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Review: 2013 Volvo XC70 hauls like an SUV, but with softer style

Despite its faults, it's the wagon aspect that seals the deal for dated XC70

I love station wagons, but I seem to be in a minority. Once considered the quintessential household hauler, the wagon was first knocked off its perch by the minivan, and then by the SUV.

The few that are left tend to be in the premium segment, including the Volvo XC70. This handsome, beefy, all-wheel-drive version is also the only wagon currently in Volvo?s Canadian lineup, since the front-wheel-drive V70 wagon is no longer offered here and the gorgeous XC60 is more of a hatchback.

We have been promised the V60 wagon, already on sale in Europe, which you can expect to see touching down on Canadian shores sometime next year.

The base XC70 model uses a 3.2 L inline six-cylinder, which starts at $42,400, but my tester was the turbocharged 3.0 L six-cylinder, an engine dubbed the T6, which starts at $47,000.

My car was further optioned with a Platinum trim package, heated rear seats, a blind-spot monitor that warns if another vehicle is alongside, and a $1,495 Polestar Performance package ? a software tweak that increases the stock output by 25 hp and 30 lb.-ft. of torque.

It?s pretty quick, but it?s also thirsty. By comparison, Mercedes-Benz?s E-Class wagon is larger, heavier, more powerful and much more expensive, but rates better at the pumps. On the plus side, the Volvo takes regular 87-octane fuel.

It?s pleasant enough to drive, if a little detached. Part of that, I think, is because the steering wheel is too thick, limiting the impression of being connected to the car. The steering?s also very light, and there?s a bit of body roll around corners, rather than crisp handling.

I can?t fault the smooth ride, though, which is big-car comfortable. The all-wheel system and raised ride height, along with standard hill descent control (which handles the braking duties on steep hills) and protective front and rear skid plates, will make short work of rough cottage trails.

Standard safety features include City Safety, which activates the brakes when you?re moving under 50 km/h and the system senses you?re about to smack into something, and a rearview camera that?s part of the Platinum package.

Higher-end safety items are part of a $2,100 Technology Package, such as adaptive cruise control that maintains a set distance to the car in front, full braking when the car detects pedestrians ahead, lane-departure warning, active high beams, and a driver alert system that determines if you?re not paying attention to the road.

The seats are deliciously comfortable, clad in leather upholstery on the T6 model (it?s an option on the 3.2 L). But I?d definitely get the all-black interior, rather than my tester?s two-tone light-and-dark colour scheme. No one makes beige plastic that doesn?t look cheap, and Volvo?s no exception, especially with the chintzy-looking beige buttons on the steering wheel.

The austere Scandinavian styling was originally elegant but now looks dated, and doesn?t seem that impressive in a car that cracks the $50-grand mark.

I?ve never been fond of the ?waterfall? centre stack, which cascades down from the dash to the console. It?s lovely, but its storage cubby is under it and hard to reach. You?d think that an automaker from the country that gave us IKEA would have put more thought into small-item storage. There are covered bins farther back, but they?re also not as simple as an accessible one at the front.

On the centre stack, several functions are handled through fiddly small buttons, but I like the larger dials for the temperature. Vent modes are selected by touching the legs, torso, or head of a stylized chrome occupant, and I much prefer the fan speed dial to tapping a toggle switch, as many autos require you to do.

There?s no shortage of space in the back. The ?wagon? part is well designed: a three-piece rear seatback that folds completely flat, tie-down cleats that you can position in their tracks, and a flip-up cargo barrier with two grocery bag hooks. The dealer can also sell you a cargo net and floor mat, or a dog gate for transporting your pet safely.

When those rear seats are up, passengers get sufficient legroom, as well as lots of headroom thanks to the straight roofline. You can also order integrated two-stage booster rear seats, with cushions that can be lifted up and snapped into place for children at that stage.

For its faults, I do like the XC70, especially its interior comfort and smooth ride. But it?s the wagon part that seals the deal: if you don?t want the height and bulk of an SUV or crossover, you still have an alternative that?ll swallow up the cargo and get you there in style.

The vehicle tested by freelance writer Jil McIntosh was provided by the manufacturer. Email: [email protected]

Review: 2013 Volvo XC70 T6

Price: $47,000 base, $56,445 as-tested

Engine: Turbocharged 3.0 L inline six-cylinder

Power/torque: 300 hp/325 lb.-ft., 325/355 with optional Polestar package

Fuel consumption L/100 km: 12.0 city, 8.5 hwy., 11.8 combines as tested (87 octane)

Competition: Audi A4 Allroad, BMW 3 Series Touring, Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon, Mercedes-Benz E350 Wagon, plus any crossover

What?s best: Great seats, handsome styling, cargo capability.

What?s worst: Fuel consumption, dated interior styling.

What?s interesting: It can tow a trailer up to 1,500 kg.

  • Review: 2013 Volvo XC70 hauls like an SUV, but with softer style 2013 Volvo XC70 T6 Platinum - photo by Jil McIntosh - for Wheels
  • Review: 2013 Volvo XC70 hauls like an SUV, but with softer style 2013 Volvo XC70 T6 Platinum - photo by Jil McIntosh - for Wheels
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