Safety, refinement and power
PHOENIX, Arizona - The XC70 is Volvo's original crossover vehicle, which more closely resembles an all-wheel-drive wagon than a crossover. Many prefer the wagon profile of the XC70 over that of a taller, somewhat more awkward SUV/crossover.
Whether that preference is founded upon aesthetics or based upon the superior handling dynamics compared to a taller vehicle, the XC70 is sure to please wagon enthusiasts and non-wagon lovers alike. My opportunity to put the XC70 to the test took place in the Arizona desert, where Volvo set us free in the T6 Platinum version of their popular XC70.
Turbocharged engine gains Polestar punch
The use of "T6" is in reference to the optional, turbocharged 300-hp 3.0L DOHC I6 engine. This unit replaces the base 3.2L mill that produces 240 hp. While both of these engines are capable in their own right, it was a Polestar-infused powerplant that stirred my senses.
Polestar is a Swedish company that specializes in racing Volvo vehicles and developing performance parts for Volvo. In fact, Volvo and Polestar have been partnered in this endeavour since 1996 with the goal of enhancing performance in a safe, responsible manner.
Thanks to a Polestar-developed engine control module (ECM), the T6 powerplant is bumped to 325 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. Those aren't insignificant numbers by any measure, and when funneled through a 6-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels, they impart head-snapping performance.
I was actually quite astounded by my tester's ability to move smartly off the line and sustain its most un-Volvo-like gratification to well beyond anything legal. Plunging the throttle had my driving partner and I looking at each other like crack addicts experiencing their first rush. This baby can move.
Yet the 2012 Volvo XC70 is about much more than life in the fast lane, but before we exit to examine other aspects of the Swedish wagon, I want to emphasize this vehicle's ability to devour corners.
Low centre of gravity enhances handling dynamics
Unlike most crossovers and SUVs, wagons generally carry a lower overall profile; the advantage being a lower centre of gravity resulting in better handling dynamics. This attribute is no more apparent than on the XC70 T6.
While the vehicle provides competent all-wheel-drive traction and has plenty of interior cargo capacity, it manages to retain car-like driving qualities. And not the qualities of any old car, we're talking cars with spirit; the type of car that has an earnest driver looking for a set of curves to transition through with a dose of vigor.
I was quite impressed with the tenacious grip of my XC70 T6 Polestar tester as I rounded tight curves on the paved portions of the magnificent Apache Trail just outside of Phoenix. The car dug in and held a line while remaining flat and composed. This degree of athleticism would be one of the main drivers influencing me to choose an AWD wagon over a taller crossover or SUV.
Unless the greater dimensions of the latter are an important element in selecting an AWD multi-purpose vehicle, wagons such as the XC70 should be given consideration by those in the market, especially if safety and comfort are listed as priorities.
Comfort, safety and style also emphasized
The 2012 XC70 exhibits Scandinavian styling that's smooth, proportionate and attractive. Volvo is slowly shedding its reputation for "conservative" design characteristics without compromising the importance of practicality and versatility, and the XC70 is an excellent example of this trend.
Worthy of particular mention is the XC70's revised cabin, which now includes Volvo's Sensus 7" display screen seamlessly mounted into the upper portion of the dash. While it looks a bit like an afterthought, the screen works well in displaying a variety of data sets, including optional navigation and a rearview camera.
Overall, the XC70's cabin is bright and airy. Visibility is good and the front seats are absolutely divine, making this vehicle a most comfortable and capable partner for long journeys.
XC70 T6 wrap
Although my testing was limited to the T6 Polestar version of the 2012 XC70, I came away with a much stronger appreciation for the performance capabilities of Volvo's exceptional midsize wagon, and the quiet, secure comfort that it delivers.
A cornerstone of the Volvo brand is its commitment to safety and occupant protection, and these ideals are extensively captured in the XC70. Part of that network is City Safety, a system developed by Volvo that recognizes an imminent collision and applies the brakes to bring the vehicle to a stop before impact from speeds of 35 km/h or less. City Safety is supplied as standard equipment on all 2012 XC70s.
If there's a knock against the new XC70, it would be price. This can be an expensive automobile when fully kitted. The base XC70 is tagged at $43,995. I estimated the MSRP on my Platinum T6 tester, including the $1,495 Polestar dealer-installed performance upgrade, to be nipping at $60K or so.
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