Review: 2008 Volvo XC70

Not long after I drove the Volvo V70, I had the opportunity to drive the XC70. It was an interesting opportunity to compare these similar cars and get a feel for the differences.

Volvo XC70

Most notably are the obvious. With over 8 inches of ground-clearance, this car sat much taller than it’s little brother. It was slightly longer in the cargo area, and it’s exterior styling was much more aggressive and macho. I’m personally a big fan of the XC styling, and think that has that little something that begs to be taken outside, run through mud puddles, stormed up to the mountain, and hosed off when home. Not to mention the addition of stock four-wheel drive on the XC70s, the differences are slightly more than cosmetic, and Volvo has provided a car worthy of the mountain in both its function and appearance. Continue reading Review: 2008 Volvo XC70

Review: 2008 Volvo V70

With 2008 comes a newly designed Volvo V70, and the passing of an era. Gone are the days of boxy, homely Volvos reminiscent of 20+ years in manufacturing. With the updated styling in this year’s model, Volvo has made complete its transformation into a sleek-lined car company, with the DNA of styling running through every car in its lineup.

Volvo V70

While the 5-door wagon will never be confused with a true sport-wagon like the Mercedes-Benz AMG E-Class, or even Audi’s RS6 Avante, this wagon holds its own for blending every-day practicality while possibly looking better than any other $32,000 wagon out there (base-price). When adding in Volvo’s renown safety record, and forward-thinking features, you’re getting class, elegance, functionality, and common-sense… And did I mention looks? Continue reading Review: 2008 Volvo V70

Volvo S80 V8 AWD

Beautiful, elegant lines is what defines this car, inside and out. And while the differences over the past years’ models aren’t dramatic, the result of those years of refinement to the current styling is. From close up, to far away this car is beautiful, and the inside only amplifies that sentiment.
Volvo S80 V8 AWD
The interior is definitely one of the nicest I’ve seen in a car under $60k, and while the price of this car reached $56,000, it started at a humble $38,000 (before adding the V8 and a basket-full of features and expensive luxuries). For a car this nice, I can’t believe it has a base price so low. However, I’d be heart-broken to strip out those luxuries which quickly added up to and took this car from one price class to another.
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Review: 2007 Volvo XC90

Volvo makes one of those beautiful, elegant SUVs that you see driving along, happily, without a care in the world. It isn’t getting hell from the environmentalists like a Hummer would, and it isn’t anemic and underpowered like a Hyundai or other small SUV. Finally, it’s not “fancy” like a BMW X5 or an Mercedes-Benz R Class. It’s just right in that sweet zone, where all of its attention seems to be positive, and nobody really has anything but praise for it. Even in road tests it just keeps getting the thumbs up from those that review it.

Volvo XC90

And that’s pretty much exactly what driving it is like. People aren’t staring at you with a glare as you roll past in a mighty dominator, they smile and wave, and let you into traffic. You, in return, smile back as you turn up the radio from the steering wheel mounted controls. You use the extremely well designed dash controls to dial in that perfect temperature, and swing past slower motorists in the fast lane with a swiftness that would keep your grandmother from guessing you were driving faster than you should. The pedal is ready to take you into ‘ticket-land’, but it’ll do it so gently that you have to watch that creeping speedometer or you’ll be explaining to the officer how it’s really not your fault that Volvo makes such a smooth ride.

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Review: 2006 Volvo V50 T5 AWD

For this week’s test I had the opportunity to drive about 1500 miles with two 700+ days of driving. I was looking forward to a more in-depth review with some opportunities not always available with other reviews. Namely, how does this car really feel after being in it for 12 hours straight. Well, when it comes to the Volvo V50, it just feels all right.

Volvo V50Clearly I could have done worse for this trip. I can’t imagine if I would have gotten a Nissan Titan or other ridiculously sized vehicles, or even a two-seater; the wife and I had luggage you know. But as it turns out, wagons make great road-trip cars. We filled this one with two bags of clothes, some food, and a wake board. The back seat laid down nicely and I had no problem fitting it all in. My wife and I hopped in, and we too fit well. It is definitely a smaller car though, which you notice as soon as you sit down and realize how close the passenger is to you.

The biggest and largest complaint I have about this car is that the brake pedal crowds the gas pedal, and there is little room to slide your foot past the brake pedal and onto the gas. When wearing my standard running shoes, which I wear everyday and drive all my cars in, I couldn’t get it past without lightly brushing the brake pedal. This was very annoying and I was irritated after 45 seconds in the car. Luckily, I noticed this the day before the trip, and for the long drive, brought narrower Puma sneakers, which solved the problem. However, it still very irritating to not be able to wear the shoes you want because the pedals are unnecessarily close together. My shoes are a size 12 by the way, not small, but not ginormous either.

This car is priced at $34,000. It has many of the creature comforts you expect for a car in this class, with electric everything, telescoping and tilt wheel, dual climate control, automatic tranny, decent stereo, fog lights, etc. In regards to value, it is decent. I think you can get a loaded VW Passat for that, and it might be a bit more comfortable. I know you can get a used 3 Series BMW, which I would prefer, but alas, I’ve said that before.

For the most part this car did very little to surprise me with anything positive. I’d been in the newer, small Volvos before, so I’d seen the dash and all that, which I liked. It isn’t the most immediately apparent system for heat and stereo, but it is clean, elegant, and not overly complicated, which in this modern day, is rare.

The one thing that did surprise me, and in a terrible way, was how well it handled speed on the freeways. Driving through Montana (speed limits set at 75), I would be driving around 85. This car was not the type where you set the cruise at 90 mph and forget about it. If I was going to drive at that speed, it took concentration and both hands on the wheel. At one point, descending a mountain pass into Idaho, I was actually passed by a full-size Ford truck, at 85 mph. I felt very unstable, and couldn’t believe that this truck was descending faster than I was, but that truck smoothly and effortlessly went around high-speed corners while I was close to white-knuckled and nervous. That was terrible. I don’t know if it was the small wheelbase, or the narrow body, the small, narrow tires or what, but this car was not smooth and comfy at just slightly higher than normal freeway speeds. At one point, just to test it, I pulled it up to 100mph; it was terrible. I quickly slowed down and reveled in the fact that my old 1985 Toyota Celica handled 100 mph better. Very disappointing.

With that said, I don’t live in Montana, nor do I have the opportunity, need, or desire to drive that fast but once a year when visiting the in-laws. So, I can forgive this car, but I was very shocked and not at all comforted that this new car drove so poorly. For city driving, however, it was great.

One positive, while going up and down mountain passes, and definitely not adhering to the suggested 60 mph limit for best fuel efficiency, I did get 28 mpg on the highway over the course of the whole trip. Very good. Especially when gas is $3.10 + a gallon.

Overall, I didn’t mind driving it, so long as I remembered the narrow shoes, and I stayed within city limits. It wasn’t super powerful, even though it was small and light, but I just can’t seem to be able to recommend this car for what its competition is. And I really wanted to love it, too.