Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.
The Volkswagen EuroVan was the last of my weekly press cars. Shortly thereafter, we moved down to our new townhouse in Central Virginia, which was too far away from a major metropolitan area to receive them. Fortunately, the magazine still needed a good fact checker, so I was able to keep a finger in the automotive journalism business while still making a little money on the side.
Now that we lived in a 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath townhouse with a basement, which was a big step up from our 1/1 apartment in Arlington, my wife’s parents let her know in no uncertain terms that it was time to come to Connecticut to pick up the rest of the stuff that she left behind when she moved out. We would not be able to accomplish this task with either our 1994 Nissan Sentra or 1986 Chevrolet Nova sedans. Thanks to my continuing connection with the magazine, I asked if I could get a press car big enough for the job if I was willing to pick it up and drop it off in Northern Virginia. We had friends that lived in a townhouse community in Fairfax, which was ideal.
I had arranged for a Land Rover Discovery, which would have been just big enough since she really had only a few bins worth of old toys and other memories. Some of you may recall that I mentioned more than once that the company that handled press cars was famous for giving you exactly the opposite of what you asked for. Sure enough, when we showed up at our friend’s house to pick up the Disco, there was a green Volkswagen Passat GLX 4Motion sedan waiting for us.
Since we were headed north anyway, I called up the company and asked them if they had any car immediately available that was up for the task at hand, and they fortunately had this Volvo. We drove directly to their lot in Maryland and swapped out the VW.
You also may notice that this review is a lot longer than 350 words. Roughly a year had passed since the EuroVan, and in that time the format had changed a bit and, more importantly, the word limit had been expanded. I don’t remember what the new limit was, but it was nice to have a little more space to review the car.
I was also able to make the same arrangement about a month later when I had to pick up the items I left behind in Florida. I’ll cover that car on Thursday.
The following review was written on June 24, 2000.
Thanks to the ubiquity of minivans and SUVs, American drivers are suddenly rediscovering the station wagon. These new station wagons, however, are not the lumbering, wood grained Vista Cruisers and Country Squires of old. The Mom-mobile stigma that afflicted station wagons and rocketed the “anti-station wagon” minivan to popularity over 15 years ago is now itself afflicted. While nobody can dispute why SUVs are popular — they’re rugged, spacious, roomy, and versatile — SUV buyers are discovering that they also have to live with a poor ride, tricky handling, and/or terrible gas mileage. These shortcomings have sent people looking again for the carlike ride, handling and gas mileage that no minivan or SUV can offer, with the spaciousness of both. Guess what they found?
Apparently, a lot of these people found their way into Volvo showrooms. While few companies know station wagons as well as Volvo, the wagons are actually starting to overshadow Volvo’s sedans in popularity. With an overall younger demographic than sedan buyers, Volvo is milking this opportunity by separating the two and thus placing more emphasis than before on the wagons.
The proof is that the first of the new mid-sized Volvos to be introduced is the V70 wagon. The new S60 sedan (formerly known as the S70) will follow this fall along with the pseudo SUV V70 XC with all-wheel drive. For 2002, the small S40 sedan and V40 wagon will be replaced by a new S40 sedan and V50 wagon. Finally, a large V90 wagon may be introduced sometime during the next couple of years.
I can’t imagine many men who would be embarrassed to drive around in our test V70 T5, which boasts a 247-horsepower, turbocharged and intercooled 20-valve five-cylinder engine hooked to the optional five-speed “manumatic” transmission. For the less enthusiastic, the base 2.4T sports a 197-horsepower light-pressure turbo with a regular five-speed automatic.
The new V70 (and upcoming S60) adopt the unique styling theme of the S80, with a beltline that stretches from the small-but-familiar Volvo grill to the rear tail lamps. While Volvo has continued the bumper-to-roof tail lamp treatment of the previous generation, they now bulge at the center to emphasize that dramatic beltline. Other unique features that set this apart from the boxy Volvo’s of yore are a steeply raked windshield that stretches out over the front wheels, á la DaimlerChrysler’s “cab forward” cars, and slightly angled side windows. Although marginally shorter, the new V70 is wider and has a longer wheelbase.
It’s roomy, too. Fortunately, Volvo kept the rear of the V70 square, which allows a generous 37 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seat up, and 72 cubic feet with the rear seat folded flush to the floor. This room was much appreciated during a recent 500-mile drive with a carload full of my wife’s childhood memories that her parents told her to “move it or lose it.” Like all good family wagons, the V70 can carry up to five adults and two children with the rear facing third seat up. Safety features abound, including an inflating side curtain and whiplash protection system. You actually have to try hard to get maimed or killed in a Volvo.
The interior of the V70 is a luxurious and much warmer environment than in past Volvos. To justify the nearly $43,000 price tag of our test car, Volvo threw in almost everything but the kitchen sink.
The leather, power, heated front seats are comfortable, but they didn’t grip as well in the corners as I’d hoped. Other little nitpick items included a speedometer with markings at every 2.5 mph, and little visual distinction from the base wagon. I actually found myself missing the in-your-face styling treatment of last year’s V70R.
But, if I had children and money, I’d buy the V70 in a heartbeat. Actually, just make that money.
SPECS AT A GLANCE
Base Price: $33,400
Price As Tested: $42,705
Engine: turbocharged 247 horsepower, 2.3 liter in-line 5
Transmission: Five-Speed Manumatic
EPA Mileage: 19 city/26 highway