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Volvo V70 in general

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    6 Reviews
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      19.01.2011 12:42
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      Still a good choice; more practical than many more modern estates

      The Volvo V70 is now in its third generation, since 2007, with the previous second generation being introduced in 2000. However, my review is of the first generation car which ran from 1997 to 2000 (roughly P to W registrations) and is mainly based on my experience with a 1999 model. My apologies for the length of this review; there really is a lot I could say about this car.

      As I understand it the V stands for "versatile", which means an estate car to you or me, and the 70 designation shows it is the largest of the current range of Volvo estates, though it is not quite as big as the earlier 960 (later renamed V90) model. Smaller Volvo estates are the Mitsubishi based V40 and Ford Focus derived V50.

      My 1999 model is one of the last of the original shape V70's, and as such is essentially an updated Volvo 850. The looks which seemed so radical at the time now blend into the background and in fact look more "traditional" Volvo than not. Why should this be surprising? Because the 850 at the time was a radical departure for Volvo not only for its unusual tail-lights that run the full height of the car but because it was the first of its full-size cars to have a transversely mounted engine driving the front wheels (exactly like an original Mini). The in-line five-cylinder engine was also something new, earlier models using either in-line four cylinder, six cylinder or V6's driving the rear wheels. The new engine was designed to fulfil the role of both a four and six cylinder engine depending on capacity (2.0, 2.3 or 2.4 litres) with either two or four valves per cylinder, high or low-pressure turbo-charging or normally aspirated. Or at least that was the theory at the time (four and six cylinder engines have since become available in the latest version of the car).

      The 2.5 litre five cylinder diesel engine came from Audi, and is highly rated in most respects; diesel models usually sell at a significant premium. Whether this premium is worth it will depend on your annual mileage of course. The diesel engine is known to have a couple of potentially expensive weaknesses affecting the water pump and you should certainly check service history and absolutely insist on proof of a recent cambelt change, or your savings will rapidly disappear. Realistic fuel consumption for a diesel could be around 35 mpg for an automatic or 40 mpg for a manual, though some owners claim much better figures.

      These cars are now over ten years old and finding a good one may take some time. Fortunately, there are a lot of them still around and a surprising number of one or two-owner cars. Many will have service histories and will have been expensively maintained, at least at first. So it is a good idea to find a car that has not passed through too many owners - when maintenance standards usually start to slip - and while everyone will claim that high mileages are not a problem, don't overdo it! A hundred thousand mile model will probably still drive superbly but a 300,000 mile example is likely to be a dog. At this kind of mileage anything and everything could be on the verge of failure, rapidly turning a "bargain" into a money pit. Interior switches, plastics and trim suffer at these mega mileages too, while the driver's seat will lose a lot of its comfort and is liable to develop splits. The best and best-wearing interior trim seems to be full leather, neither the cloth nor the Alcantara seat panels last as well. There are quite a number of self-proclaimed Volvo specialists around too. Again, do your homework as far as possible, be prepared to pay more but insist on at least a service and some warranty into the bargain. Small details to look out for are mudflaps all round (none missing) and the excellent original Volvo rubber mats.

      In my experience visible rust is highly unusual and I would walk away from any car obviously affected. Even where my car has been scratched to bare metal by vandals rust has not started.

      A common failure is for the tailgate trim panel to come loose causing irritating rattles, usually because it has been damaged when removed for maintenance or repairs. Volvo replacement panels are extremely expensive but fortunately a very good repair-kit is available from Scan-Tech for about £15. I have used this and recommend it. Top engine mount failure is also common (it sits at the back of the engine bay just above the engine). Repair is not too expensive but it could make a good bargaining point if suspected -it can cause a knocking sound, more felt than heard, when accelerating then decelerating.

      The higher powered and four-wheel drive versions are more likely to suffer mechanical failures with higher miles (the transmission of the latter is generally uneconomical to repair but it can simply be disconnected by removing the propeller shaft, turning the car into a front-wheel drive). The high performance T5 and R models do attract boy-racers or could be ex-police. Automatics are more popular though understandably thirstier, particularly on minor roads; my car uses more petrol at a steady 40 than at 60 by when the torque converter lock-up has activated, improving the transmission's efficiency. On the other hand, their lazy character suits the car well, while the manual transmission is also light and quick changing, or should be.

