Thursday, 19 June 2014

REVIEW - Volvo V70 D4 SE Lux

I personally think Volvo are doing a good job of removing themselves from the connotations that used to surround the brand. The boring boxy estate cars of old are gone, replaced by sleek and stylish executive models. It really is a fantastic transformation whilst maintaining the core values of quality and safety. And yet, when the brand new V70 arrived on my driveway- fresh from its facelift- I couldn’t help but notice it still looked like a big boxy estate. And looking at the line-up today, there’s only this and its off-road brother the XC70 that still maintain this image. But would there be more to it than that? I decided it was only fair to give it a try.

Looks – 7/10

On the outside, you can see where the image has been refreshed. The front end has a new, more angular bumper which integrates some daytime running lights. There’s a new grille, and they’ve finally painted the radar box on the front with silver to match the grille. A minor touch but effective nonetheless. However, you can tell this is more of a refresh than a facelift. The mirrors- for example- are the ‘old’ style with blind spot cameras as opposed to the new sleek ones which use radar. The door handles don’t have colour coded keyless entry buttons. Although it’s a boxy shape, I do think the V70 is rather executive looking. Finished in a lovely pearl which with some 17-inch alloys, it even has a twin exhaust at the back. The optional privacy glass was a nice touch, as are the roof rails and shark-fin aerial.

On the inside there are absolutely no complaints. The seats are as you would expect to find in a Volvo; sculpted and aesthetic. The new digital dials sit nicely in front of the driver, and the media screen is well placed in the centre of the dashboard. The textured materials are nice, and there was some lovely silver trim to break up the colours of the interior. The ‘floating’ centre console is a familiar and welcome sight, and the buttons are all well placed. The steering wheel in a Volvo is a work of art, with the two layers of leather. The gear shift paddles behind the steering wheel are finished nicely in aluminium, and the optional rear-seat entertainment system adds televisions to the back of the headrests which really give a touch of class to the cabin.

Handling/Performance – 7/10

The engine in my V70 was the new 2.0-litre D4 diesel engine which featured in the V60 R-Design I reviewed recently. It’s a fantastic engine, but for those of you who didn’t catch that one I’ll run through the figures again. There’s 181PS and 400Nm on tap, which in this model gets sent to the front wheels via an 8-speed automatic gearbox. This 1.7-tonne estate will hit 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds and go on to a top speed of 137mph. This engine is wonderful, and when coupled to this gearbox is an absolute dream. Power delivery is so smooth, and with the 8 ratios there’s always some power available to give you some forward momentum. You can operate the paddles to change gear, but somehow this just doesn’t seem right in this car, and it isn’t an option box I’d be ticking on this car.

The handling is as you would expect really. On the motorway the V70 is remarkably smooth, and the ride is typically comfortable. The V70 I had on test featured the £1,000 “Active 4 C Chassis”. That stands for ‘Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept’ and offers three distinct driving modes; comfort, sport and advanced. Does it work? Well yes it does, actually. In comfort mode the suspension has softer rebound, such that on a country road the car starts to wallow. Then you can stick it into sport mode, which makes it firmer, and ride more flat. Advanced mode is for when you really push, minimising body roll to the point of none-existence and giving good feel to the steering. It was really impressive. But there’s no point to it on a V70. Put it on the V40 and S60 R-Design’s by all means, but save your £1,000 on your executive estate car.

Economy – 10/10

The D4 engine is remarkably efficient. Even in this large car with the automatic gearbox, CO2 emissions are 117g/km. That puts the V70 in VED band C. Road tax will cost you a mere £30 and will even be free in the first year. That’s certainly helping you claw back some of the costs by saving you money in the long run. And with combined fuel consumption for the automatic standing at 62.8mpg, you’ll certainly find yourself at a petrol station less often than you’d expect. A lot of work has gone into making this engine so economical, and it has paid dividends. There is the start/stop technology you would expect, and this works well with the automatic gearbox. I never found myself being cut out on when I didn’t want to be, so that’s good.

Practicality – 10/10

I found the V70 a joy to live with for a week. The boot was vast, and an electric tailgate makes for effortless operation too. The built in load cover and dog guard are extremely useful in everyday operation. , and the built-in booster seats are wonderful in the back. The cabin is spacious and comfortable and makes for easy journeys no matter what the distance. In particular you may well find the £1,200 rear-seat entertainment a wonderful way to keep children entertained. And there’s no need for squabbling either, because the screens can be operated independently providing different sources are used. So Timmy can listen to his iPod while his sister watches a Disney film. Everyone’s happy! If you opt for the £1,900 driver support pack then you get the radar braking, radar cruise control, lane keeping assist and blind spot indicators. It is a large cost but I feel the radar cruise control a revelation on a long motorway drive.

Fun – 5/10

So how does this big lump of Swedish metal make you feel about driving? There’s no doubt it’s a pleasure to drive, and I was happy no matter where I had to go. But there were just a few niggles that stuck in my mind. In particular the reminders of Volvo’s past, with the outdated technology and slight facelift just made me feel that Volvo doesn’t care as much about the V70 anymore. And that tainted it for me. It’s still a good car- make no mistake about it- but its less ‘fun’ and more ‘fun-ctional’ so just never hits the sweet spot for a keen driver. The tech available will keep the family happy and that makes family man less stressed. But that’s not exactly fun, it is?

Concluding Remarks

So the V70 SE Lux then. I think Volvo have done a great job on the inside to make this car a great place to be. And that in no way goes unnoticed. But I’m afraid the outside still looks a bit dated now, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the V70 skipped over in favour of the incredible XC60. The new D4 engine is a gem, and is the box I would tick on the order form. I think I’d tick the £1,550 geartronic box too, as it really improves the drive. But I think that’s where it would stop for me. The starting price of £34,720 doesn’t seem bad for such a large executive estate. But when I found out my test car cost £46,315 I was a little gobsmacked to be honest. There’s definitely better ways to spend that kind of money… A well-spec’d V60 or XC60- and change- for example. For more information pop into your local dealership or visit the Volvo website. The V70 D4 SE Lux; a brilliant engine and cabin- wrapped up in last seasons outfit.

Total Score – 39/50

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