Family station wagons have long been Volvo’s strongest suit. Those solid, no-nonsense, boxy lines, and the strength and safety that they exude, have reassured generations of jittery parents. But as Volvo wagons move upmarket, becoming more luxurious, as well as sleeker, are they losing that feeling of comforting solidity? Well, Volvo says no. They claim that their all- new 2001 V70 is the most desirable, as well as safest, family wagon ever. Is it?

When a car company makes bold statements about how desirable or safe their product is, our immediate reaction is one of skepticism. But when that kind of statement comes from Volvo, we’ve grown accustomed to taking their word for it. So when Volvo says their new 2001 V70 is the safest wagon they’ve ever turned out, we’ll take that straight to the bank. And there are several good reasons for that.

When Volvo unveiled the S80 sedan, they proclaimed it the safest sedan they’d ever built. The new V70, while not a wagon version of the S80, does share its basic unitized platform. With that rock solid structure as its foundation, Volvo then added their customary high strength safety cage to the mix before wrapping it with new sheet metal. That’s another area where one finds the S80 influence. As the V70 has adopted the S80’s sleek, broad shouldered look that runs the length of the car.

Underneath its smooth new form, Volvo safety meisters have packed the V70 with some of the most technologically advanced safety features found in the automotive world. Front seat passengers now get dual stage airbags whose rate and force of deployment are governed by the intensity of the impact of the crash. Low speed fender benders will no longer result in receiving a high speed discharged airbag in the face.

In addition to the standard side impact airbags, the front seats also come with the WHIPS whiplash protection system, while both front and rear occupants are covered by the side impact inflatable curtain.

And for the little ones, Volvo offers the world’s first rear facing child safety seat with ISOFIX attachment points. ISOFIX is the new international standard for child safety seats. Seats using ISOFIX latches are less prone to being installed incorrectly.

But Volvo’s focus isn’t only on passive safety. Our V70 T5 came with Volvo’s optional Dynamic Stability Traction Control. This active system utilizes a host of sensors, a powerful computer, and the braking system to keep the car on its intended course. Standard on all V70s are 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Electronic Brake Distribution. They did a commendable job of hauling us in from 60 in a stable and uneventful 110 feet.

Stable also describes the V70’s behavior through our low speed slalom. Steering response and feedback are excellent. And grip remains good, even after initial turn ins give way to moderate understeer. Even our 60 mile-per-hour emergency lane change test did little to ruffle the new V70’s composure. A solid testament also to the car’s MacPherson strut front and Multi-Link rear suspension with anti-roll bars at both ends, and the DSTC system.

To propel you to 60 and higher, the V70 offers a choice of two power plants. Our T5 tester came with the 2.3 liter,DOHC, 20-valve, high pressure turbocharged in-line 5-cylinder. This aluminum motivator is good for 247 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque. A similar but milder 2.4-liter light-pressure turbo 5-cylinder, good for 197 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque, is in the base car. Fronting these engines is Volvo’s PremAir coated radiator that helps convert ground level ozone into oxygen as you drive.

Both can be hooked to a 5-speed automatic transmission, but only the T5 will let you stir the gears with a 5-speed manual or Volvo’s Geartronic Automanual trans. And thus equipped, our T5 tester launched us to 60 in a scant 6.2 seconds and on through the quarter mile in 14.8 seconds at 98 mph. Turbo lag is fairly prominent from a standing start, but once it gets wound up, hang on to your hat!

At speed the turbo is more responsive, endowing the T5 with plenty of punch for passing and effortless high speed cruising. The V70’s solid feel is readily apparent, although ride quality is now somewhat softer than the previous Volvo wagons we’ve tested. That power and solidity, coupled with the V70’s first rate interior accommodations, are major reasons why the V70 rates so high among our staff. Even those without kids!

Both driver and front seat occupants are treated to plush leather buckets with 8-way power adjustments, heat, and plenty of room and support. The driver faces a steering wheel that is adjustable for both rake and reach and also mounted with stereo and cruise controls. It fronts a somewhat stark dash, where wood grain is now at a premium, with a simple, easily read gauge cluster. The broad center stack houses an AM/FM Premium sound system with its optional 4-disc in-dash CD changer. A navigation system is available. Below are S80-style pictograph dual zone climate controls, with an auto setting for the artistically challenged.

While length is down half an inch, wheelbase is up 3.6 inches, and width grows 1.7 inches. Yet passenger space seems little changed, and in the back seat it seems a bit smaller. There’s adequate room for two average size adults, but taller folks will find leg room a little cramped.

Maximum cargo capacity grows 4.4 cubic feet to 71.4; 37.4 cubic feet is available with the 60/40 second seat upright. And, when small passengers are the priority, you can unleash the optional jump seat hidden in the rear floor.

And, the price for this accommodating Swede? The base V70 begins at $32,975. Our hotter T5 starts at a still moderate $33,975. But options quickly push it to a lofty $42,705. However, that’s still very competitive to BMW’s smaller 528i Sportwagon, and Saab’s 9-5 Aero wagon.

Clearly the 2001 Volvo V70 T5 is a powerful, agile, and safe wagon. It tops its predecessor in body strength, as well as passive and active occupant protection. It is also more luxurious, and softer in style and comfort. And, it proves to us that, once again, at Volvo the box never has to be boring.


  • Engine: 2.3 Liter,dohc, 20-valve, Turbocharged In-line 5-Cylinder
  • Horsepower: 247
  • Torque: 243 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 6.2 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 14.8 Seconds @ 98 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 110 Feet
  • EPA Mileage: 21 MPG City 27 MPG Highway