Nowadays, the vehicle market is becoming increasingly saturated with X-this and X-that. Vehicle designers, engineers and manufacturers—to say nothing of the marketers—have glommed onto the whole “crossover” architecture in a big way. In fact, it is not only au courant, but seemingly compulsory. Volvo has been way ahead of the pack, not with its XC90 crossover SUV, but with its XC70, which was launched in 1997, before all of the others went for the X. Now it is on its third generation (the second was launched in 2000). Although this is ostensibly more of a station wagon than a truck-influenced SUV (Leif Settergren, XC70 project manager, numbers the Audi A6 and A4 Avant quattro and the BMW 328 xi sportswagon among the vehicle’s primary competitors, which also have the same type of package, although he does put the BMW X3 and X5 in the mix), it still falls into the crossover category, as it is based on the Volvo EuCD platform, which is also used for the company’s flagship S80 sedan. Here’s an interesting aspect of this: Volvo once tagged the words “Cross Country” on the rear bumpers of the XC70. That is not a part of the ’08 model, perhaps underlying by its absence the fact that this vehicle is an original in the nascent category. What’s more, it is a popular one, as Settergren says that of all of the Volvo Group vehicles in the U.S., the XC70 has the highest level of customer loyalty.
The design of the ’08 XC70 is cleaner, more restrained than the previous model. Note, for example, the extensive use of cladding on the front of the ’07 model. This has been largely removed for the ’08 model, although there is still the deployment of cladding material, more tactically placed, such as around the fog lamps (as is shown in the close-up) and on the lower side sill of the vehicle—but note how there is a chrome molding along the bottoms of the doors by that protective material, providing an appearance of greater sophistication for the vehicle. The V-shaped hood, long characteristic of Volvos, is in place. There are also broad shoulders fore and aft which not only provide a sense of confidence, but also some greater functional utility. In the back, in particular, there is an advantage provided by this increased width: It permits the suspension to be pushed out, which provides a greater cargo capacity. The front and rear tracks of the ’08 are 63.5 in. and 62.2 in., respectively, the overall width of the vehicle is 73.3 in. By comparison, the tracks for the ’07 model are 62.9 in. and 60.4 in., and the width is 73.2 in. Clearly, the rear track of the new model is increased significantly. The cargo capacity for the ’08 model, with the rear seats down, is 72.1-ft3, as compared with 71.4-ft3 for the ’07 version. The more substantial dimensional change for the new model is in the overall length of the vehicle, which is 190.5 in., compared with 186.3 in. for the ’07 model. The wheel base, at 110.8 in., is two inches longer than the previous model.
Around back, there is an overall hexagonal shape, which was first shown in production on the new Volvo C30. When the tailgate is opened the taillights go up with it; this contributes to more space for cargo access. Note how the backlight is lower than the side glass. This provides greater rear visibility, in keeping with the safety thrust of Volvo.
Inside the XC70 there are Scandinavian minimalism and functionality. Note the use of the thin center stack—clearly that’s all the space that’s required for the function, and so that’s all the space that is used. (There is a tray behind the stack that is suitable for the placement of small items, like sunglasses.) The front seats are described as “ortho-posture supportive.” What is interesting—and characteristic of the Volvo focus on safety—is the optional child booster seat system that’s designed for children who have outgrown their child seat but who aren’t necessarily big enough for the adult seat vis-à-vis the correct positioning of the seatbelt.
This adjustable booster cushion arrangement, which is complemented by seat belts that feature load limiters to accommodate children using the cushion (or adults if the cushion is not in place) is said to be the first of its type in the world. Also, the side airbag is increased in width by 60 mm to help provide even more protection. As this is something of a utility vehicle, they’ve concentrated in providing functional but well-designed touches, such as the built-in aluminum anchorage eyelets to secure goods in place.
The previous XC70 had a 2.5-liter five-cylinder DOHC turbocharged engine that provides 208 hp @ 5,000 rpm. While fitting in essentially the same package, the ’08 model has an aluminum 3.2-liter, DOHC, normally aspirated in-line six that provides 235 hp @ 6,200 rpm. The total engine length, 25 in., is just 0.1-in. longer than the five cylinder. There is actually a safety factor to this. Volvo engineers believe that by minimizing the longitudinal dimension of the engine, there is reduced risk of intrusion into the passenger compartment in the event of a collision. One of the ways that they’ve managed to keep things compact is through the use of what they have designated “READ”: Rear End Ancillary Drive. Such things as the power steering pump and air conditioning compressor are behind the engine, above the gearbox, and are driven by gears by the rear end of the crankshaft. The alternator is installed on the engine block.
The vehicle is equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission that offers a manual shift capability to the driver. There is an electronically controlled Haldex all-wheel-drive system. And there is also Volvo’s first hill descent control system, which uses the brakes and the engine torque to maintain the vehicle at approximately 6 mph when engaged via a pushbutton.
According to Jan Ivarsson, senior manager, Safety Strategies and Requirements, Volvo Car Corporation, there is a better structure to the ’08 XC70 compared with the previous one. “Better” in this case has at least a couple of aspects, one as relates to safety and the other as it relates to driving dynamics. As for the safety, the vehicle is built with the patented front structure first used for the S80. This is designed to help reduce the leg injuries that could occur in a collision with pedestrians. Engine bay packaging and the hood shape are such that there is greater space between the engine and the hood so that there is better energy absorption in the case of such a collision. The red highlighted lower cross member shown in the front suspension subframe photo is positioned at a height that is typical of a conventional car (i.e., the ground clearance of the XC70 is 8.27 in.).
This cross member helps channel crash energy. Additionally, the body structure makes extensive use of high-strength (34%), very high-strength (25%) and ultra high-strength (10%) steels. This, in effect, forms a safety cage around the occupants.
Additionally, the torsional stiffness of the ’08 XC70 is 15% better than the previous-generation vehicle (which has a significantly greater amount of mild steel in its structure), which enhances the ride and handling of the vehicle, particularly in off-road conditions.