      Faulty air conditioning can be expensive to fix so do test it (even if it is freezing outside). Incidentally the windscreen demist position of the heating system should automatically activate the air conditioning too, provided the fan is on. Depending on model, you may get climate control or a two-zone air conditioning. In use I have found that the heating lacks the ability to roast you but is ultimately effective in warming and demisting the full interior. The heated front seats (if fitted) are a boon when the thermometer is trying to set record lows.

      Where Volvo shows its heritage is in the estate conversion. The rear bench seat folds asymmetrically with both the the base cushions and back rests folding. The backrest is particularly strong and seems well able to support luggage loads behind it (some cars of this period have been criticised for weak seat backs posing a risk to rear seat passengers in a rear-end collision). The (three) rear passengers each have their own lap and diagonal inertia reel seatbelt and headrest. The headrests fold forward without detaching from the backrest thus eliminating the need to find somewhere to store them, brilliant! The front passenger seat back can also be folded forward making long loads easier to carry.

      Some examples may have a small child seat integrated into the centre arm-rest (mine does); while a seven-seat conversion is popular and can be retro-fitted. I have this on my car too. The third row of seats is rear facing and best for younger children up to ten years old; there is too little legroom for anyone much larger. My children have used these seats occasionally, sometimes sharing with the dog! Seat belts and adjustable headrests are fitted, although with these seats in use there is minimal luggage space (we have Volvo luggage nets- left and right - that can hold a few shopping bags each). A luggage cover should be fitted and again some models have a retractable dog guard integrated into the seat back. It has been shown that the rear-facing seats are safer for children in a frontal collision and in a rear-on they would be further from the point of impact than with a third row of forward-facing seats, which in some cars end up only inches from the back window.

      Many V70s will have been used for towing, which is not necessarily a problem but the presence of two seven-pin sockets next to the tow ball indicates caravan towing. This could have caused extra wear to the transmission especially, so beware on four-wheel drive models with their expensive systems.

      Performance and economy vary considerably depending on engine size and tune. A 2.0 litre will be just adequate generally though surprisingly the most economical (petrol) engine on paper is the 170 bhp 2.4 litre 20-valve with manual transmission that is also pleasantly lively. By "economical" I mean 30 mpg is possible in mixed use. The thirstiest version turns out to be the 193 bhp low-pressure turbo version of the same engine in the AWD (four-wheel drive) with automatic transmission - which I have! This is meant to do 26 mpg (which it can do, or even improve on if driven with some care on longer runs) but in hilly Northumberland I generally get only 20-24 mpg. The extra traction from the four-wheel drive has proved invaluable in two successive snowy winters though (on all those hills especially). Almost no intervention is required from the driver, the transmission detects when the front wheels start to slip and progressively feeds power to the rear wheels, locking the rear differential at the same time. The Volvo TRACS system permanently engages traction control and ABS. The only extra action possible is to press the "W" for Winter button behind the gear selector. As I understand it, this de-activates first gear and smoothes throttle and gear changes to minimise wheel spin. Experience shows it does help in treacherous conditions though it makes the car feel as if the engine is labouring more. The only time I have had a (small) on-road skid was with the W button off on snowy roads, and it was the rear end that broke away: easily corrected by easing off. A variation of the AWD model is the XC (Cross Country) with is essentially the same car with a slightly more raised ground clearance and some add-on plastic styling panels giving it a more purposeful look. However, neither the AWD nor the XC are intended as off-road vehicles.

