Volvo V70 XC

XC is short hand for Cross Country. Several years ago Volvo saw the success of the Subaru Outback and used its upmarket image and its affiliation with stationwagons to create a sport utility wagon for the better half. Adding an all-wheel-drive system and a slight raise in suspension, the V70 became a more serious all-weather car, if not a serious off-roader.

With the introduction of the second generation V70 last year Volvo chose a harder tact for the XC. Trim levels were changed even more from the standard V70 models and ground clearance was also raised.

Outside, the XC has followed an evolutionary path from its predecessor. An unpainted ground effects package also helps keep brush on more closed pathways from scratching the lower areas of the car while providing a more rugged look. These body pieces are moulded in plastic, in a complimentary color to the painted steel fenders. An egg crate style grill and larger rearview mirrors are other key differentials that distinguish this car from its' other siblings. Our Ash Gold Metallic test car's ground effects were colored in a complimentary dark brown that was almost black. This contrast distinguished our test car quite plainly from the lesser V70 class and looked a bit more SUV-ish than its' German competitor.

At the road, Volvo has chosen a much more conservative approach and more geared towards the SUV set, mounting attractive 16-inch 6-spoke wheels with the "XC" logo stamped on one spoke. These alloys come shod with 215/65/HR 16 Pirelli Scorpions that carry an M&S rating in addition to being speed rating of 130 mph.

Like the Audi, the V70 XC makes use of a turbocharger to bolster power coming from its 20-valve 5-cylinder engine. The turbo setup used by Volvo for the XC is their low-pressure unit putting out 197-horsepower at 6000 rpm and 210 lb. ft at 1800 rpm. Though not as high power as the allroad's biturbo V6, the low-pressure turbo system moves the Volvo around with relative ease despite the greater perceived size of the XC versus the allroad.

There is no manual transmission offered for the XC though Volvo's 5-speed Geartronic automatic transmission matches the cars personality quite well. This automatic works very similarly to Audi's Tiptronic system. Co-developed with GM prior to the Ford buyout of Volvo, this transmission also moves to a manual-shifting mode to the side of the normal gear changer position. Like Tiptronic, frontward and rearward movements control upshifts and downshifts and let the driver choose when to change gears.

Volvo's all-wheel-drive system has no set name. It is simply referred to as all-wheel-drive. Like the name, Volvo wanted a simple reliable solution for their all-wheel-drive needs. To achieve this, they employed a system based on a Viscous Coupling, much like Porsche's current system found in the Carrera 4. A viscous coupling is filled with silicone oil and a large number of discs to allow a certain amount of play between the front and rear drivetrains to allow for the constant shifting of the body while accelerating and decelerating. Every other disc is attached to the shaft running to the front wheels and each corresponding disc is connected to the shaft that goes to the rear.

On a regular surface, the XC is a front-wheel-drive car, unlike the allroad, which has an all-wheel-drive system that is always in use. When the XC's front wheels slip, the discs spin, creating friction, which causes the oil to become more viscous and pressure increases. As this happens, the coupling engages and the rear wheels are driven. While not as quick to react as quattro, the Viscous Coupling system allows for better gas mileage since the car runs as a front-wheel-drive on regular surfaces and there is thus less friction to cause more drag on the system.

Though Volvo does offer their own version of ESP, called the Dynamic Stability Traction Control, on some V70 models, it is not available for XC models.

While it doesn't have settings, the XC's suspension is capable. It is surprisingly controllable given its clearance of 8.2-inches, identical to the highest setting on the allroad. Once behind the wheel, this does not feel like a car with 8.2-inches of ground clearance and is actually quite agile despite its' tremendous height from the ground.

Inside, the XC is quite different from standard V70 models. The car's leather seating has a finish much akin to a leather flight jacket and features stitching that seems to be baseball glove inspired; much like Volvo's earlier 700 series cars that featured thick, durable leather seating surfaces. Front seats are heated, and while one can control whether it heats both the back and the seat or just the seat, one cannot control the level in which it heats. Handsome muted silver finish adorns the door pulls and a handle mounted on the center console that is unique to the XC. Another XC-only feature is an odd matte black trim that appears to be lightly sprayed with some sort of dark metallic finish. This is perhaps the weakest part of an otherwise handsome interior. Though not on the level of the Audi, the XC's interior is very good and only really differs in its' use of trim that is not of the same caliber as the Audi in this regard.

Volvo has almost taken the approach of a wash-out interior that would in the long term hold up well in daily usage for the inevitable coffee spills, dirty shoes and other mishaps. The interior is geared more towards the theme of utility rather than outright luxury.

One of the coolest features of the XC is its optional Navigational system. This $2500 system includes a color monitor that rises via motor out of the center of the dashboard. To the casual passenger, the effect is James Bond-like as it emerges silently from the dash and lights up like a Christmas tree. Better yet, the system works quite well. It's fairly easy to use and also accurate. Though our Audi was not equipped a navigational system, we have used Audi's system before, and while very capable it does lack the color map view screen and multi-function direction finder which is really quite a useful component. The only downside to the system is that the controls to are located on the back of the steering wheel, making them impossible to find if you don't already know where they are. However, once familiar with how it works, it soon becomes second nature.

When it came to pricing the XC, with much less content, is much more affordable at a base price of $34,900. Our test car came with its own portfolio of optional equipment including metallic paint ($400), leather faced seating surfaces ($1,300), leather steering wheel ($200), trip computer ($250), cargo security cover ($225), Volvo Navigational System ($2500), 4-CD in-dash premium sound system ($1000), first aid kit ($30), auto-dimming mirror ($100), security laminated window ($300), grocery bag holder ($65), Homelink ($125), crossbars for rails ($135), steel load protection net ($275), and XC Cold Weather Package ($575). The Cold Weather Package includes heated front seats and headlamp wipers/washers. With the long list of optional equipment, the XC comes to $42,955, which is about $5000 below the allroad when all options are tallied.

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