The XC70’s soft suspension means the ride is very comfortable; extra spring travel deals with uneven surfaces better than the standard V70. However, the damping is unsettled, while the steering is rather vague and suffers a little from kickback through rough corners. The overall driving experience comes across as a touch spongy, and you’re rather aware of the increased height. Venture off road, though, and the Volvo is more impressive. With 210mm of ground clearance, it instils confidence when tackling rock-strewn tracks and rutted paths. The five-cylinder D5 diesel delivers good mid-range punch, although it could be more urgent at low revs. The 2.5T petrol alternative is very smooth, and the turbo means it’s torquey for a petrol car.
The XC70 is a toughened-up, quasi-off-road version of the V70 estate, whose beefed-up bumpers, raised ride height and accentuated fog lights give it a unique appearance. Dark grey cladding on the flanks and silver under body protectors at both ends add to the effect. The range is a compact one, limited to two engines (one petrol, one diesel) and three trim lines – SE, SE Lux and SE Sport. The latter two come with electronically variable suspension as standard. Equipment levels are generous, but so they should be considering some steep-looking prices. The XC70’s obvious rival is the Audi All road; otherwise, off-road-look 4WD estate cars are thin on the ground (unless you count the cheaper Subaru Legacy Outback). Volvo’s key customers are those who drive a BMW X5 or Mercedes M-Class (or, indeed, a Volvo XC90) but who now want something more ecologically sound, without trading much of the off-road ability they rely upon.
There’s a genuine sense of style inside the XC70, which is dominated by the floating centre console. The controls are well placed and easy to navigate, particularly the chrome ventilation buttons, which glow green at night. However, the electric handbrake is hidden by the driver’s right knee, and the ignition key slots in above the air vents, so the fob knocks against the metal trim. Furthermore, while the seats are supple and comfortable, they could be more supportive. The Volvo is, however, cosseting for rear passengers, and the boot has a low lip, long load space and flat-folding rear seats. We were alarmed when we crunched the test economy figures, though; the D5 Volvo returned only 26.3mpg, which doesn’t even match the official urban figure. Servicing isn’t cheap, either, while the 41 per cent retained value isn’t great.