      Handling tends more towards comfort than sports (at least on my car; R and T5 models have a lower, firmer suspension). The steering is light but with limited feel, and if you do push it both roll and understeer are noticeable. But this is not how you normally drive a Volvo. On the other hand some road imperfections do catch the car out, sending a noticeable jolt through the car - you learn to look out for and avoid sunken manhole covers, for example. Straight line performance on my 193 bhp turbocharged car is a little bit Jekyll and Hide I find. Driven gently you can just potter slowly along with about 2,000 rpm on the rev counter but should you be tempted to press the accelerator down to kickdown, the revs rise towards 5,000 rpm, the transmission changes down a couple of gears and the turbo makes its presence felt. It is almost exciting and most ordinary cars will disappear in the mirror quite fast (particularly going uphill). Not all, of course, and fuel consumption will take a hit too. It's a bit of a party trick to be used with care, I would say. Non-turbocharged models won't be the same while the 250 bhp T5 model (as once owned by Jeremy Clarkson I believe) will be rather more so.

      The driving position is comfortable with a fully adjustable, supportive seat cushion and backrest. The steering wheel also adjusts for rake and reach. The conventional instruments are clearly marked, highly legible and a rheostat is provided to dim the panel as required. Only the switch gear dates the car, with a line of hard to distinguish rocker switches partly obscured by the steering wheel. If fitted, the onboard computer (infocentre) can give information on fuel consumption, range, average speed and outside temperature. A handy feature is the clip on the inside of the windscreen that can hold a parking ticket, as is the lidded coin tray just ahead of the gear selector. Door pockets are fitted to both front doors while rear passengers have the use of a pair of deep seat-back pockets. Rear legroom is not quite as generous as you might expect, though the rear seat itself is roomy and comfortable. Interior lighting is comprehensive with reading lights provided front and rear.

      Volvo estates are meant to be about luggage space and I have been generally satisfied. My V70 has accommodated a large selection of IKEA flat-packs, a Christmas tree, bicycles and holiday luggage. Further space can be used on the roof if roofrails are fitted (so worth looking for). The weight capacity is 100 kg, rather more than the usual 50 kg. The only compromise seems to be the lowish roof line compared with earlier Volvo models, the general box shape has been conserved, making the car more practical than some of Volvo's more modern models, which have developed curves and slopes in all the wrong places (like some people I know). If your V70 has a tailgate spoiler, then you won't be able to fit a tailgate cycle carrier but on the other hand towball carriers are sturdier and (usually) allow you to open the tailgate. The roof can take up to four normal bicycles, depending on their weight.

      Servicing is essentially once a year and Volvo have made it reasonably easy to do it yourself. Apart from oil and filters I have found that brake pads and tyres wear quite quickly, especially at the front. At the last MOT my car needed replacement track-rod ends, something that could apply to any car and when I bought it I found a large number of failed interior bulbs, which wasn't apparent until I drove it at night. The standard lighting was also quite weak until I fitted upgraded (Philips X-treme Power) headlamp bulbs. Volvo parts availability seems good - I generally get any parts within 24 hours - though prices vary from cheap (70p for a small piece of plastic trim), to pricey (£5 for a tiny bulb to fit a panel switch) to the ludicrously expensive. Fortunately, there are many other sources of mechanical parts. Incidentally if your car's main lighting switch fails (mine did) this should really be replaced under Volvo's recall procedure. I didn't know this and paid £40 for a new switch and then had the "fun" of fitting it myself. The dealer couldn't tell me because (as I understand it) all early V70s are affected and because of this he couldn't match my chassis number as no individual numbers are listed! The only other recall I am aware of for first generation models affects the airbags on some cars. A Volvo dealer should be able to check for free whether recall work is required on your car.

      As the last of the "real" Volvos to have appeared before Ford took over, the original V70 is likely to retain its appeal for traditionalists. If you can find one, it is worth looking for the Classic edition. These cars were the last to be built and were highly specified in order to clear stocks before the Mark II was introduced in 2000. Ironically, early Mark IIs were generally far less well equipped. The Mark II is also spoilt by its very large turning circle. On the other hand, having recently sampled a good example of a 1997 Volvo 960, even the original V70 doesn't match one of these old girls for comfort though the 960's handling feels a decade behind.

