2011 Volvo XC70 T6 AWD Road Test Review

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Several years ago, in an effort to demonstrate the capabilities of its XC70, Volvo invited us to participate in two disparate driving opportunities of the all-wheel drive, wagon-based crossover utility vehicle. The first drive began on an overcast early March morning in Anchorage, Alaska. After an overnight stay in Fairbanks, we crossed the Arctic Circle, and continued on to Prudhoe Bay following the Alaska Pipeline's closest companion-the vaunted Dalton Highway.

In March, temperatures in Alaska are reminiscent of nothing those of us from more civilized climes would relate to as spring-like. The morning we flew out of Prudhoe Bay after completing the drive, the temperature was 39 degrees-below zero. At no point during the drive did we experience a positive temperature reading on the instrument panel of our XC70.

In late winter, the Dalton is covered with at least a 12-inch thick sheet of ice, meaning the road is literally paved with frozen water. Winding bucolically through some of the most eye arresting scenery the planet can muster, scaling the heart-stopping 1,444-metre Atigun Pass, and strafing miles upon miles of tundra so vast it looks like the ocean, winter driving on the Dalton Highway is a true test of cold-weather durability. Mile upon mile upon mile of frigid temperatures-made even more severe by the artificial wind chill induced by the elevated speeds at which the XC70 proved itself more than capable of maintaining over the ice-demonstrated quite readily one could rely upon the Volvo XC70 AWD to provide comfort and security as well as velocity in even the harshest environments.

The following summer, part two of the drive took place in Baja Mexico. We started on the east cost of the peninsula, next to the Sea of Cortez, then climbed up and over the peninsula's spine-the mountains known as Sierra San Pedro-on trails a pack mule would have to be coerced to attempt. The all-wheel drive XC70 proved itself more than up to the task; delivering a rugged platform, good ground clearance, precise control, and ready traction. The wagon engendered tremendous confidence.

On the peninsula's west coast, we streaked along washboard gravel roads, keeping pace with veteran Baja 500 racer Bryan Farnsworth. The swiftness of our swagger would have seen us arrested anywhere else in the world-save the Autobahn. We waded the XC70 in sand so deep and so fine you could barely walk in it, yet our Volvo glided over it just as easily as it would the parking lot of a suburban grocery store. In fact, at one point during the adventure, the overt surrealism of the appearance of our band of Volvos in such foreboding surroundings caused one of our party to quip; "We look like a caravan of runaway housewives making for the border."

So rugged and chassis threatening was the route, we fully expected our XC70 to shudder like a wet dog before shedding its fenders, doors, hood, and rear hatch at the end of the day. It didn't happen. The next morning our XC70 started and ran smoothly, as if it'd been merely driven to the video store to rent a copy of South of The Border-as opposed to itself being an integral part of an adventure south of the border.

And yes, that was a rather long prelude to the reporting of our recent drive of the 300-horsepower turbocharged 2011 Volvo XC70 T6 AWD from Los Angeles to Gateway, Colorado. However, were it not for that backdrop, we'd only have been able to tell you the Volvo is both quiet and smooth on the highway, while lacking nothing in the way of performance. Volvo's claimed 7.6-second sprint to 100km/h for the car is quite accurate. Further, the inline six-cylinder engine accelerates the car cleanly and authoritatively-while returning fuel economy in the middle nines.

In Las Vegas, the air of opulence generated by the Volvo's styling (along with a generous tip) got it up front valet parking, as well as a series of fawning platitudes from the attendants at the Luxor. Driving in the city, the XC70 demonstrated outstanding civility, ease of handling, and outward visibility.

On the Interstate, reveling in the 80 mph speed limit (128.7 km/h) across Utah, the XC70 was exceptionally stable and comfortable. Employing the Volvo's adaptive cruise control at times allowed us to give over the task of minding speed to the car. Body roll through curves was well controlled, enabling us to motor serenely along, regardless of what the road threw at us. Additionally, the layout of the interior is exceptionally conducive to long drives. The look of it inspires confidence while the quality of its materials reassures you your money was well spent. BTW, the comfort of Volvo's seats is legendary; having spent hours upon hours in them we can confidently confirm the legend's validity.

Having driven almost 5,000 kilometres, in three road trips, at the wheel of three different Volvo XC70s, we can also personally attest to the competence of the car in a broad variety of conditions and situations. Anyone looking for solid family transportation with a sense of adventure (not to mention the outright capability of same) would do well to test-drive this remarkable car.

2011 Volvo XC70 T6 AWD pricing starts at $49,995.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Wagon, Volvo, 2011, XC70, $50,000 - $74,999,

Organizations: Volvo

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