Apache was a beautiful route that proved to be a diverse test of the XC70 and its off-road prowess. We began the first drive day with a briefing on the car and where Volvo positions it in the marketplace. While most of the time model lines have defined competitors, Volvo views the XC70 as a standalone model. Entrants like the Audi A6 Allroad have come and gone, but none has had the staying power of Volvo’s model, which it bills as “the first crossover.” Now, the Subaru Outback has had a long run, but it really occupies a lower space of the market than the XC70.
According to Volvo, XC70 buyers are some of the most loyal repeat buyers in the industry. We can understand why. The basic formula that these customers love hasn’t changed since the car was introduced in 1998. Part of the loyalty is also because the XC70 serves as the quintessential big Volvo wagon. If you’re looking for a full-size wagon anywhere else, you won’t find it. It is the spiritual successor to those big wagons of yore; Volvo has always had a special history with wagons. Despite being a wagon though, the XC70 is really pitched as the rugged most capable model in comparison to the road-focused XC60.
The XC70 is a big vehicle, and it performs well given its size and weight. On the open road the car tracked very well and it imparted a feeling of solidity and confidence. The chassis is stiff and there is little in the way of flexing as is the case sometimes in wagons. Around corners with the Polestar upgrade, acceleration from the 325 horsepower T6 engine feels very snappy. Steering is best described as insulated from the road – the steering wheel requires a lot of motion around corners. The insulation of the steering was the thing that struck us the most; there was very little in the way of vibrations through the wheel on road. When the pavement ran out, this carried over.
Driving over jagged rocks and washboard surfaces wasn’t constantly being communicated through the wheel. In some vehicles you’ll need a firm grip on the wheel as it jostles back and forth. In enthusiast vehicles, a feel of the road is a desirable attribute, but comfort comes into play more when you’re talking about difficult terrain. That brings us to the tires. If there is one thing we’d mention it would be that we’d fit a different set of tires than what was on our particular XC70. Our tester didn’t have an off-road set of rubber, and we think having them would reduce some of the stiffness and noise that are to be expected on the toughest sections of our off-road portion.
Our XC70 was equipped with a Haldex All-Wheel Drive System. The system is capable of directing up to 65 percent of the power to the rear-wheels and 95 percent up front, as needed. In the snow, mud or mild off-road situations we really would feel a lot more confident in the XC70 than any all-wheel drive sedan or many crossovers with a low ride height. Ground clearance is 8.2 inches and the car has a wading depth of 12 inches. There are also ramp angles of 19.2 degrees in approach, 19.8 degrees break over and 24 degrees in departure. On our long trip, seats front and back proved to be very comfortable – something we’ve noticed is a standout in modern Volvos. Rear seat passengers are treated to a good amount of legroom.
Utility and flexibility is another key point of the XC70 equation. The car is just so practical. When you aren’t concerned about swooping rooflines it’s impressive to see what kind of functionality you can have. Behind the rear seats is a cavernous loading area, and thanks to the flat roof, space is uniform everywhere. If you’re able to fold the rear seats down it opens up (no pun intended) even more possibilities. Our favorite thing about the interior was the two-tone Espresso Brown/Sandstone beige color combination, which lent a light and airy feel to the cabin. We didn’t have much time to test out the car’s Sensus infotainment system, but that is on our list of things to test out soon.
XC70 is very Scandinavian (and thus very Volvo) in its function-over-form mantra. That ethos carries through inside and out. When Volvo says this car is a in a class of its own, it isn’t just marketing speak. The XC70 has a unique blend of attributes that can only be found at Volvo.