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Volvo XC70 XE 2006 Review

Unfairly chastened by a stigma of sexless family men, the Volvo XC70 is struggling for its fair share of the market.

Despite some realistic pricing, high standard of features and a macho look inside and out, the XC70 sold just 52 in February, compared with 138 for its upright brother, the XC90.

The only SUVs in the luxury segment that it outsold include some extremely expensive models from Porsche, Lexus and Land Rover, as well as its closest soul brother, the Audi Allroad.

The Volvo and Audi are all-wheel-drive luxury medium-sized off-roaders that are station wagons, not big upright-standing SUVs.

And in these days of bad press for SUVs, you would think the Volvo and Audi would have a distinct advantage.

The XC70 SE at just $56,950, which places it under the luxury tax threshold, would ideally suit anyone who wanted to carry a windsurfer, surfboard, canoe, small boat, bicycle, etc and doesn't want to be caught out on slippery ground by the riverbank or lakeside.

It will also tow quite capably, yet it has nicely integrated and unobtrusive tow fittings so it doesn't look like a Mack truck.

It won't crawl over rocks, plough through deep sand or romp around in mud up to the gunwales, but then how many luxury SUV drivers want to risk their expensive duco in such conditions, anyway?

Instead, it will ably run down the poorest country roads, straddle dual track centre humps, grip in slippery conditions and provide a comfortable and safe environment for passengers.

The Allroad is a much sportier option, but the XC70 is not far behind with a 2.5-litre light-pressure turbocharged, inline five-cylinder engine producing 154kW at a realistic 5000rpm and a substantial 320Nm of torque from as low as 1500rpm through to 4500rpm.

Mated to a surefire five-speed Geartronic auto box, it provides plenty of drivable grunt for launching, passing and towing.

Yet I found fuel economy was a realistic 11-12l/100km, thanks to the surprisingly light 1655kg body.

I drove this test vehicle during the recent non-tropical cyclone and can vouch for the safety and sure-footedness of the computer controlled all-wheel-drive system. It provides instant traction in all situations, and as long as you keep the power down smoothly, it won't aquaplane or lose traction.

The ride is on the plush side with a fair amount of pitch, but no roll.

This leads to a "boat" feeling on some of the long humps, but a quiet and comfortable gallop across the rougher stuff, yet with flat cornering characteristics thanks to a combination of good high and low speed damping. There is a slight dip in the nose on initial turn-in, but then it sits flat no matter how much power you pour on.

The XC70 has a wide 11.9m turning circle which makes it a bit tricky for negotiating shopping centre car parks and manoeuvring trailers.

Inside, there is a surfeit of 1970s soft black leather. It's comfortable in a chunky and macho way, but dated and hot in summer.

Dashboard styling is also getting a little old-fashioned. It could do with the floating console of some of the newer Volvo models in the fleet.

There is plenty of room in the cabin, yet the middle rear seat is not the most comfortable. The rear seat folds in a 40-20-40 fashion and there are child booster cushions.

Mums and dads will like the ease of the electronic child safety lock switch on the console.

The huge wagon cargo area has a usable flat floor and the massive tailgate will go up with just a light touch and you won't have to take a big step backward.

As you would expect, the big Volvo comes with a host of passive and active safety systems including safety brakes, traction control, plenty of airbags front and rear, and side impact and whiplash protection systems.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

Lifestyle Edition (LE) 2.5L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $5,300 – 8,140 2006 Volvo XC70 2006 Lifestyle Edition (LE) Pricing and Specs
SE 2.5L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $4,400 – 7,150 2006 Volvo XC70 2006 SE Pricing and Specs