When it comes to making great station wagons, arguably no company has a better reputation than Volvo – at least when you look back on a historical basis.
For the longest time, Volvo meant safety, and Volvo meant brick-shaped wagons designed for everything life could throw your way.
Modern Volvos have gone substantially more upmarket (although Volvo was never exactly an ‘entry level’ automaker in its heyday) but the glory days are the brick wagon days … the likes of the 850R, and later V70R.
In today’s short owner’s review, I’m going to share my experience with a second generation Volvo V70.
I’ve actually owned two “Volvo bricks” now – a 940 Polar (which then made its way into my brother’s ownership and has since been sold) and a V70. I’ll do a review on the 940 Polar another day.
The V70 is now my parents’ car – due to a change in circumstances I sold it to them and got myself a Suzuki Swift Sport instead. However, I had enough time with the car (and still use it occasionally) that I feel confident to give you the following owner’s review.
As with all the previous owner’s reviews I have written, this is not focused on facts, figures and statistics.
Instead, I want to focus on what I like about the car, and what I dislike, and give my overall opinion as to whether you should buy one (based on whether or not I’d make the same purchasing decision again).
NB: I don’t currently have any photos of my own V70 – I will add some as soon as I can get my hands on them!
Table of Contents
About The Car
- 2006 Volvo V70 second generation (P2 generation)
- 2.4 turbo engine
- Front wheel drive
- “Classic” trim (if you’ve read our Volvo V70 buyer’s guide, you’ll know that there are literally squillions of trim and spec levels available)
- Purchased from the friendly team at Metro Christchurch, just down the road from my house. I’m not incentivised to say this FYI.
One quirky thing about this car is that it is actually a used Japanese import. That’s right, this is about as close to a ‘JDM’ Volvo as you could hope to find. Interestingly for a Japanese import, it has impeccable stamped service history (albeit all in Japanese).
What I Like About The 2nd Generation Volvo V70
It’s Amazingly Comfortable
If you’ve never sat in Volvo seats, then do yourself a favour and go find one to sit in ASAP. I can’t think of any other car company that so consistently got it right with front car seats.
My old 940 had amazing seats, and the V70 is even better.
You can soak up the miles in absolute comfort, dialling in a bit of seat heating action if your rear end so wishes.
Brilliant On The Motorway/Open Road
On the motorway or open road – at least until you hit too many corners – the V70 is hard to beat. The turbocharged engine and automatic transmission work extremely well together, allowing for unexpectedly rapid progress when needed (e.g. merging on to the motorway or overtaking a slower car) but also allows for quiet and comfortable cruising.
While the fire-breathing V70R really wants a manual gearbox, I love the combo of auto transmission and low-pressure turbo five cylinder engine in this particular V70.
Consult our V70 buyer’s guide for the different engine and transmission options available, but believe me that this one is a peach. It really does get up and go when called upon, but settles down nicely at cruise.
This is a full-sized Volvo wagon, do I need to say more? There’s oodles of space in the rear cargo area, and even more with the seats down. The box-like dimensions make loading objects a breeze.
The only complaint here is the roofline is relatively low, so compared to something like a Subaru Outback you won’t be able to load such tall objects.
My parents run an art gallery, and so it’s the perfect car for them to load in large canvases and paintings for delivery.
Volvos of this era get much hate from people who dislike the acres of buttons and switches.
However, I’m a fan. Everything is easy to use in this car, and logically laid out.
The AC controls are simple, the heated seat controls are simple … this car oozes Scandinavian sensibility and practicality.
Safe For Its Age
Let’s be real – a new car is going to be safer than this Volvo.
However, the company didn’t earn its reputation for safety for no good reason, and if you’re buying one to transport your family around, you’ll have a car much safer than most Japanese or American competition from the time.
Affordable To Run
Volvos are not typically the cheapest vehicles to keep on the road, but overall the V70 has been reliable and economical to run so far.
Servicing is not particularly expensive at our trusted family independent mechanic, and although fuel consumption isn’t as good as you’d expect from a more modern car, it isn’t bad either.
Timeless, Elegant Styling
Some people (like my wife) hate the classic Volvo brick shape and think that it is a car for old people. I disagree; the second generation V70 wagon is a truly elegant design, which is a more modern interpretation of the old 80s/90s brick shape.
The Volvo is 15 years old, and I think it looks as relevant as the day it rolled off the production line. I’ve got no doubt it will still look great in another 15 years.
What I Dislike
Appalling Turning Circle Makes Town Driving A Challenge
No word of a lie, a Boeing 747 has a better turning circle than the Volvo V70. I like in a city with fairly wide streets, but even then it will often need a three-point turn to get facing the other way.
My old 940 had an incredible turning circle, which made it much easier to navigate around town and in tight parking spaces. I really dislike having to park the V70 in shopping malls etc.
Call me a rubbish driver, but until you’ve experienced just how bad the turning circle is on one of these cars, you won’t understand.
If you live in a city/town with lots of tight turns, this might not be a good car for you.
Volvos have rarely been the last word in handling dynamics, and the V70 is no exception. Plenty of body roll and vague steering add up for an average handling experience. Totally fine if you are driving normally, but this is not an enthusiast driver’s car by any stretch of the imagination (save up for the epic V70R if that’s what you want!)
No Good Off The Road
My parents experienced this firsthand a few months ago, getting completely stuck in some muddy grass on the side of the road after pulling over.
I’m used to my wife’s Subaru Legacy wagon, which can go pretty much anywhere provided the ground clearance is sufficient.
I’d suggest looking out for an AWD model such as the ‘Cross Country’ version if you are likely to encounter anything other than tarmac.
Rear Leg Room Could Be Better
Comparing once again to the Legacy, which is a similar age and cost about the same as a used buy, the Volvo has inferior rear legroom. Driver and front passenger accommodations are vastly better in terms of comfort, but I’d prefer to travel in the back of the Legacy any day of the week.
Should You Buy A Second Generation Volvo V70?
As with all my other reviews, the primary focus is to answer one question – would I buy it again? (Knowing what I know now).
The answer is yes. I think you should buy a 2nd generation Volvo V70, and I would buy another.
However, there are a couple of caveats.
Firstly, if you do a lot of driving in car parks, narrow streets etc then look elsewhere. Large dimensions and a rubbish turning circle make this car tedious to drive around town.
On the other hand, if you are after a long-distance mile muncher to cruise along the motorway, or you otherwise don’t have to battle much inner-city traffic, then this could be the ideal car.
Secondly, if you live anywhere with inclement weather or conditions, then you might want to consider something else like a Subaru Legacy/Outback OR at least purchase an AWD model such as the Cross Country (there were also AWD variants of the regular/non-XC V70s). When I compare our Subaru Legacy of a similar vintage, it’s hard to argue against it being the more practical vehicle because of its excellent AWD system and better ground clearance.
What do you think about the Volvo V70? Would you buy one? Have you owned one – and if so – what was your experience?
I’d love to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment below.
Don’t forget to read our Volvo V70 buyer’s guide for more information these great cars.