Station wagons are a mere blip on the American automotive scene, even those festooned with sport/utility design cues. Even more those with Volvo badges on them. But the Volvo V70 and its ersatz SUV sibling, the XC70, loom large here for another reason. They ride on the latest version of a platform that underpins a growing number of Ford Motor Company products, from the Ford Taurus and Taurus X to the upcoming Lincoln MKS and Ford Flex.
Driving the XC70 triggered childhood memories for wagon-enthusiast Frank Markus. “This is what we might all be driving had misguided CAFE standards not killed the family wagon and fostered the minivan/SUV craze,” he writes.
Its elegance goes far beyond your parents’ wagon’s interior, with supple leather, modern, logical instruments and switchgear, and an unusual postmodern grain to the leatherette dashboard cover. This package more likely recalls the Swedish-modern furniture from your old living room more than what was in the driveway. One thing your parents’ Country Squire didn’t have was a built-in child safety seat. The $495 option is fitted to the outboard rear seats and makes them a bit too firm when in the fold-down, adult position. They negate the heated rear seats that are included with the $875 climate package, but come in handy if you regularly alternate between kids and adults as rear-seat passengers.
Dynamics are a bit on the nostalgic side, though too. Volvo’s five-cylinder engine is gone, giving way to the 3.2-liter inline-six. It’s a smooth engine, of course, and just powerful enough for this wagon. The car suffers from slow steering with poor feel and feedback, especially just off-center. Being too soft for the handling course is okay for this sort of car, but it doesn’t reward with a supple ride. “Lots of crashing on Hyundai‘s choppy road surface,” Ed Loh writes. He finds too much wind noise at the center of the windshield and a loud whistle on the driver-side window.
The SUV craze rears its ugly brushguards on the exterior styling, too. The XC70’s sport/utility cues have displaced Volvo’s traditional design minimalism: The exterior looks downright busy. The front-drive V70 is the answer, even if the all-wheel-drive XC70 continues to sell better in the U.S.
The Volvo V70/XC70 is an improvement dynamically and it’s an improvement over its predecessor, but styling has taken a retrograde step from the previous-generation models. In terms of significance, the new Volvo wagons raise two big questions: Is the wagon coming back, and will its platform help Ford come back?