"Offering the off-road ability of a full-sized 4x4, but the ease of driving and practicality of a conventional estate, the XC70 also delivers comfort and luxury in equal measure."
Toughen up the Volvo V70 estate for solid off-road driving, and you get the Volvo XC70, which offers four-wheel drive and tall suspension to make easy work of rough, uneven surfaces – so it's equally good on the UK's ever-worsening network of roads, too. It is very impressive when driving off-road, thanks to its rugged dimensions, beefed-up bumpers, dark grey side cladding and silver underbody protectors at both ends. The range is limited to three engines (one petrol, two diesels), while the XC70 comes in three specifications – entry level SE, mid-range SE Lux and top-of-the-range NAV, which, as the name suggest, comes with sat-nav as standard. SE Lux models come with electronically variable suspension fitted as standard, which helps add to the smoothness of the ride. The XC70 is an ideal car if you need a car that can cope with extra wear and tear, and go off off-road, without resorting to a large 4x4 SUV.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
All the diesel engines in the XC70 range emit 139g/km of CO2, which isn’t too bad for a big car. Only the 304bhp T6 all-wheel-drive model emits 248g/km. The 163bhp D4 and the 215bhp D5 offer the best economy, returning 53.3mpg, while the rest of the range falls mostly in the mid 40s for fuel economy. Add the automatic gearbox and the emissions will rise, while we’d probably avoid the 304bhp T6 AWD model, because it'll only manage 26.7mpg in fuel consumption.
Interior & comfort
When driving on the motorway, the XC70 is amazingly quiet – with wind, road and engine noise easily kept to a bare minimum inside the car. The supportive seats are among some of the most comfortable available on the market, while the tall suspension gives 210mm of ground clearance, while easily absorbing any crashes from potholes and speedbumps without transferring any bumpiness to the passengers. Those passengers will also find plenty of knee, shoulder and headroom in the back. It's basically very comfortable indeed, no matter where you sit.
Practicality & boot space
The Volvo XC70 offers loads of storage space, with a large 40:20:40 boot offering 575 litres of storage with the rear seats in place – which beats the Audi A6 Allroad. Fold the seats flat and that increases to 1,600 litres, which ironically, is less than the A6. The boot also has a low lip for easy loading, and aluminium rails and movable anchor points in the boot – and you can even add a sliding load floor, an electric tailgate and extra nets, hooks and anchor points and dividers for even more flexibility. There are some neat extra storage touches inside, too, including a rubbish bin in the back and an umbrella holder on the tailgate. There's also plenty of room for passengers, with excellent space in the rear seats. In fact, the XC70 can claim to be bigger than the majority of traditional 4x4s.
Reliability & safety
Volvo has always championed safety and reliability, so it should be no surprise that the XC70 is a very safe car. The V70, on which the XC70 is based, scored the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, and you can get a wealth of extra safety accessories on top of the standard equipment. This includes integrated booster-seat cushions in the back, anti-whiplash head restraints, and adaptive cruise control with collision warning and brake support. You can even get a Personal Car Communicator in your key fob that tells if you the alarm has been triggered as you approach the car, and warns if you someone is still inside – detected by a heartbeat sensor! The XC70 has had some electrical problems affecting the central locking and immobiliser systems, but reports generally suggest that it's remarkably well built, with all the major mechanicals proving to be extremely hard wearing. Volvo itself placed eighth in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, clawing back the two places it lost in the 2012 poll, showing its continued commitment to quality and safety across its range.
Engines, drive & performance
While the XC70's tough four-wheel-drive system provides loads of grip and composure when driving off-road, it's on the road that we found the Volvo a little bit lacking. The steering is nice and light, but is often slow to respond and doesn’t give much feedback to the driver. Also, the softer suspension may give a more comfortable ride, but it also creates a lot of bodyroll – more than in the standard V70 - when driving round corners. In terms of performance, the top-spec 300bhp T6 is easily the fastest engine on offer but will cost you at the pumps, while the five-cylinder 212bhp D5 is pretty quick, too, and is especially good for overtaking. However, we’d recommend the 161bhp D4, which is almost as good but is a lot cheaper.
Price, value for money & options
There is certainly a lot of equipment in the XC70, but, even so, it lags behind its biggest competitor, the Audi A6 Allroad Quattro just in terms of breadth of accessories. Also, given the age of the car, some of the equipment that is fitted doesn’t feel very state-of-the-art anymore, but at least the interior has been updated to include Volvo's Sensus multimedia system, which is a big improvement on the old unit fitted in the XC70. Resale values on the used car market are better than some rivals like the Ford Mondeo, which helps limit your losses when you come to sell the car second hand. However, top-specification cars do get a bit pricey, and don’t hold their value as well as equivalent cars from brands like Mercedes or Audi.