ALTHOUGH Volvo has a long history of shoehorning some very hirsute engines into its big estate cars, the company is at heart nothing if not environmentally sensitive.
While most of us would love the opportunity to pedal a 300bhp Volvo estate about, in reality most of us would rather run a Volvo estate that offered all the space, style and luxury that has come to exemplify this doyen of the large estate car sector but would like the sort of running costs more usually associated with a supermini.
It sounds like a pipe dream but Volvo has been working towards just that goal. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is and the sacrifice you’ll need to make comes in terms of straight line pace. The Volvo V70 DRIVe R-DESIGN features a frankly improbable-sounding 1560cc diesel engine under its vast bonnet and this may deter some, especially when being asked for the thick end of £30,000. But don’t prejudge this car. It’s more appealing than it at first sounds.
No matter how you choose to slice and dice it, 115bhp in a car that weighs over 1650 kilos doesn’t make for much in the way of acceleration and the V70 DRIVe will manage the benchmark sprint to 60mph in a leisurely 11 seconds. That’s far from glacial but perhaps a little perspective is afforded by the car’s 199lb/ft torque figure. That’s better than the 180bhp T4 petrol model and it means that even if you have your V70 estate well loaded with passengers and equipment, acceleration won’t be terminally blunted when you prod the throttle pedal. The V70 DRIVe feels quicker than it is thanks to the elastic power delivery of its turbocharger and you soon learn how to drive the car to get the best from the engine.
The six-speed manual gearbox requires a little diligence as a result but the great thing about this car is that it’s so economical that you won’t feel guilty stretching its legs once in a while. The R-DESIGN’s firmer ride quality makes itself felt on poor surfaces, although the steering’s a bit sharper than standard V70s. Switch out of road test mode and it’s better than what you’d expect from a big estate Volvo. It’s not a Lotus Elise though and nor should you expect that.
The V70 has earned its corn down the years as a serious load lugger and just because there’s a small engine up front it doesn’t mean you’ll get short changed out back. There’s a massive 575 litres of virgin space and a massive 1600 litres can be liberated if you fold the rear seats down and stack your cargo to the roof lining. The 40-20-40 three part split/fold rear seat offers 16 different combinations and the load bay floor itself features aluminium rails and movable anchoring points. A sliding load floor is also offered as an option, as is a powered tailgate.
The V70’s front is pleasantly curvy in-keeping with other current models that have reinvigorated Volvo’s reputation for stylish design. The car’s designer cleverly decreased the amount the side glass curves from front to rear, for maximum style at the driving end and maximum carrying ability at the business end. It’s unmistakably a Volvo and the look is a long way removed from the lithe, purposeful lines of some Germanic rivals. The blacked out side pillars, C30-inspired tail lights and a slightly more raked tailgate angle nevertheless mean that it has enough about it to hold its own from a design perspective. The 18-inch Ixion alloy wheels of the R-DESIGN lend it a purposeful stance.
The R-DESIGN model combines the luxury features of the ES, with sports styling and handling enhancements. A unique power steering system and 18” alloy wheels together with the R-DESIGN chassis beef up the handling characteristics. The car’s visual presence is further enhanced with unique rear exhaust pipes, R-DESIGN leather-faced upholstery, front sports seats with side support, a R-DESIGN leather steering wheel and unique aluminium interior trim.
That’s on top of features like electronic climate control, cruise control, a six-speaker CD stereo, heated door mirrors and washer nozzles, and roof rails.
The 1.6-litre diesel engine is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and also benefits from start/stop technology which results in fuel consumption of 62.8 mpg and emissions of only 119g/km. That’s astonishing for a vehicle of this size.
The DRIVe features the same tech as announced on the S60 and V60 DRIVe specifications. This means that customers get Brake Energy Regeneration, low rolling resistance tyres and precise fuel management. All help to achieve these impressive fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions figures.
The V70 DRIVe R-DESIGN is one of the most intriguing cars in Volvo’s entire line-up. At first glance it seems like a rather expensive sheep in wolf’s clothing, but spend a little time with the car and you begin to appreciate its genius. If you can live without haymaker acceleration, there’s precious little not to like.