Sure, there are reasons that make SUVs and crossovers interesting, like the high riding position, the rugged looks and family-friendly level of features. But a wagon can be all that, and the 2013 Volvo XC70 certainly is.
On the other hand, the XC70's biggest rival isn't a competitor station wagon – because none can really compare to it in terms of size, power and mission – but Volvo's own XC60 crossover which shares showroom floor space. Heck, they're even priced within $3,500 of each other. The Audi A4 allroad is similar but smaller, and the Subaru Outback is as big but not as luxurious. So the XC70 can be considered unique, at least here Canada. Here's what's so special about it.
It can hit the trails
Although some utility vehicles can be quite athletic, in general, wagons offer car-like ride and handling characteristics because they're actually cars. The 2013 Volvo XC70 goes a step further, hoping to please typical SUV buyers by boasting generous ground clearance and a competent all-wheel drivetrain. No matter the road conditions, this Volvo will handle them.
And although the XC60 is slightly lighter than the XC70, the latter is a bigger vehicle altogether, inside and out. Yet despite its size, the XC70 is easy to park thanks to its airy greenhouse and relatively thin roof pillars.
The current-generation XC70 has been around since the 2008 model year and has changed very little, so the wagon's styling doesn't draw much attention. The fact that it looks very similar to the previous-gen car, sold from 2002 to 2007, doesn't help either. Yet the XC70 is instantly recognizable with its lower-body plastic trim, its pillar-mounted taillights and its long overhangs. The 2014 model, which will soon be available, will receive only minor cosmetic revisions to the front grille, the fog lamp surrounds and the taillights.
Smooth and brawny T6
The 2013 Volvo XC70 T6's engine is a turbocharged 3.0L inline-six that produces 300 horsepower as well as 325 lb-ft of torque that peaks from 2,100 to 4,200 rpm. Acceleration is strong, yet the engine is smooth and quiet when it's spinning at a relaxed pace. A six-speed automatic with a manual mode is the only transmission choice, and a good one at that. No paddle shifters, though, which isn't a big deal for this type of vehicle; however, they will be added for the 2014 model year.
For those who feel that 300 horses are enough, a Polestar Performance kit can be added directly at the dealership. With it, you get another 25 horses and 29 lb-ft, just like in the speedy 2013 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design.
Fuel economy is good but not fantastic, as we averaged 12.7 L/100km aboard the XC70. That's an area where the Volvo would benefit from being more efficient than SUVs and crossovers, but around town at least, it's not the case.
Plush living quarters
I've always liked Volvo interiors for the quality of their finish and their choice of textures and trimmings. The 2013 Volvo XC70's centre stack switchgear is bunched up together, and unlike what it seems, there is certain logic to the layout: infotainment on top, phone digit buttons in the middle, climate control on the bottom. The leather feels rich, the carpeting is thick, and even the scent of the car's cockpit is in line with the price tag.
Obviously, a wagon wouldn't be a wagon without family-minded versatility. The XC70's rear seatback includes a 40/20/40 split, which allows carrying longer objects without having to strap the kids to the roof.
Cargo space maxes out at 2,042 litres with the rear seat is folded down, which is a little more than in the XC60 and even more than in costlier luxury SUVs such as the 2014 BMW X5 and the Mercedes-Benz M-Class.
Safety first, according to Volvo. Besides the usual full site of airbags, the XC70 gets the latest electronic driving aids such as a blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with auto brake as well as the brand's City Safety system, which stops the car under 15 km/h if it senses that the driver is not paying attention and that a fender-bender is imminent. You can even get dual integrated child booster seats.
Plenty of room, a nicely furnished interior, a muscular engine and light off-road capability, the 2013 Volvo XC70 has a bag full of tricks for those who feel a big, clumsy SUV is not their cup of tea, just like many members of the automotive press. Equipped with a 240-hp engine, the base 3.2 AWD model starts out at $42,400, while out loaded T6 Platinum tester stickered for just over $54K.
5/5: Our child seat is installed easily in the XC70, while integrated child booster seats are optional. Our baby stroller fit sideways in the Volvo's vast cargo hold. Photos:
In collaboration with Canadian Tire.