All You Want, All You Need: Volvo XC70 Cross Country (2003)
Crossovers—before it was just a basketball term, now we relate it to anything we do or own. There’s your mobile phone cum Palm Pilot; then came the watch that doubles as a GPS and who knows maybe we’ll get something that does your laundry and mows your lawn. In today’s ever demanding consumer market, being exclusive to one segment means totally ignoring the majority of others. Case in point: Ferrari. In the 70’s, they were raw and pure but simply unusable and unreliable. Now they can shuttle you around the daily grind while setting your wedding vegetables on fire.
The Swedes are no exception either. They once were satisfied in making utterly boring, boxy, safe and look-alike cars. Now, they’ve gone bonkers. Volvo is certainly one that’s enjoying the most: its got a super sedan, an SUV, a wagon, a convertible—maybe even a moon buggy somewhere in their R&D. However, what started it all off is the phenomenal XC70 Cross Country.
Admittedly it didn’t look promising: it looked like the bastard child of the V70 and an American SUV. My expectations weren’t too high either as a couple of motoring industry friends found it quite a dullard. I don’t care. I say, if there’s one car I’d like to have for the rest of my life, it’s this one.
The raised ride height and buffed up looks don’t exactly increase the XC70’s off-road credentials. However, what it does is that it allows this wagon to go up more pebbles while further improving the V70’s already cushy ride. It’s certainly refined taking on any road obstacles including your occasional curbs with more dignity than Queen Elizabeth. Puddle? Thud. Nothing. Pothole? Thud. Nothing. Cat? Thud. Nothing. I absolutely loved it, and so did my companions.
The accommodations are first rate with ample everything for five or even six people. The interior is very driver oriented with every control within easy reach. The switches are well-damped and solid—worth every penny you’ll spend on this car or SUV or whatever you’d like to call it. Despite the lack of iDrive, MMC, COMAND or any crazy German acronym, the controls are easy to use and decipher, albeit a bit of a button fest.
Detailing is subtle but nice and flawless. There’s no wood, which is actually quite nice—only brushed aluminum accentuating the interior lines. The cabin lacks cubby holes for those akin to American tastes, but the numerous pockets in the passenger compartment and cargo bay more than make up for it.
The loading bay is square, upright and vast perfect for throwing all sorts of stuff. The XC70 can swallow your golf set, weekend’s worth of luggage and your lab with minimal fuss. Try doing that in your sedan.
Being the range-topping V70, the Cross Country gets everything absolutely as standard: tasteful leather, CD stacker, an 8-speaker system, electronic seats with memory, hands-free phone, climate control—basically things you could only wish for in the more expensive BMW X5 3.0d.
However, mind you, this is still no driving machine. It accelerates excellently and brakes superbly despite the added weight. Show it a corner though, and then it understeers throwing in a bit of wheelspin, despite the all-wheel drive when exiting out of a corner. Still, I like it. I drove it to Tagaytay and it was so relaxing that I envied my companions as they snoozed like babies. It’s quiet, comfortable and smooth—a Swedish massage on all-wheel drive.
The engine’s a light-pressure turbo with 2.6-liters of displacement. Despite what others say that LPT is just a marketing gimmick, I say it gives bags loads of useable urge without the Jack Nicholson unpredictability. Then, there’s the 5-speed automatic, that works so well its simply unbelievable. There’s no hesitation, no delay—the inline-5 powers on when you need it. A small note though: better leave the computer to do all the shifting as some work is still needed to make the manual over ride smoother and less obtrusive.
The excellent performance does have one major trade-off: high-octane fuel. A brief look into the colored owners manual reveals that a 97-octane diet is required, with a 95 minimum and 93 only to be used in emergencies. Loading it to the brim, our XC70 managed a distance of 502 kilometers—that’s 9.0 km/L despite its rather high displacement engine.
With the lack of competition from the likes of Audi’s A6 All-Road and VW Passat 4Motion, the only one with a similar layout is the Subaru Forester—and that one pales in comparison. So, what Volvo has, at least in the Philippines is a vehicle that’s quite unique: the first and only crossover.
Personally, although I would have preferred the design of the BMW X5 or the sophistication of the Range Rover, the XC70’s 2.9M price tag is certainly hard to ignore. Call it a crossover or a wagon on stilts, but if it had a veil I’d marry the XC70 and call her my wife—well, at least my concubine.
By Ulysses Ang | Photos By Ulysses Ang