Fleet News

Volvo S60, V70, XC70

Volvo

Review

Volvo has obviously taken this advice to heart, as even the keenest of car-spotters would have a job picking out the 2005 model-year S60, V70 and XC70 models from their outgoing equivalents.

Look closely, however, and there are subtle changes. The S60 and V70 gain more resemblance to the S40 and V50, with new bumpers and redesigned grilles. The four-wheel-drive, high-riding XC70 gets a larger grille, bigger front and rear skid plates, plus a new choice of stone grey paint for the bumpers, wheel arches and side mouldings.

Headlights now have clear lenses and a pressure-jet wash system rather than wipers and a number of new paint colours and alloy wheel designs are offered.

In the S60 saloon and V70 estate ranges, the different models are differentiated more clearly. S models have black-painted lower side and door mouldings, Sport models have a fully colour-coded exterior and SE versions have chrome inserts on their front and rear bumpers.

The interior upgrades are more instantly noticeable: aluminium trim is much-improved, especially in the S60, as is the optional wood detailing (now real), and the quality of the leather upholstery.

Centre consoles are less intrusive, with an armrest incorporating cupholders and a tray, and the audio systems tested were all much easier to use. Front seats are more extensively adjustable, and further refinements include a reduction in reflections on the windscreen and cloth-trimmed A-pillars and sun visors. Volvo also claims that improved sound insulation has reduced road noise by up to two decibels.

New equipment includes DTSC traction and stability control and front foglights for the S60 S, front foglights for the V70 S, and rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and water-repellent mirror glass on S60/V70 Sport and SE models.

Other new features include specially-coated water-repellent glass for windscreens and side windows, a front passenger airbag with cut-off switch (Volvo now judges such a system safe enough) and flat-bladed windscreen wipers.

From the end of the year, Volvo's new BLIS – Blind Spot Information System – will be offered, which essentially monitors surrounding traffic and illuminates a warning light if it detects another vehicle within three metres to the side or 9.5 metres to the rear.

Prices have been raised by a few hundred pounds in most cases, though this is more than accounted for by the extra kit; the S60 now range from £19,995-£34,313 and the V70 from £22,278-£37,828.

The XC70, offered in SE form as standard (from £27,933) gains the rain sensor, water-repellent glass and folding rear-view mirrors; SE Lux models (£31,013) now have bi-xenon headlamps, an upgraded audio system and wood inlays. The price of the latter is down £415, as the DVD navigation and TV have been deleted – these are now offered as options in the Communications packs.

The engine line-ups remain the same. UK buyers are offered the XC70 in D5 2.4 diesel (163 bhp) and 2.5T petrol (210 bhp) form, the diesel accounting for 80% of sales.

In the S60 and V70 ranges, the five-cylinder, turbo-charged T5 engine has been enlarged to 2.4 litres from 2.3 and power is up 10bhp to 260bhp, torque is raised 15lb-ft to 258lb-ft and this peaks lower in the rev range. Revised tuning gives sharper throttle characteristics – 0-60mph is achieved in 6.5 seconds, 0.3 sec faster, and stopping power has also been improved, thanks to larger front brake discs and callipers.

T5 models now have a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, and manual V70s gain the Spaceball gearstick. D5 and bi-fuel models get speed-sensitive power steering, and the V70 D5 and 2.4 petrol have both received chassis modifications to improve ride and handling.

Fleet operators will be interested to learn that service intervals for all S60, V70 and XC70 models have been increased from 12,000 to 18,000 miles. Volvo's optional FOUR-C active suspension system, with automatically-adapting damping, has also been modified, with its Comfort mode now better-riding and subject to less roll and all responses smoother.

These next-generation 2005-spec models will go on sale in September and Volvo expects about 60% of S60 and V70 sales to go to fleets, but admits that the XC70 is more of a private consumers' choice.

Between 55-65% of S60 and V70 sales are expected to be D5 diesels, but product manager Dean Shaw says Volvo still has no plans to offer UK buyers the 130bhp version of the D5 sold elsewhere in Europe.

Despite the stalling of the Powershift scheme and threats to reduce the tax incentives for gas, Shaw says that Volvo remains committed to its bi-fuel range (LPG/petrol and CNG/petrol) for the foreseeable future, though the company will continue to monitor the market.

However, the D5 diesel won't be upgraded for Euro IV-compliance and thus exemption from the 3% diesel BIK surcharge for another year yet, Volvo running the Euro III engine right up to the deadline.

Behind the wheel

As with the exterior enhancements, the under-the-skin improvements to the S60, V70 and XC70 aren't instantly obvious.

Smooth German roads weren't ideal for checking out just how good the ride really is, but general impressions suggest that on cars fitted with the FOUR-C system, Comfort mode is, well, a little more comfortable, with less pitch and roll.

The most marked development has been in the XC70: in Sport mode, the handling is more precise, with the better-balanced chassis quicker to respond and body roll better contained. It feels sharper than before in all conditions. More stable at high speeds on the autobahn, more agile when cornering hard, the previously slightly unwieldy, top-heavy XC70 has become altogether more rewarding and it is a more accomplished all-rounder.

The benefits to the S60 and V70 are more marginal. Both cars have always been decent enough drives, if not choices for the hardcore enthusiast and little has really changed that could be noticed in day-to-day road driving.

The T5 is more responsive at low revs, with a bit more get up and go to liven up its impressive (on paper) performance figures, but although it's undoubtedly a quick car, its front-wheel drive powertrain, blustery turbo boost and over-keen traction control leave it some way short of being inspirational. In many ways, the four-wheel drive XC70 is more fun, despite its increased weight and ride height, and even with the D5 diesel engine.

However, most Volvo buyers prioritise safety over out-and-out performance and the BLIS blind-spot monitor makes an appealing option.

The warning lights – sited inside the cabin, by the inner edge of each door mirror – are unobtrusive yet easily spotted and the whole system can be deactivated by a switch on the dashboard.

In practice, it is useful, but within its limitations: it only works at speeds over 6mph, it cannot guarantee to detect other road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and small, slow-moving mopeds and it will only detect other cars moving up to 12mph slower or 45mph faster than itself.

This rules out aid in slow-moving stop-start city traffic – when such a system would be a great help, warning of, for example, motorbikes cutting up on the inside – and means that it's difficult to entirely trust its judgement.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing: no such system should be seen as infallible and there's really no substitute for the old mirror, signal, manoeuvre procedure.

Best view this as an additional reminder rather than a third eye. And best view these 2005 Volvos as freshened-up versions of something that was pretty good to start with, rather than extensively-overhauled all-new models.

Verdict

Volvo continues to offer a series of well-specified, high-value and high-quality family/ executive cars which stack up credibly against their German competition, though the lack of a Euro IV diesel will put off BIK-liable drivers.

Engine (cc): 2,401
Max power (bhp/rpm): 260/5,500
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 258/2,100
Max speed (mph – S60/V70): 155/155 (auto: 152)
0-62mph (sec): 6.5 (6.9)/6.8 (7.2)
Fuel consumption (mpg): 30.4 (28.8)/29.7 (28.2)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 220 (234)/226/239
Service interval (miles): 18,000
On sale: September
Price (OTR): £26,763-£29,628

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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