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Volvo V70 T6 AWD SE Sport Car Review | July 11, 2007

Driven July 2007

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Moving back to the business end, Volvo has made it bigger than the old car but, oddly, has shortened the S80's wheelbase by a couple of centimetres. Apparently V70 owners like their car's size: they didn't want it to balloon. But meantime the Passat and Mondeo have crept up from below. In fact the new Mondeo wagon (which has many of the same platform parts) is actually bigger in length and wheelbase than the Volvo.

So back-seat space for six-footers is a bit marginal. There's extra controversy in the bootspace. Apparently these things are officially measured up to the window-line, and because the V70 is a glassy sort of car, its boot doesn't show up that well on the official figures, but because the tailgate's so upright it actually does well in swallowing big awkward objects.

There's a 40:20:40 split on the seat, and a profusion of rails, nets, levers, racks, carriers, compartments and dog guards so you can clip and constrain pretty well anything while you set about exploring the performance, handling and brakes. Just beware dog vomit down the back of your neck.

The engine might not feel like it has 285bhp because it's saddled by the auto and by AWD, but it will gather speed effectively because the surge is always on hand from anywhere in the rev range. But the full-throttle noise is a bit drab and there are a few annoying booms on the over-run.

In fact the alternative unblown petrol six sounds far more interesting and is sweeter to rev. Both of those come with a smooth responsive auto as standard, but only the T6 has the 4WD system.

The 4WD gives the V70 handling that's like the performance: effective but not vastly interesting. The car just tracks around - you don't really get any sense of the tyres working on the road, or of being able to fine-tune the outcome yourself.

There's an adaptive damper system but you'll just leave it on the middle setting, as the hard setting ruins the ride without improving the cornering on real roads. Still, on an unpredictably slippery winter road, all this secure traction would be tremendous. And that's what Volvos are for isn't it? The bad times as well as the good.

Volvo publishes pages of highly plausible detail on the innovative crash-safety systems in this car, as well as the stuff to prevent the crash, like the blind-spot system that flashes a light at you when there's someone approaching from behind in the next lane, or the radar alert that primes the brakes if you neglect to notice the guy in front on the motorway has jammed on the brakes.

Having discovered the T6 wasn't the bundle of excitement I'd hoped, I had a go in the D5 turbodiesel, which is the one most people will actually buy. It'll squeal the tyres a bit because it's front-wheel drive, and the engine is quite noisy by the standards laid down by the competing V6 Audis, but there's not too much wrong with the ride or handling. They're better than the old car's. Trouble is, they aren't as good as the Mondeo's. Oops.

Paul Horrell

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