This roll out was a big yawn at first glance. Even the most discerning critic was hard pressed to see much difference between these "new" models and the 850's they replace. A very subtle reshaping and a slight rounding of the contours is all one notices. One closer inspection and a side by side comparison, the 70's are more attractive than the 850's, but the restyle is no big deal. Fortunately, the beauty is more than skin deep. Volvo counted over 1800 revisions in the remake. Both models benefit from an entirely new interior, which is clearly 850 derived, but much nicer. Better materials and considerable attention to detail provide a very marked move up in the quality department. On the inside these Volvo's can now match any of the European and Japanese cars in the mid luxury segment. From a practicality standpoint the sedan, and particularly the wagon, are class leaders.
Engineering changes are notable in two areas, safety and performance. Volvo's SIPS, side impact protection system, is fully designed in and upgraded for the 70's. A stronger passenger compartment, beefier B pillar and seat mounted side airbags provide industry leading protection in side impacts. The base version of the 168 horsepower 5 cylinder motor is unchanged, as is the 190 horsepower low pressure turbo option. Tuned for low end torque this engine provides very good pick up and is a perfect match for the automatic transmission. The high pressure turbo is now rated at 236 horsepower, down a smidge from last years R version's 240, but up from the 225 hp version that was standard in most '96 turbos. The hot turbo is now available with a 5 speed manual transmission. This combination really scoots. Handling benefits from a subtle reworking of the shocks and is better than ever, although the freeway ride can get a bit jiggly on rough pavement. A R version of both the sedan and wagon will be along shortly with more aggressive tires and a trim package to match.
The S70 and V70 are really about refinement of a good car, and a "leave well enough alone" approach to a very sensible package. The comfort is improved, the interiors are much more plush and there is just a bit more of everything that made the 850 such a great automobile. Prices start about $27.5 and can go to the mid $30's. A smart buy.