      A similar version of his review appears on Ciao under my id of TrueVision

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        19.01.2002 17:11
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        I have owned a Volvo V70 for around 2 years now and have been very pleased with it. I have not experienced any problems with this car and would recommend it to anyone. On paper this is one of the worlds safest and most efficient cars. The car has front and side airbags as well as standard crumple zones. The petrol mileage is good and with its 5 cylinder, low-pressure turbo charged engine the car provides very good power. The car is great for room; I have a family of 4 and there is plenty of leg room. I also have 4 dogs and the boot is spacious enough for them and some of the luggage when we go away. The car drives and handles brilliantly and is very comfortable especially for those long journeys. The car comes with a brilliant Dolby Pro logic stereo system. It also has central locking electric windows The only draw back is perhaps the price. However, it is well worth the extra money over the years.

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          14.12.2000 01:06
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          Blasting at high speed in a Volvo estate isn't the joke it was. The T5 carried on when the 850's replacement, the V70 arrived, and now Volvo has released the R versions with 250bhp in manual guise and 240bhp in auto. They come superbly equipped, with leather, air-con and an eight-speaker CD stereo... but they're not cheap. The saloon's rear end is old-fashioned whereas the estate looks right from every angle. It looks mean too, crouching on lowered suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels. The V70R shifts, racing from 0-62mph in 6.7secs for the front-wheel drive and 7.3secs for the four-wheel drive. Turbo lag is minimal and acceleration in fourth and fifth is excellent, making it a brilliant motorway car. The V70R breeds confidence. It feels stable and safe at speed, encouraging you to keep your foot buried. We didn't test Volvo's claimed 155mph top speed, but on a German autobahn we saw 150mph and the car still felt rock solid. Fortunately, the newly developed anti-lock brakes, incorporating ventilated discs at the front, stop you effectively and there's plenty of feel for controlled, precise braking. Handling is impressive, too. The 4WD has killed off the chronic wheelspin that afflicted the front-wheel-drive version. When you welly it out of a tight corner now, you increase momentum not Michelin's profits. Fortunately it doesn't kill the fun element and the V70R AWD is involving and enjoyable. It's tidier inside, too, thanks to the modern design of the V70's cabin and the special R trim with patterned aluminium panels and blue-tinged instrument panel.

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            06.10.2000 23:04
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            I have become a fan of the Volvo brand of late. The over all sense of intelligence wrapped up in the beautiful bodies that Volvo now wrap their cars in is exceedingly appealling. I explored a new V70 one day and I decided that one day, if given the chance, I might actually part with a lot of cash for one. I don't believe that Volvos are, as yet, of the same all encompasing excellence of BMWs but they are getting closer and closer. They have a different kind of appeal to them. BM's shout of mass kudos and they may deserve it but Volvos say more (positively) about their owners. They don't say "I'm a touch arrogant, and my car is better than yours" like BMWs, or most German cars, rightly or wrongly, do. They say "I like my cars but I love my family, and the envirnment, and I'm partial to blond women". The brand identy is clearly defined and more appreciated, I think, than anything German. They don't demand respect - they earn it! So, the new V70. Such a fine example of the New Volvo that is rapidly emerging these days. It drives and stuff really rather well. It is super comfortable and rock solid too. They can be fast and fun. On top of that good value.

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            07.08.2000 16:41

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            The Volvo V70 has been our family car for just iver a year. Not only can it hold the standard 5 passengers, but an extra 2 children in the very back with additional seatage available from Volvo. The leather seats are very comfortable and they can keep you warm for ages in the cold. The air conditioning is brilliant. Our model has auto windows all over the car plus a brilliant stereo at the front of the car. This car is solid in performance and on test is better tan its BMW rivals! This car will not be beaten in a one on one test.

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            24.06.2000 05:13

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            The Volvo V70 is a really solid car which is really safe and secure. A drive in one of these will really convince you. Make sure you get one with the larger engines though, it really is a heavy car. The ones with leather seats really are very comfortable and the heated seats are a treat in the winter. They are not cars for the slipper brigade anymore and they look quite agressive on the road. They also do not suffer from the BeeM stigma so should be left alone by vandels.

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