1998 VOLVO V70 AWD
Used Car - 1998 Volvo V70 AWD in Plaistow, Nh
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1998 Volvo V70 ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
Polishing the gold standard.
The introduction of a new Volvo is such a rare occasion that it deserves to be noticed. Change comes slowly to the Swedish firm, which tends to keep good products in its catalog far longer than industry norms.
With the new S70 and V70--plus the soon-to-arrive C70 coupe and a later soft-top sibling--Volvo is revealing both a new car and a new model designation system. Said system, in which S denotes a sedan, V a wagon (and, perhaps, a rumored sport-utility machine) and C a coupe or convertible, is combined with a number that applies to an entire line. S- and V90, for example, are the new names for the current 960 sedan and wagon.
It's not entirely correct to call the S- and V70s totally new. There's a strong resemblance to last model year's 850 that will be readily apparent at a glance. Good reason: The 70-series sedans and wagons are mildly facelifted 850s, with some improvements made where they count most and a new face that follows Volvo design tradition but is more up-to-date.
But the 70-cars are new enough to warrant a good, long look, and keep enough of the virtues 850 owners prize to make them attractive replacements for those cars when trade-in time rolls around. Even in a competitive class, in which they must contend with the C-Class Mercedes, 3-Series BMW, and Lexus ES 300, to name just a few, the 70-series Volvos have much to recommend them.
If you've seen a Volvo 850, you are already familiar with the essentials of the S- and V70. A new, more rounded nose and the sedan's reworked rear-window and taillight treatments (wagon sheetmetal aft of the windshield pillars is carried over intact from the 850) separate old from new, but not by all that much.
It's a different story if you're looking at a C70. Volvo hasn't offered a sporty coupe since the 1970s; this one is worth the wait. Designed by Volvo's in-house styling team, it's as dramatic and appealing as a fully-functional four-place car can be. Low and slinky and planted firmly on its 18-inch wheels, the coupe is truly exciting, far more so in person than in photos.
Four model designations apply to both sedan and wagon. For starters, the basic S- and V70 use a 168-hp inline five-cylinder engine, transversely mounted and driving the front wheels. Standard equipment includes ABS, air conditioning, all the usual interior power assists (with keyless remote entry for the door locks), heated side mirrors, an excellent sound system and a host of smaller but significant comfort and convenience features. The GT version adds aluminum alloy wheels, a power driver's seat and a power glass sunroof.
At the GLT trim level, the 70s are equipped with a turbocharged version of the base powerplant, raising output to 190 hp and, more important in the real world, increasing torque and lowering the engine speed at which it peaks. An even more powerful (236 hp) edition of the same engine powers the T5 wagons and sedans, as well as the C70.
A separate model, the V70 AWD, is Volvo's first all-wheel drive car. It is powered by the same engine used in the GLT and, like that version, is available only with an automatic transmission.
The 70-Series new interior represents a major improvement over what was already a well-designed and roomy cabin. Former hard corners have been rounded off, giving dashboard, center console and door panels a more attractive look. Soft-faced switches are placed for easier use. For example, window switches are now on the driver's door armrest rather than the center console, and the seats have new frames and padding.
Other important changes are invisible. The B or central roof pillar has been reinforced to provide extra crush resistance in side impacts; driver and front-seat passenger are further protected by standard side-impact airbags. A new steering column design reduces wheel intrusion into the cabin in frontal impacts.
Those items add mental comfort for occupants who are already well taken care of in physical comfort terms. The new seats are excellent, most comfortable in their standard velour upholstery. Little is left to be added in the 70 Series, though the automatic air conditioning (GLT and T5 models) and optional heated front seats will be appreciated in certain climates. Wood trim accents are optional.
Though more stylish, the interior has lost none of its functionality. The driving position is, as always, good, made better for all drivers by tilt/telescope steering wheel adjustments. Gauges for car and engine speed, fuel level and coolant temperature have large, clear markings, and can be supplemented with an optional trip computer. Stretch-out room for all five occupants is more than ample, and the sedan's large 15 cubic-foot trunk can be doubled in size by folding the rear seat back. The versatile wagon, of course, can swallow considerably more.
Depending on model, the S- and V-70 are rapid, very rapid, or downright exhilarating to drive. Even the base engine will get a 70 down the road smartly while returning good fuel economy. The two turbos have more appeal for the enthusiast driver, with the T5 being, naturally, the most fun to drive.
