A year with an old friend from Sweden
I bought my Vo vo XC70 about a year ago. The small independent London dealer (principally cars I believe) selling it, claimed that it had been owned by a double-barrelled lady from Surrey since new and that it had a full Volvo service history having just been part exchanged at a main dealer. The former was found to be true when I later discovered the ownership documents to the lady’s horse and various other bits of ponyphernalia in one of the behind seat pockets. The latter was not entirely accurate, but I was prepared to overlook this as clearly not too much could have gone awry in only 148,567 miles. I asked the chap selling it straight up “is there anything wrong with this vehicle?” he fixed a stare straight back at me and replied without blinking “I have just driven this vehicle for 400 miles; there is nothing wrong with it.” This utterly fictitious statement gave me a delightful warm glow which was only bolstered by the heat of the self-assembling Christmas tree which gradually erected itself on the dashboard during the 84 miles back to Gloucestershire.
The etymology of the Vo vo comes from the partial rear ‘model designation deletion’ (to use BMW’s definition) which appears to have occurred during a horsebox connection/disconnection event. Aside from this however, the car remains in pretty good order and during the year I have only really crashed it once. I find the shape of it to be à point with the extended wheel arches and grey metallic paint giving it a utilitarian rallye-hack quality not found in more vertically challenged variants from Sweden. It has a fully working turbocharger and now a working intercooler which along with the wide arches are probably all it shares with L555BAT as its reference to ‘4x4’ (which remains on the tailgate) is not, it seems, entirely sincere. This was discovered when trying to remove it from a slightly sloping field when a (thankfully ute owning mate) confirming that just one of the four wheels were indeed rotating. Having subsequently researched this symptom on a Volvo forum I read that it was a common fault at the rear diff, which one of the contributors explained: ‘dented the vehicles on road performance,’ which may be the most ridiculous observation ever typed.
Overall the driving experience is one of great cheer and levity. The suspension, whilst rudimental, is excellent at convincing one that the Cotswold roads are actually serviceable which is not a word which springs to mind when driving my E92. In fact, I recently had to explain on New Year’s Day to a Belgium mate who had just received two punctures on his L322 Autobiography, that in the UK we now drive on ‘what’s left’ of the road as opposed to ‘The left!’ He didn’t laugh much; but then the Belgians seldom do. Anyway- regardless of surface or speed in the Vo vo the only way I can convey the ride is that one feels suspended from the roof rather than the ground giving it a pleasant parachute-esque characteristic. When making steering inputs one needs to remember that forward planning is key, however once the car has fallen onto the desired outside edge, outright traction is surprisingly good; surely down to the Vo vo’s meticulous XC-specific geometry, massive kerb weight and huge engine.
The 2.4 D5 engine is a lovely old thing, however, only recently has it found its true stride with the repair and replacement of some its essential accoutrements having been carried out. I now feel that the later gaps in the service history perhaps masked the wholly porous aforementioned intercooler, perished adjoining pipework and the totally blocked DPF filter. With Volvo quoting just over 55% of the Vo vo’s purchase price for a replacement of the latter, I wished them god dag and instead opted for a local firm of Bristolians to ‘service’ the unit. Mercifully they didn’t explain how this was carried out which allows me to retain a clear conscience in respect of UK emission legislation; despite their only charging me £350. For this sum they also remapped the vehicle giving me 226hp and I can confirm that now with 460NM of torque, either (but not both) front wheels can rotate beyond road speed with increased enthusiasm during roundabouts, corners and when the vehicle is travelling straight ahead.
The only other driving dynamics worthy of mention are the brakes which, whilst presumably sufficient for home counties pony club requirements, are somewhat stretched when the vehicle is pedalled with zeal. The gearbox thought is the real boon though as the Vo vo is a rare manual variant. The six-speed box whilst predictably amiable, is also surprisingly accurate, allowing swift ratio swaps when required; particularly useful when attempting to slow the Vo vo once the previously discussed brakes have pulled stumps.
There is great comfort provided by the heated leather seats which are a delight on long journeys, in fact, the whole interior has a friendliness not found in the Germanic stuff. Of course, I have got this far without mentioning the Pièce de résistance which is found behind the Vo vo badge. The load carrying abilities of this vehicle, with the rear seats down, are nothing short of extraordinary and of course, my reason for owning the vehicle. During my relatively short time with the Vo vo it has paid for itself several times over in different business ventures and despite its odometer now having surpassed 160,000 miles, it’s small initial outlay, its minor and moderate flaws, it already feels an old friend and will remain so until either my, or the Vo vo’s inextinguishable headlamps flicker out for the last time!