Used 1998 Volvo S70 Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1998

Volvo's 850 sedan gets a new name, new nose, body-color trim, stronger side-impact protection, more powerful turbo engines, redesigned interior and revised suspension.

Vehicle overview

Safe and sturdy describes the Volvo image. To be sure, Volvos are both safe and sturdy, boasting many standard safety features and feeling as though they've been cast from a single block of granite. But, are there any other reasons to buy a Volvo?

Yes. Turbo power, for one. The engine bogs a bit until the turbocharger gets spooled up, but once on boil, a Volvo will rocket forward quickly enough to force your body back in the seat. Brakes are outstanding, and steering is firm and linear. All mechanical systems communicate clearly, allowing the driver to understand what the car is doing at all times.

Comfort is another big Volvo advantage. The seats in these Swedish cars are the best the world has to offer. You can drive a Volvo all day long, non-stop, and not feel one bit of fatigue unless you and Jose Cuervo visited a bit longer than you should have the night before.

These are the characteristics that keep Volvo buyers returning in droves for replacement versions of their favorite car, whether it's the 850 sedan or wagon, or the 960 sedan or wagon. They live with the minor ergonomic glitches and the staid styling, trading these for the comfort, performance and security a Volvo delivers.

For 1998, Volvo has decided to provide more reason to visit their showrooms. Designers and engineers have given the bread-and-butter 850 model a thorough revamp, adding power, safety, comfort and a dash of styling pizzazz to an already fine automobile. For good measure, the cars are renamed: S70 is the sedan, and V70 is the wagon.

Three trim levels are available. Base and GT models have the same powertrain as the 1997 850: a 2.4-liter inline five-cylinder engine pumping 168 horsepower through either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. GLT sedans, Base AWD wagons and Cross Country AWD wagons get a light-pressure turbocharged version of the base engine, good for 190 horsepower. The only transmission available on the GLT and AWD models is a four-speed automatic with a second gear winter start mode. T-5 designates the hot rod 2WD edition, and it comes with a high-pressure turbocharged 2.3-liter inline five-cylinder engine making 236 horsepower. The AWD R wagon gets this same engine. Performance fans will take note that the T-5 is newly available with a manual gearbox.

Side-impact protection is improved with strengthened B-pillars that allow time for the side airbags to inflate more efficiently in the event of an accident. Seatbelt tensioners have been improved, and the steering column provides better protection in a crash.

Inside, the interior has been completely redesigned. Power mirror and window switches move to the driver's door panel, and the dashboard sports a more rounded countenance. Other controls are placed where they were in the 850, which is to say, somewhat haphazardly. Still, the new design is a big improvement over the old car.

Stylists cleaned up the sheetmetal front and back, giving the sedan and wagon body-colored trim to make the car look smaller, and clipping the front styling of the upcoming C70 coupe to the front end for a racier, more modern look.

Nice job, Volvo. All you need to give the S70 and V70 now is an all-speed traction control system, because when that turbo is shrieking, the front wheels break loose far too easily once the 25 mph threshold of the current low-speed traction control system is reached.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.