Either transmission--five-speed manual or four-speed automatic--is a good choice. S- and V70 buyers who opt for the T5 model can, at last, have the manual gearbox previously denied them.
Whether normally aspirated cruiser or full-boost turbo road-burner, the 70-Series cars are quiet at highway speeds. A harmonic-rich hum (common to five-cylinder engines) is too muted to bother anyone, and wind and road noise are kept to a minimum.
Improvements in ride and handling give the 70s broader appeal. Past versions have been criticized for ride quality judged too harsh by many testers; this was especially true of the high-performance versions. The 70s still ride firmly, but changes to springs and shock absorbers should mute the complaints. T5 drivers may want to avoid bad road surfaces, but the standard, GT and GLT versions are noticeably more comfortable, if not yet as soft-riding as some competitors.
Conversely, the softer suspension settings seem to have had no affect on handling. Both sedan and wagon are more nimble than their size might suggest, and take readily to fast driving on winding roads. Steering and brakes are both excellent.
Our tester, which we drove during a mid-winter trip to Arctic Scandinavia, was a V70 AWD wagon, which adds the tractive benefits of all-wheel drive to an excellent chassis. Even in Arctic weather conditions, the V70 AWD felt safe and secure, picking its way over snow- and ice-covered roads with considerably more ease than its front-wheel drive counterparts, even when the latter were equipped with the optional TRACS traction-control system.
The 850 was a very good car. The 70-Series is better. With a host of changes that go well beyond new badges, the newcomer is still recognizably a Volvo when judged for looks and driving feel, and far more competitive compared to its many rivals.
With the addition of the C70 coupe, the 70-series lineup offers something for everyone. And these cars are so well developed that there are no either/or situations: You can have performance, safety, comfort, excellent handling and all the utilitarian virtues in a single package. All you have to do is decide whether you need a sedan, coupe, wagon or, next year, a convertible.
Torslana, Sweden; Ghent, Belgium.
Options As Tested
All-wheel drive, automatic transmission, heated front seats, power sunroof, integrated rear child seat.
V70 AWD wagon.Polishing the gold standard.
Navigating Alaska's rugged Chugach mountains is not a challenge we'd normally accept in a car designed for an affluent urban lifestyle. But with the introduction of the V70 XC Cross Country wagon, Volvo is boldly going where no Swedish automaker has gone before.
For years, Volvo has enjoyed a distinct identity. Long the leader in automotive safety, Volvos were popular among people with families. But along came minivans, sport-utility vehicles and pickups and they now account for nearly half of all sales.
Unwilling to get into the sport-utility business, Volvo has introduced the V70 XC AWD. XC is short for 'Cross Country' and is among a growing new breed of vehicles designed to blend the best features of passenger cars and sport-utilities.
Volvo's V70 XC AWD is based on a conventional Volvo V70 station wagon, so it handles like a European sports sedan and comes loaded with an attractive interior and a range of luxurious options. A sophisticated all-wheel-drive (AWD) system dramatically improves traction on wet and snowy roads. An increased ground clearance gives the XC better capability over backwoods trails.
In short, Volvo's new XC wagon adds off-highway capability to Volvo's legendary level of safety engineering, comfort and driving pleasure. But is it going to meet the needs and wants of buyers interested in sport-utilities? After spending time driving this car down highways and rough unpaved roads, we think it more than exceeds the needs of most people.
Image has a lot to do with the huge popularity of sport-utility vehicles. Volvo engineers recognized that simply adding all-wheel drive to their superb V70 wagon wouldn't be enough to compete in the booming sport-utility market.
So they raised the XC body a bit to give it not only more ground clearance, but also a more macho appearance. The exterior is sportier, with an aggressive grille, front air dam and aggressive, gray body moldings unique to the XC. Fog lights are standard, as is the roof rack. Taller 205/65HR15 tires add to the XC's heightened stance compared to the more conventional V70 and V70 AWD wagons.
Drivers sit higher, giving them a more commanding view of the road, a big draw for SUVs and other light trucks. That feature seems to be especially appealing to women, who are expected to make up a significant share of the XC's buyers.
