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The more the world changes the more Volvos stay the same.
Not quite true anymore as Volvo builds increasingly ever more impressive super saloons.
Nevertheless, in the UK at least their bread and butter still lies in the big old estate market. Big Estate and Volvo the two are synonymous.
As a 740 owner (no I am honest, I admit it) its nice to get to grips with the newer version and see how far the world of Volvo has changed in the last decade or so.
Well it is a trifle better looking than my old 740, mostly because of the lovely deep green paint and colour matching of the accessories like the bumpers and mirrors, scale wise it is more balanced looking than the old dog with less exaggerated overhangs. It looks a fair bit smaller but I doubt whether it actually is.
The alloy wheels nicely offset the paint but to be honest it is a Volvo estate and hub-capped steel would have done just fine and not damaged its abilities any. There is no pretence at disguise or pseudo lifestyle like your Audi Avants and BMW Tourers its just a big old estate, what you see is what you get.
Inside the changes are much more marked. A sea of beige has
replaced the Dark leather and hard plastics of my old tractor. The perfect match
for your average pensioners front room, so they should feel totally at home in
here. All the hard square edges have gone replaced by the smooth contours of the
leather effect plastics. It is just a shame the grain of the faux leather seems
to vary so much from panel to panel, if it did not it may be more convincing.
Still once ensconced on the sofa wearing your best slippers you will feel right
Instruments are simple bright and informative the dash whilst
hardly cutting edge in any way shape or form, does the job its supposed to and
leaves you to the job of driving.
It is a fairly well specified car though many options are available. The interior has lots of nice thoughtfully executed well built pieces. The split folding arm rested rear seats are the usual flat folding excellent items we have got used to seeing, and built good and strong to withstand the regular cack handed up downs they will be expected to perform. Front seats Adjust in lots of slightly hard to control directions but somewhere in there is just the right position for the most long legged stretch out merchant to the most short-sighted steering wheel hugger. Mirrors feature the usual excellent adjustabilty and can be angled deep down to the curb; with such a big car good mirrors are vital. The old centre armrest is still there only slightly revamped from the unit in the 740, it is curvier and higher and a touch more comfortable for the elbow, but the top is flimsy to say the least.
The engine is a straight five with a fair amount of gallop to say the least in comparison to the Asmatic agricultural 2.3 four banger in the old 740 the 2.5 litre unit revs endlessly with smooth and pointed aggression. 170bhp is a nice match to the chassis and plenty for most owners.
The motor revs with an urgency not akin to the progress of the average Volvo pilot and generates more than enough urge to partake in the Motorway nose to tail third lane rat race.
Its only problem would seem to be a lack of torque at the granny end of the rev counter. Meaning lots of revs required to get the manual to launch smoothly, More of a problem for those Volvo drivers who are also members of the caravan club, i.e. most of them. No problem here though as it's mated to a neat and unfussy Auto gearbox which will just skirt around any potential problem points.
Despite its much improved chassis the V70 is still hardly an exhilarating drivers car, so the slush box is just perfect.
Big news first, front wheel drive, is this good is this bad, can we really tell the difference with this type of softly sprung set-up. Grip is definitely up at both ends. However, the better rubber probably causes much of this. Still the steering feels way more accurate despite its lightness. The biggest enhancement though is the body control, gone is the feeling of the body lurching into bends at terrifying angles of incline. Its not exactly sportster but is miles ahead of the old and is much calmer feeling to drive even at the sedate speeds these buses usually travel at. Despite the extra control ride is still good with no sign of teeth chattering harshness.
Brakes are calm strong and faultless the anti-lock not rearing its ugly side at all during the test.
Volvo = Safe its a fair comment if the belts, pre tensioners, anti - submarine seats, collapsible column, airbags side impact bars and crumple zones dont save you, the sheer bulk might, after that your on your own and a second hand tank may be more suitable for you.
The whole Volvo experience endows one with a sense of security like no other car, which is probably why so many plonkers seem to drive around in them. Indestructibility is fine, feeling indestructible and using it to intimidate other road users with thoughtless driving is not.
An old work colleague once recounted the story of being taught to drive by his newly qualified wife. Being a nervous learner he got stuck at a busy T-junction. After a while his impatient wife shouts, "just pull out your in a Volvo!" he bought her a different car shortly afterwards, just to alter her mindset.
Would some one nick it? is security really that important to it, alarm central locking and deadlocks and such like are fitted anyway, to make it more difficult for the ever increasing blue rinse bandits.
The thing I noticed immediately was the smoother softer point of impact for my right elbow on the door, only a small point but one which irritates constantly on the 740, and one which demonstrates the real advances in the Volvo range. Safe and Sensible are now melded with a touch of elegance and design thought.
As it should be it is roomy, and the big square hole at the back can swallow
the largest of objects short of needing a box van. Can your car fit a large
settee into the rear and still close the tailgate , mine can. Need more room get
a bigger Volvo, oh yes they do exist.
At first it feels remarkably similar, given its not got a decade of extra wear and slop built in. You can jump out of a 740 and feel immediately at home in the V70, which is a good thing if you are loyal to the Volvo brand. The controls are light and easy making it a doodle to drive, though how much lock has been lost in the conversion from north south rear wheeler to east west front wheeler god only knows. The 740 has a remarkable turning circle for its size, and though I did not have chance to test it. It is a fair bet the V70 need a couple of extra goes to turn out of a dead end. It is a small price to pay for the other improvements and a more than fair trade off.
It does not even feel particularly front wheel drive though the 740 was hardly and advert for the dynamic superiority of rear wheel drive.
All in all Volvo have slowly evolved the estate into a charming version of its old war wagons. Styling is still shall we say minimal on the outside at least, but at least its not an ugly pretend MPV.
Given that if you buy a Volvo estate you know exactly what you are going to get up front, you will not be disappointed, if you are trading up from a practical and useful old one to a newer model you will probably be delighted.
Its all fairly roomy inside with plenty of leg and head room all round. The cut back dash gives a feeling of space to the front. Rear seat passengers are also fairly well catered for.
Being a fairly tough well sized saloon and not bowing to any particular fashion criteria of its day this could well be a car which would last you a good long time without complaint.
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