Growing old gracefully: the Volvo XC70

New cars Volvo Reviews
PetrolBlog reviews the 2014 Volvo XC70 and finds that, whilst it remains a class act in so many ways, it's no longer the default choice in the segment.

The Volvo XC70 can - with some justification - lay claim to be the pioneer of the jacked-up luxury off-road estate car segment. It’s not that the four-wheel drive wagon was particularly new when the first Volvo XC70 arrived in 1997, (then called the V70 XC), it’s just that nobody had mixed rugged 4x4 looks with a standard estate car before.

Two years later, the Audi Allroad arrived, and immediately went into battle on the muddy lanes and fields of middle England. There’s just something wonderfully middle class about cars like the Volvo XC70 and Audi Allroad. There was even a time when each car came pre-loaded with a Golden Retriever and a pair of Hunters. Heck, you could even tick a box for a National Trust sticker, Support the Lifeboats badge and a radio locked on to BBC Radio 4.

But time has caught up with the Volvo XC70. Today, the Audi Allroad - now based on the A6 and the A4 is the choice of the image-conscious buyer. The Subaru Legacy Outback is still the favourite of the more discreet buyer. And there’s even a credible challenge from the likes of Vauxhall and Volkswagen, with the Insignia Country Tourer and the Alltrack. The bloody cheek of it.

Suddenly the Volvo XC70 - now in its third generation - is beginning to feel a little tired. Let’s not forget it originally arrived in 2007.

Recognising this, Volvo unveiled the 2014 XC70 at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, giving the car a facelift and bringing it in line with the rest of the range. The question is, can the Volvo XC70 still cut it?

Well that all depends which way you look at it. For PetrolBlog, the XC70 didn't get off to the best of starts, with it feeling decidedly dated after a week behind the wheel of the rather excellent XC60 D5 R-Design. It's funny how something as minor as the infotainment screen can make such a difference. But whilst it's faced towards the driver in the XC60, it sits flat in the XC70, therefore giving the cabin an older feel.

2014 Volvo XC70 dashboard

And it's not as though the XC70 is cheaper than its SUV sibling. The price as tested here - for the D4 SE Lux is £37,995. That's an awful lot of cash for what's essentially a raised Volvo V70, with some tough body cladding and the ability for some light off-loading. Why not drop the XC and save a bit of cash?

On the plus side, there's no doubt that the Volvo XC70 remains a convincing premium product. The interior retains the same level of quality we've come to expect from modern Volvos, with supremely comfortable seats, the delightful floating centre console and a rather familiar layout.

But whilst the adaptive digital display - as debuted in the Volvo V40 - is great, it just feels a bit out of place in the XC70. Similarly, the Senses Connected Touch - whilst clever - has the potential to be left unused for the majority of the time. Maybe it's the lack of connectivity in rural Devon, but with a good DAB digital radio and a USB connection, the Senses system - even with Spotify and TuneIn Radio - is simply not needed.

There are no such issues over the interior space though. With 575 litres of boot space - extending to 1,600 litres with the 40/20/40 seats folded down - there's a huge amount of room for country pursuits. Whatever they may be. And the boot opening is wide and high.

2014 Volvo XC70 boot space

Volvo will point to a number of exterior upgrades for the 2014 XC70, but in truth it's a bit of a mixed bag. The newer front grille, badge and daytime running lights work well, but round the back it's as though Volvo has been to a motoring accessories shop and ordered some chrome surrounds for the lights. It all feels a bit forced.

It still looks like a premium product and is subtly different to the V70, but it's the least successful of all the 2014 cosmetic upgrades rolled out by Volvo. Time has simply caught up with the old girl.

This elderly status means it's not a car that enjoys being hurried. The increased ride height, combined with the XC70's weight - 2,390kg in D4 AWD spec - means that there's a sizeable weight to shift along the lanes. As you'd expect, the levels of traction and grip are plentiful, making it a perfect machine if you happen to live out on the sticks (why else would you buy a car like this?), but it prefers to live life leisurely in its advancing years.

Rear of 2014 Volvo XC70

The steering is wonderfully light and the suspension irons out all but the worst of the creases in the road, but it tends to wallow around bends. In truth, there's a general feeling of disconnection between you and the road, which can be a tad disconcerting. But if ease of driving and a cosseting ride are two things you covet highly, there's little to advise agains the XC70.

Performance wise, PetrolBlog has long been a fan of Volvo's D5 engines, so it was interesting to see if the lesser-powered D4 would stack up. Our conclusion would be that - in the real world - it's probably not worth the extra expense of opting for the D5.

The D4's 163hp is perfectly adequate on short trips and long hauls, and the 420Nm of torque  would make light work of off-road driving, towing and overtaking manoeuvres. There's an additional 20Nm available in the 215hp D5 - and it's available across a wider band - but unless you really want the extra power, we'd save the additional £1,500.

Volvo claims a combined fuel economy of 54.1mpg with the six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission, around 10mpg more than the Subaru Outback. Something to think about when you're comparing screen prices. And you'll also need to consider how long you intend to keep the Volvo XC70 for.

We took a look at What Car's depreciation calculator, and compared the XC70 with the A6 Allroad, Passat Alltrack and Outback. The XC70's first year depreciation curve is quite staggering.

Despite it being much more expensive to buy than the Alltrack and Outback, within 12 months, the value gap has shrunk considerably. It's never been a car to retain strong long term money, which is why secondhand XC70s are such a firm favourite at PBHQ.

2014 Volvo XC70 cabin

In truth, PetrolBlog hasn't been completely won over by the 2014 Volvo XC70, but that's as much to do with external factors as it is the car itself.

The XC70 does remain a proper premium product. It feels like the flagship of the V70 range, and that's something that should not be underestimated. Especially in this small, but highly image-based sector. On both the SE Nav and SE Lux trim levels, the specification is suitably lavish, but things would get expensive if you started having fun with the support and accessory packs.

But as we said previously, time has caught up with the XC70. The likes of the excellent V40 and the superb XC60 really do show it up, whilst the imminent arrival of the all-new XC90 should push the XC70 even further into the shadows. And let's not forget the launch of the brand new D4 diesel engine, which offers better performance and vastly improved efficiency. We've tried it, and it's good.

Reaching a conclusion on the Volvo XC70 is tough. This is the fourth attempt at a closing paragraph.

In so many ways it's hard to recommend it, but living with a Volvo is so reassuring and so satisfying, it's hard to completely rule it out of the equation. Believe it or not, we'd probably opt for the cheaper and fresher-feeling Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer, but when it came down to handing cash over at the dealer, the XC70 would still be tugging at the heart strings.

Time may have caught up with the XC70, but it remains a timeless machine.