KALISPEL, Mont., – When it comes to Volvo's all-new 2008 XC70 Crossover, the big question is whether the automaker can drop the other shoe successfully.
We say the other shoe because Volvo certainly has mastered the first part of its task. The XC70 crossover is simply superb. If you need a vehicle that has the comfort of a luxury sedan, the ruggedness of a small sport-utility and the versatility of a station wagon, than there's nothing we've driven that's better than the XC70.
In fact, we can't think of any vehicle that masters all three of the attributes we just mentioned as well as Volvo's 2008 XC70.
We spent the better art of a day traversing about 200 miles of rock strewn, hard scramble, and washboard surfaced one-lane logging roads and walked away unbeaten, unbruised and relatively fresh from the experience.
The XC70 was quiet. The only noise we detected was wind whishing around the side view mirrors. But that was acceptable since the side view mirrors were oversized providing ample sight of what was on each side of us.
Volvo has expanded it use of Scandinavian luxury to the XC70. We first experienced it last year in the Swedish automakers flagship S80 sedan. Scandinavian luxury is best described as minimalist, top notch material, first rate construction, clean lines, taut surfaces, and in the case of the XC70 beveled edges.
Our test vehicle's interior was clean, uncluttered and soothing. And that also applied to the engine.
Equipped with a new 3.2-liter inline six cylinder that made 235 horsepower and 236 foot-pounds of torque, the XC70's powerplant simply purred down the road. Gear shifts, a six speed automatic was standard, were imperceptible and the engine literally hummed during those few times when we were on smooth surfaces with a bit of room to push the pedal towards the metal.
Volvo also stayed true to its safety mantra. The XC70 could be equipped with adaptive cruise control with collision warning and brake support. A blind spot detection system was also available as well as a two way communication system with a heart beat sensor. Expandable second row booster seats that can accommodate kids from four to 12 years old are a first. A lane departure warning system will be cycled into the XC70's offerings before the end of the year.
And for those who really do want to go sloshing through the woods in the XC70, all-wheel-drive and hill descent were standard. We tested hill descent and it worked really well. The system also works in reverse for backing big trailer-towed boats into water or for easing down slippery driveways.
Volvo's got the product now can it pull off a two pronged marketing challenge. The automaker must hold on to its current owners which shouldn't be hard to do. XC70 sales have not wavered much since the vehicle first hit this market in 1997. And it has the highest loyalty rate of any Volvo model.
The other challenge is for Volvo to convince more consumers to purchase an XC70. After all, it does look like a station wagon. But we think that prices at the pump will push consumers into more practical decisions when it comes to what vehicles they purchase.
When it comes to sensibility, it's hard to beat a vehicle that is versatile in terms of cargo capacity, as rugged as a small sport-utility and as refined as a luxury sedan. That's Volvo's 2008 XC70 crossover. Prices start at $36,775.