Full 2012 Volvo XC70 Review
What's New for 2012
We usually prefer a wagon over an SUV, but the 2012 Volvo XC70 doesn't impress when matched against modern crossovers that offer more space and better fuel economy.
The 2012 Volvo XC70 is a family-friendly wagon with enough off-road agility to travel rugged backcountry roads or promote a higher level of confidence on the way to a remote ski resort. It shares robust SUV-like styling cues and also boasts Volvo's long list of safety features. The XC70 -- the XC stands for Cross Country -- seems to be the perfect alternative to a truck-based SUV.
Problem is, the Volvo XC70 hasn't developed much beyond its wagon heritage, and countless appealing crossover vehicles have hit the market since the XC was introduced just before the millennium. Even so, there's plenty to appreciate in this Swedish import, especially for owners who aren't afraid to leave the pavement. The suspension is slightly raised, giving the XC70 a more aggressive stance and 8.3 inches of ground clearance, which is more than the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLK crossovers. The XC70 also has dent-resisting lower body protection and fore and aft skid plates. It's built to take some punishment.
The XC70's shortcomings fall in the fuel economy, handling and interior space categories. The top-of-the-line turbocharged inline-6 engine may be impressively quick, but it gets about the same mileage as vastly more spacious crossovers like the Ford Flex, and worse than the similarly sized and much cheaper Subaru Outback. Volvo engineers have also softened up the suspension to articulate over rough terrain a little better, but now the XC70 tends to wallow a bit over twisty roads. A compact luxury SUV like the Audi Q5 is more rewarding to drive.
However, the XC70 still provides a comfortable, well-equipped interior, enhanced for 2012 with a more sensibly designed infotainment system that won't leave you scratching your head as the old one did. Safety is also not surprisingly paramount when you're talking about a Volvo. Besides a long list of standard features, Volvo also offers a tech package that includes advanced safety measures designed to help drivers reduce distractions and fatigue in the hope that accidents can be avoided before they happen.
The 2012 Volvo XC70 certainly has its appeal, but at the same time, it's a harder sell than it was a decade ago. It's facing stiff competition from a number of compact luxury crossovers (Audi Q5, Mercedes GLK, Volvo's own XC60, full-size family crossovers (Buick Enclave, Ford Flex, Mazda CX-9) and the only similarly sized wagon competitor, the Outback. Many offer equal or greater capability, often for less money. But the Volvo does excel in some areas like safety and capability, and sometimes those are the key selling points to buyers with active lifestyles.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Volvo XC70 is a five-passenger wagon available in two model designations -- 3.2 or T6 -- that are further broken into trim levels. The 3.2 stands for the 3.2-liter engine, while T6 stands for turbocharged six-cylinder. The 3.2 is available with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, while the T6 is AWD only.
Standard equipment on the 3.2 includes 16-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, front and rear skid plates, roof rails, heated mirrors, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 40/20/40-split rear seat, an eight-way power driver seat with memory functions, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, neoprene-like "Tricotec" upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The 3.2 Premier trim adds leather upholstery, a sunroof, a power passenger seat and rear privacy glass. The Premier Plus trim adds to this a power liftgate, front and rear parking sensors, keyless ignition/entry (available separately on lower trims) and power-folding rear head restraints. The Platinum trim adds a rearview camera, a navigation system and a premium audio system.
The T6 version of these trims offers the same equipment other than the different engine, standard all-wheel drive, 18-inch wheels, dual exhaust pipes and upgraded instruments.
The Climate package adds heated front and rear seats, heated windshield-washer nozzles, automatic wipers, headlight washers and an air quality sensor. The Technology package adds adaptive cruise control and warning systems for impending collisions, distance alert, driver inattention, lane departure and pedestrian detection. Some of those systems allow the car to brake automatically in certain situations. Other options include active bi-xenon headlights, a blind-spot warning system and integrated rear child booster seats.
Powertrains and Performance
Base engine for the 2012 Volvo XC70 is a 3.2-liter inline-6 that produces 240 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive are standard, but all-wheel drive is optional.
All this is adequate, yet hardly exciting for a 4,000-plus-pound vehicle. Volvo claims the XC70 3.2 will sprint to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds -- about the same as full-size crossover SUVs. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined with front-wheel drive, and 18/24/20 with all-wheel drive.
The T6 AWD steps up to a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 that produces 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, the T6 went from zero to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, which is about a second quicker than the average compact luxury crossover. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 17/23/20.
Never a brand to skimp on safety features, the 2012 XC70 comes standard with antilock disc brakes, hill descent control, stability control, traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and anti-whiplash front head restraints. Also standard is Volvo's City Safety feature that helps drivers avoid collisions with vehicles in front of them. Integrated rear booster seats and a blind-spot warning system are optional on every XC70.
The available Technology package adds warning systems for impending collisions, distance alert, driver inattention, lane departure and pedestrian detection. Some of those systems allow the car to brake automatically in certain situations. The available Personal Car Communicator included with keyless ignition/entry warns the driver through the key fob if a heartbeat is detected inside the car.
In Edmunds brake testing, the XC70 T6 AWD came to a stop in 133 feet, which is about 10 feet longer than average.
Interior Design and Special Features
Favorable first impressions come soon after entering the 2012 Volvo XC70. If you choose the available matte-finish wood and leather trim, the cabin is a showcase of modern Swedish style, with Volvo's trademark "floating" center stack panel and artfully designed controls. For 2012, Volvo's upgraded infotainment system allows drivers to manage audio, navigation and other functions from a 7-inch, high-definition color monitor. Although it's not quite as good as systems found in competitors, it works well enough and is far superior to the old, laughably crude navigation interface that used steering wheel buttons and a remote control.
The front seats are among the best in the business, achieving a rare combination of chiropractor-approved comfort and body-hugging support. Legroom is a little tight in back, yet the seats seem to swallow up every body type with ease. The rear seat is also versatile, with its 40/20/40 split-folding design and the incredibly useful integrated child booster seats. Lay down the backseat and the XC70's total cargo room expands to more than 72 cubic feet. With the rear seat up, cargo is limited to 33 cubic feet. This is on par with most midsize crossover SUVs, but you can get a three-row large crossover with a lower price tag than this Volvo.
The 2012 Volvo XC70 has a refined, sophisticated ride befitting its premium status. However, light steering, noticeable body roll and an elevated center of gravity leaves us wanting for the tighter, nimbler ride associated with other Volvo wagons. On a positive note, we like the overall maneuverability that comes with the smaller footprint of a wagon. The base six-cylinder is sluggish while accelerating on the freeway and sounds coarse for a premium brand. The turbocharged version adds much-needed kick but forces more stops at the gas pump. The AWD models will add some measure of confidence and all-terrain capability in inclement weather or on your favorite ski road.