontinued midsize wagon) on stilts, a modified station wagon that evokes 850s and 740s with its distinctive breadbox of a back end. We like that it has some of that old Volvo magic, even though we know that most people these days would rather have something else.
So should you buy an XC70, for old times' sake? We'd think twice about that, as both the fuel economy and handling dynamics -- perhaps the two biggest reasons to buy a wagon instead of an SUV -- are lackluster. Nonetheless, we'll forgive the XC70 for its imperfections. Under the circumstances, we're just glad it's here.
What's New for 2014?
The XC70 gets revised front- and rear-end styling, redesigned alloy wheels and upgraded equipment, including standard LED daytime running lights, an adaptive TFT instrument cluster (except in the base XC70 3.2) and quicker shifts for T6 models.
What We Like
Strong optional turbocharged engine; high-quality interior; serious cargo space
What We Don't
Mediocre base engine; subpar fuel economy; ponderous handling for a car
The XC70 3.2 models are powered by a 3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder engine rated at 240 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. With front-wheel drive, the XC70 3.2 receives Environmental Protection Agency ratings of 18 miles per gallon city/26 mpg hwy -- a disappointing performance. On the bright side, adding all-wheel drive yields a virtually identical 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy.
The XC70 T6 models feature a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder that pumps out 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard, and fuel economy checks in at 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy -- also disappointing, but the engine's strong acceleration helps make up for it.
All XC70s use a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Volvo XC70 is offered in four main trim levels: base, Premier, Premier Plus and Platinum.
Standard features on the base XC70 3.2 ($35,415) include front and rear skid plates for off-road protection, roof rails, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power driver's seat with lumbar adjustment and 3-position memory, a 7-inch infotainment display screen and an 8-speaker audio system with iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity.
The 3.2 Premier ($38,815) and the base XC70 T6 ($41,865) have roughly the same equipment except for what's under the hood, though the T6 also features 18-in alloy wheels and dual chrome exhaust tips. They add standard niceties such as a sunroof, keyless entry/ignition, an adaptive TFT driver-information display with three selectable themes, interior wood inlays, leather upholstery and a power passenger seat. Note that there is no XC70 T6 Premier model.
The 3.2 Premier Plus ($40,365) and T6 Premier Plus ($43,865) boast a power lift gate, front and rear parking sensors, a universal garage door opener and a rearview camera.
The 3.2 Platinum ($42,865) and T6 Platinum ($46,565) bring a 650-watt Dolby Pro Logic II surround-sound audio system and a navigation system.
Standalone options include a blind spot monitoring system with power-folding mirrors, 18-in alloy wheels (3.2 models only) and dual integrated rear child booster seats.
There are also two available packages. The Climate package adds heated windshield-washer nozzles, heated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated windshield, a unique 3-spoke heated leather steering wheel and what Volvo calls an Interior Air Quality System. The Technology package tacks on adaptive cruise control, a collision-mitigation system with automatic braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection (also with automatic braking), a driver drowsiness monitor, a lane-departure warning system and automatic high beams.
Behind XC70's 40/20/40 split rear seat back is 33.3 cu ft of cargo space, while folding that seat back down opens up a healthy 72.1 cu ft.
The 2014 XC70 features standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, six airbags and a number of optional safety technologies (mostly via the Technology package discussed above).
Neither the government nor the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the XC70 in recent years.
Behind the Wheel
The XC70's front seats are, like most Volvo thrones, exceptionally comfortable and supportive. One road trip in an XC70 and you'll be a believer, too. We generally like the XC70's dashboard, as well, from its high-quality materials to its sleek "floating" center panel and familiar Volvo typeface.
To accommodate the belatedly added 7-in infotainment screen, however, Volvo installed a central "hump" on the dashboard like the one in some older BMWs. The hump looks like an afterthought rather than a well-integrated design, but the display does increase the XC70's technological appeal, so there's an upside. Bolstering the XC70's high-tech credentials for 2014 is the new digital TFT instrument display with its driver-selectable Elegance, Eco and Performance themes.
The XC70's back seat is adequate, providing adult-friendly room in all dimensions. The rear bench is lower than a typical crossover SUV's bench, however, so lanky rear passengers may find the thigh support lacking. Like the XC60 crossover, the XC70 offers optional 2-stage child booster seats in the rear outboard positions, though they can't be ordered with the heated rear seats. Behind XC70's handy 40/20/40 split rear seat back is 33.3 cu ft of cargo space, while folding that seat back down opens up 72.1 cu ft -- slightly more on both counts than the XC60 offers.
Under the hood, we're not high on the base 3.2-liter engine, as it doesn't sound particularly refined and feels sluggish during acceleration. A much better option is provided by the XC70 T6, which moves out like a muscle wagon with its twin-turbocharged torque.
On the road, the XC70 rides high for a car, but it still feels more planted and maneuverable than a typical crossover SUV. The operative word there is "feels," however, as the XC70 is deceptively non-athletic. We haven't driven them back-to-back, but we suspect Volvo's sprightly XC60 crossover would win a handling competition. At least the XC70 is quiet and smooth at speed, and it's genuinely useful in light-duty off-road applications -- think rutted dirt roads and the like.
Other Cars to Consider
Acura TSX Sport Wagon -- It only comes with the soft 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder, but the TSX Sport Wagon is perhaps the most affordable luxury wagon on the market and a viable XC70 alternative if you know you won't be venturing off the pavement.
Subaru Outback -- The Outback has become so large with its latest redesign that it feels more like a crossover than a tall wagon like the XC70. It can save you a lot of money, though, and it does just as well off-road, though doesn't have the rich Volvo wagon heritage.
Volkswagen Jetta TDI SportWagen -- Worthy of consideration if you don't need off-road capability, Volkswagen's Jetta TDI SportWagen is based on the premium last-generation, pre-cost-cutting Jetta. It is by no means a luxury car, but the turbodiesel engine gets astounding fuel economy while performing roughly as well as the XC70's base 3.2.
The XC70 is a nice car, but it needs the twin-turbo engine to be at its best.