I convinced a non-enthusiast to buy an AWD Swedish wagon instead of a crossover

An impossible list of requirements meets an impossibly perfect car

6w ago

My mom had a string of Volvo wagons before I was born. Though unreliable, they were very good when they worked, or so I hear. So in the early 2010s when it came time to replace a very broken Ford Exploder, it seemed like a good idea to upgrade to a used 2005 Volvo XC90. There's only one problem. It was the second worst possible spec, saved only by a black interior over a tan one, and an ex rental car.

I've reviewed this understeering, unreliable, shoddily built, torque steering lemon before. But that's not the point of this tangent. This deeply terrible slow and unreliable car was handed down to my sister and was the only Volvo she's driven. And when a small accident totalled it, she wanted another XC90 for reasons I cannot possibly fathom.

I like Volvos. Especially older ones. But it sometimes is hard to when the only Volvo I've ever driven is one of the single worst vehicles they've ever made. So there I was with this impossible list of requirements desperately trying to steer her away from another XC90.


High ride height


$5,000 budget

Enter: a 2008 Volvo XC70 3.2. With only 140,000 miles on it and in much better than average condition, it provides all of what she likes about SUVs with the refinement of a car. Plus, it's AWD and almost all XC90s for sale in this price range are FWD.

That said, I had a bit of time trying to explain exactly why a lifted wagon is all the best parts of an SUV with almost none of the downsides. "It's easier to see out of," I said. "It's more powerful," I said. "It's AWD and most SUVs are FWD," I said. "It handles better," I said. "It's quieter," I said. "It's more comfortable," I said. Ultimately I had to get her actually behind the wheel to get across why this is such a fantastic car.

An XC70 was my goal from the beginning but there are so very few of these around that finding one for sale wasn't easy. It was one of the cheaper second gens but was also one of the nicest. The only real issues it suffers from are the typical sun and age related problems that are well documented. Like this clearcoat failure on the mirror caps.

I am not a huge fan of crossovers and have an ideological issue with full-on SUVs with only two driven wheels so finding a straight-6 AWD Swedish station wagon in an actual color was quite a find. Plus, these are good looking cars. It just feels like a special car in a way that most crossovers do not.

If you've ever shopped fully depreciated European cars before, you'll know it's very uncommon for the owners later in their lives to maintain them to the same standard as the first owners. They say if you can't afford them new, don't buy them used. Which is why I was genuinely shocked that despite the fact that the car was clearly kept outside, the tan interior hasn't entirely fallen apart.

As someone over on The Hyphen said, these tan interiors age like milk. This was the only Volvo I found for sale this cheap that had a tan interior without dry cracked leather. The plastics were of course losing their finish in places but 13 years in the Georgia sun will do that. Someone cared for this car enough to use leather conditioner on the seats regularly and that's a very uncommon thing.

So what is it like to drive? I'll have to get more seat time before a full review but this example drives like it's new. The futuristic push button start has decent tactile feedback and you hear the 3.2 liter inline six cylinder come to life. That engine isn't particularly powerful but it's got a smooth linear power delivery and has the torque where you need it.

The most notable aspect of the car is its rocky steady composure over any and all terrain. There is limitless traction and the car is entirely unperturbed by the environment around it. It feels like it's on rails! It far overdelivers on what capability you actually need in a very reassuring way.

And though this car does not encourage chucking it into a corner in the way that I'm accustomed to, it does so in a very predictable manner. It understeers into a corner and the body roll is controllable but noticeable. However, it suffers none of the unpredictable and frankly annoying mid corner wheelspin on boost that the XC90 had and has none of the torque steer. This drives like what that car should have driven like but just didn't.

In a few months when I'm home again I'll report further on this amazingly composed and comfortable Swedish wagon. But for now, I'm just very pleased with this find. What is your experience with / opinions on these wagons?

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Comments (38)

  • I had a fairly identical car, without the ride height. Changing it to a smaller, more compact XC60 proved to be a wise decision.

    But for those who have a second car for the city, the V70 is a secret tip for a very practical very comfortable fairly luxurious family car.

      1 month ago
    • I probably would have preferred a V70 but the high ride height was a must for her. Also it seemed very easy to see out of and backing up wasn't hard even with the thick pillars. Not sure I'd want to parallel park it all the time over my Cruze but it...

      Read more
        1 month ago
    • If I had a choice, I would also have gone for the V70XC, but it lacked the engine I preferred to take.

      The V70 is more of an underdog, but with lots of inner values...

        1 month ago
  • I like the article, good writeup.

    I know people that buy the same car again and again just because it’s easier than change.

    Wagons rule, all the benefits if a car with more space. Crossovers and SUV’s seem to be bought by people that should buy minivans/people carriers but are just not cool enough.

    I’m actually happy lots of people don’t buy wagons otherwise they’d be more common, works for me.

      1 month ago
    • I'm glad wagons have come full circle and are cool again because the XC70 has the refinement and some of the handling of a car with the command seating of a crossover that she wanted plus the practicality of a wagon.

      I've found the people who...

      Read more
        1 month ago
  • Great job I will never in my life drive a crossover or buy one

      1 month ago
    • Crossovers are basically fine for many applications but I don't want basically fine. Especially when a much better and more interesting vehicle is a possibility. It still has the high seating position that she wanted in a way that actually...

      Read more
        1 month ago
    • Why? Crossovers are great

        1 month ago
  • You did a good job!👍

      1 month ago
  • I convinced my grandma to get a Mustang whilst in her late 50's lol

      1 month ago