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Estate of mind: Volvo XC70

Roger St. Pierre discovers that the new Volvo XC70 finds the Swedes doing what they do best

With its firm focus on rugged build quality, load carrying capacity and a plethora of safety features, Volvo dominated the estate car market for many years.

Then other manufacturers – most notably Peugeot, Subaru and Mercedes – muscled in on the Swedish company’s dominance while the advent of MPV and SUV vehicles further chipped away at the market.

Volvo’s answer to the challenge has been to maintain its carefully nurtured values while constantly honing the product to make cars that simply go on getting better.

Take the third edition XC70 estate car as an example. The styling has not changed much down the years but, while relatively minor, the styling updates have made the car a more handsome, expensive-looking beast.

This more rugged version of the big-selling V70 is aimed at buyers who are looking for a sophisticated and elegant vehicle for their day-to-day urban life but want it to transform into a rugged tool for weekend adventures into the countryside.

There’s now a distinctive soft nose, with bigger headlamps and an enlarged grille and, enhanced by eye-catching use of chrome, the profile is sportier.

The tailgate opening is bigger now, revealing very generous luggage carrying capacity. Among the smart details in the luggage compartment is an under-floor storage space that is locked when the tailgate is shut, while a powered tailgate is an option.

Stability is an important consideration when a vehicle is being used as a workhorse and this big Volvo has been designed to provide a pliant ride and secure roadholding when fully laden with a heavy cargo of passengers and their luggage. Dynamic stability and traction control comes as standard while an active chassis can be optionally specified. It’s a self-regulating safety system that uses a number of sensors to monitor and adjust the car’s behaviour.

There’s a choice of engines: the five-cylinder D5 turbodiesel I test drove, a less powerful D4 diesel, a six-cylinder normally aspirated 3.2 litre petrol powerplant and the powerful T6 3-0 litre petrol version that pumps out a whopping 304 hp and no less than 440 Nm of torque, making it ideal for towing. That one comes with Volvo’s smooth second-generation six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission and all-wheel drive – optional on other models – comes as standard.

Inside there’s also a lot of revised and enhanced detail to create a quality environment for driver and passengers alike.

Set high to enable the driver to keep eyes on the road, the generously sized infotainment monitor can be controlled by easy use touch buttons set just below the colour screen or via buttons built into the steering wheel ­– whichever falls easiest to hand at a given moment.

An extension of the useful Volvo on Call facility, is a mobile application that makes it easy for the driver to stay in touch with the parked car via an iPhone or Android smart phone.

Due to a booking error, Volvo’s logistics people delivered a second car to me just a day after the first had been taken away. Needless to say, I did not send it back!

The extra week of road testing, and a little green road work, convinced me that the Swedes are still masters of the estate car idom.

In standard spec, the Volvo XC70 range is priced from £32,795 to £43,160 on the road.

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From Belfast Telegraph