Volvo XC70 T6 AWD
Those who want luxury and muscle car performance with their cargo room can find it in this monster wagon.
People looking at luxury SUVs and their promise of car-like handling and burly engines often overlook the 2012 Volvo XC70 wagon. And that’s a shame, since the XC70 packs everything but a truck’s seat-height position into a sleek road missile that can out-maneuver many cars on the road today (and most of the SUVs), while returning relatively better mpg numbers for the same amount of people- and cargo-capacity. Yeah, it’s pricey at $50k, but my test ride included $10,000 in premium options that, frankly, I could do without (navigation, power liftgate, electric folding headrests, and metallic paint, to name a few).
The thing I did want with this bad boy is the 3.0-liter, 300-hp turbo charged 6-cyl. engine mated to all-wheel drive and a 6-speed transmission. Punching the gas at a freeway on-ramp stoplight uncorked a mighty thrust once the dual turbos kicked in, one that slammed me back into my seat and rocked the off-road-worthy suspension back onto the rear wheels. Other media outlets have clocked this wagon doing 0-60 in 6.2 seconds. People, that’s Ford Mustang fast. The first time I did it, I wasn’t ready for the XC70’s power and nearly peeled out of my lane and into the one next to me.
Volvo’s high-performance engine is almost too much for this sport wagon. That’s because the XC’s high ground clearance (8.2-inches) and suspension aren’t tuned for a sports car. They’re tuned for light-duty off-roading on dirt roads, chewed up tarmac or snow-packed highways. Drag racing starts aside, I found myself cruising around town or on a short road trip without ever needing 300-hp and enjoying its limo-like ride.
Thanks to the thick doors and high sidelines, I felt very safe inside the cabin, and the steering wheel’s heavy feedback only added to the impression. It’s a substantial vehicle even if it’s not a big SUV. As such, it didn’t inspire me to race to my nearest canyon road and rip around 180-degree corners. And that’s what made the mighty engine so weird. I knew it was there, but I didn’t want to use it to its full capacity.
The penalty for all that thrust and heft was an average fuel economy of 22.2 mpg over 270 miles of driving along Colorado’s Front Range, which was in line with the vehicle’s EPA sticker that cites 17 city/23 hwy. So 22.2 wasn’t too bad—and compared to many SUVs, it’s actually decent—but for the anti-SUV crowd out there looking to a wagon to smugly deliver all the functionality without the gas-guzzling stigma, don’t kid yourself. This Volvo doesn’t give you a free pass on that one.
I’d forgotten how much rear cargo space a true wagon delivers, even with its lower roofline compared to SUVs. With the Volvo’s rear seats folded forward, I had no problem inserting my 29er mountain bikes in the rear—in fact, the operation was much easier with the Volvo than it was in several larger SUVs.
The luxury part of the car stood out when I sat down in the cockpit: the plush leather seats had just enough support for spirited driving, the aforementioned steering wheel produced a tactile sensation of solid craftsmanship and substantiality, the streamlined dash was a pleasant antidote to the over-tech’d dashes that I see so often, and man, was this baby quiet. With the windows up and rolling along at 70 mph, I felt like I was in a sensory-deprivation tank outfitted with a windshield.
The one thing that bugged me was the rear legroom. Volvo didn’t give me much. Accordingly, passengers stuck in the rear have to keep their feet completely flat and legs locked in position for the duration of a road trip. I can’t fathom why Volvo doesn’t snip five inches out of the rear cargo area and give it to the second-row passengers. I know from experience on airplanes, five inches makes a world of difference.
How We Tested It
The XC70 was driven 270 miles throughout the Colorado Front Range from Colorado Springs to Denver to Boulder. Temps varied from high 30s in the morning to low 70s during the day. The weather was sunny and dry, but windy with frequent 25-30 mph gusty days that did negatively affect gas mileage. Interior room was reviewed by setting the two front seats to accommodate my 6’2” frame and then sitting in the rear. Rear cargo capacity was measured using one XL (22-inch) 29er mountain bike.
The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.
Power & Handling
Gear Institute Rating (Total Score)
- Drivetrain: AWD
- Engine: 3.0-Liter, turbo 6-cyl.
- Hybrid: No