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Review: Volvo V70 D5

Volvo’s V70 is a big estate from the old school but how will it fair with Volvo’s high-tech D5 diesel installed? Steve Walker reports.

If ever a car needed a good diesel engine, that car is Volvo’s V70 estate.

The V70 is a champion of commonsense practicality and functional design over the more ethereal qualities that flutter around the executive car sector. Stuff like brand image, sporting heritage and lifestyle kudos is all very well when you’re flicking through an expensively printed brochure or being sweet talked by a salesman under the showroom’s mood lighting but there’s no substitute for a big boot and comfy ride when you’re heading for southern France on a family holiday. The no-nonsense diesel engine and the unpretentious V70 go together like baked beans and toast. It’s a marriage that looks all the sweeter when the oil-burner in question is Volvo’s latest D5.

Diesel engine technology is moving ahead at quite a pace as demand grows for ever more economical vehicles which don’t foist performance compromises on their owners. The D5 engine is employed across the Volvo range but if we’re honest, this five-cylinder unit was falling off the intense pace being set buy the market leaders. Volvo put its mind to addressing this and the result is the latest D5, an engine which will be key to the success or failure of not just the V70 we look at here but the S80, XC60 and XC70 too. There’s a lot riding on it.

The capacity is still 2.4 litres and there’s still a five-cylinder layout but that’s where the similarities to the old D5 engine end. This is a modern all-aluminium engine with twin sequential turbochargers, piezoelectric fuel injectors and an advanced Exhaust Gas Recirculation system. The power output of 205bhp is accompanied by a meaty 420Nm maximum torque that’s achieved from 2,900rpm right up to 5,000rpm. The twin turbos help deliver the engine’s broad spread of muscle. The smaller one boosts acceleration at lower engine speeds, giving the larger unit time to get into its stride and help out at higher revs. The aim is to eliminate the narrow power band and turbo lag that afflicts less advanced engines, providing a seamless flow of power through the gears.

"this big no-nonsense estate car is never better than with a strong diesel engine installed"

The fuel injection system is also crucial to the V70 D5’s performance. The piezoelectric injectors are precisely controlled by the engine management computer firing optimum quantities of atomised fuel into the combustion chamber at exactly timed intervals. This produces a highly efficient combustion with improvements to performance and fuel economy as well as engine refinement.

Volvo products have been criticised in the past for their boxy styling but this has been successfully addressed on the latest V70. The rear end looks a little more svelte than on previous models but Volvo hasn’t been diverted from this car’s raison d’etre – lugging gear. Lots of it. The clever trick is that Volvo has disguised the car’s inherent boxiness with neat detailing like the split high-level tail lights. There’s a class-competitive 540-litres of virgin space back there and a massive load area can be liberated if you fold the rear seats down and stack your cargo to the roofline. The 40-20-40 three part split/fold rear seat offers 16 different combinations and the loadbay floor itself features aluminium rails and movable anchoring points. A sliding load floor is also offered as an option as is a powered tailgate.

The V70’s front end is pleasantly curvy in-keeping with models like the S80, C70 and V50 which have reinvigorated Volvo’s reputation for stylish design. The car’s designer cleverly decreased the amount the side glass curves from front to rear, for maximum style at the driving end and maximum carrying ability at the business end. It’s unmistakably a Volvo and the look is a long way removed from the lithe, purposeful lines of some Germanic rivals. The blacked out side pillars, C30-inspired tail lights and a slightly more raked tailgate angle nevertheless mean that it has enough about it to hold its own from a design perspective.

Volvo splits its V70 range up into three core trim levels. There’s SE, SE Lux and R-Design. On top of that, each specification can be upgraded with a premium pack which includes leather-faced upholstery and satellite navigation for a £2,000 premium. All models include 17" alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, a top notch stereo with USB and AUX inputs, a trip computer, cruise control and, this being Volvo, a big bundle of safety gear. The R-Design is an intriguing choice adding sports suspension along with numerous other styling accessories to give the V70 a little more attitude but the biggest impact buyers can have on the way their V70 D5 drives would be by specifying it with all-wheel-drive.

The roll call of safety features includes front side and curtain airbags as well as a number of other advanced features. There are more acronyms attached to the braking set-up alone than there are in the owner’s manual for an aircraft carrier. Then there’s the DSTC Dynamic Stability and Traction Control, the SIPS Side Impact Protection System and the IDIS Intelligent Driver Information System. Needless to say, the V70 scores very well in the Euro NCAP safety tests.

The advanced features in the latest Volvo D5 diesel engine are as much about increasing efficiency as they are about providing smooth and abundant performance. Nitrogen oxide emissions are reduced by the clever EGR Exhaust Gas Recirculation system which cools the exhaust before feeding it back into the engine to be burned again. Together with a 178g/km CO2 emissions rating, this helps make the car one of the cleanest executive estates out there. Expect to average well over 45mpg on the combined cycle.

The straightforward, take-it-as-you-find-it simplicity of the Volvo V70 will doubtless appeal to many and this big no-nonsense estate car is never better than with a strong diesel engine installed. The latest D5 diesel utilises advanced technology to give the V70 competitive performance and running costs to go with the space, safety and practicality that it previously relied on to attract buyers.

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