Volvo provides buyers plenty of ways to personalize their XC in keeping with both taste and lifestyle. There are 15 different colors on the palette. Special bike, ski and snowboard carriers are designed to easily mount on the XC's heavy duty roof rack. There's even a dog cage available to keep Rover safely ensconced in the expansive cargo hold.
While the XC's exterior is unmistakably Volvo, its interior is soft and friendly and, in keeping with a $35,595 price tag, it is decidedly upscale. Standard features include an eight-way power driver's seat with three memory settings, trip computer, premium sound system with cassette, sunroof, and automatic climate control.
An attractive 'Arctic Canvas' fabric covers the seats, with leather bolsters. An all-leather package is available for an extra $595. And for another $595, you can upgrade to the Grand Touring package, which gets you walnut trim, an in-dash CD player with Dolby Surround Sound and a power passenger seat.
The XC provides a roomy 67 cubic feet of cargo space. That's not as much as some of the larger sport-utilities, but the layout is extremely functional. Indeed, 'utility' is a word Volvo designers took to heart. A fold out mat is tucked into a hidden compartment under the rear carpet. Fold it out and over the bumper when you're loading cargo-or use it for a clean place to sit and tug off your boots or your waders. The carpet itself can be turned over, its vinyl backing better suited to carrying muddy dogs or cargo. There's a safety net designed to keep cargo from flying into the front seat. And there are pockets on both sides of the cargo hold for small items. We wish sport-utility vehicles had this many utilitarian features.
And if you're planning to haul a clutch of kids to Cub Scout meetings, an optional rear-facing third row of seats give the XC room for seven passengers.
The XC was never intended to be an off-road vehicle. At least that's what the folks at Volvo warned as we headed off for the Alaskan hinterland. It won't get you across really deep ditches, our guide stressed. And we learned to take him at his word rather quickly when one of the drivers in our small group mistakenly tried to ford a rocky stream. About halfway across, he high-centered his XC on a small boulder, then spent the next 20 minutes knee deep in glacial runoff pushing the car free.
It's estimated, however, that 95 percent of the sport-utility vehicles sold today never see anything rougher than a dirt road, and the XC handles those very well. Its aggressive tire and suspension package add 1.4 inches to the ride height. That translates into an extra inch of ground clearance. That can make a big difference on snowy streets, so there won't be any excuses for staying home from work in even the worst weather conditions.
It was on the potholed roads leading us down from the Chugach Mountains that we began to understand the logic behind Volvo's decision not to design a true SUV. Read the ads for conventional sport-utilities and they all boast about having a 'car-like ride.' But the simple fact is you can only do so much with a body-on-frame truck design. A passenger car's unitbody construction is better suited to everyday driving, and we found that the suspension and tires designed for the XC provided a more comfortable ride on rough roads than the conventional V70 wagon.
This hybrid approach also means a lighter vehicle and that has several distinct advantages. Fuel economy is notably better than with a conventional, gas-guzzling SUV: 20 mpg in the city, 32 on the highway, according to the EPA.
When it comes to performance and handling, the XC has a big advantage over sport-utilities. This wagon handles like a fine European sports sedan. Volvo's 190 horsepower turbocharged 2.4 liter 5-cylinder engine provides instant response on the highway and is capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in about 9 seconds. Adding greatly to the engine's performance is a responsive electronically controlled four-speed transmission that has the feel of high-quality machinery.
The XC AWD's all-wheel-drive system is shared with the more conventional V70 AWD wagon. Under normal driving conditions, it's essentially a front-wheel-drive car, with 95 percent of the engine's power going to the front wheels. But if one of those tires begins to slip, a viscous clutch instantly shifts up to 95 percent of the power to the rear wheels. This is all done seamlessly.
If a Volvo wagon appeals to and is in your price range, then by all means you should drive one. It handles like a German sports sedan. Its interior controls are flawlessly designed and a delight to use. And the more time we spent in the car the more we liked the striking wood treatment. In practical terms, the V70 offers as much seating and cargo capacity as many sport-utilities, yet it's more comfortable and rides much better. The all-wheel-drive system gives the V70 all-weather capability, while the raised ground clearance helps it pass over rough, primitive roads.
Volvo's XC may not win over drivers who want the rugged image of a sport-utility vehicle. And it certainly won't serve the needs of those who really need a vehicle capable of serious off-roading. But the XC is a great choice for buyers looking for a high-performance wagon that can deal with Mother Nature's worst.
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