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Volvo S70 Road Test 1996-2000

The Volvo S70 executive saloon is really a second-generation 850 saloon, with more streamlined styling. Although there have been plenty of revisions and refinements to the range, as such it's not exactly state-of-the-art any more - and there's a new range due next year. However, the S70 is a comfortable, sturdy and practical purchase for drivers who appreciate its honest abilities. The Turbo versions are pretty hot, especially the T5 version, and there's a huge choice of engines and equipment to suit almost anyone.

Reliability and Quality
Like all big Volvos, this one should enjoy impeccable build quality and future reliability. The generous warranty should take care of any unlikely worries anyway. The S70 will go to very high mileages indeed if properly maintained

Although the S70 is much sleeker than the old 850, it's not as stylish as the V70 estate or the beautiful C70 coupe, with its big boot and square back end. It's more in keeping with Volvo's traditionally rather stodgy sensibilities than the latest, sexy school of Swedish design, being subtle and respectable, even in hooligan T5 guise

The basic 140 bhp petrol and turbo-diesel versions are hardly exciting, but they do their job well. The 170 bhp variants are more than fast enough, with plenty of mid-range torque (pulling power). Now the S70-R has been discontinued, the T5 is the most powerful at an ample 240 bhp; the AWD (193 bhp) is very strong as well. All the power is delivered smoothly and evenly - there's far less torque-steer than in Volvos of old.

Ease of Driving
The S70 is very easy to handle, even in full-on Turbo mode; it's very responsive without being twitchy, and the roadholding is excellent. The cabin layout is user-friendly, driving position excellent, visibility good and overall, the S70 is extremely manoeuvrable for a big car.

Safety and Security
As a Volvo, safety is high on the agenda; besides an immensely strong structure, there's standard driver and side airbags (front passenger airbags are optional, where Volvo child seats are not fitted), ABS anti-lock brakes with EBD Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and anti-whiplash seat design. Traction control is available on all but the most basic models. Deadlocks are standard, along with an alarm and immobiliser.

The cabin is airy and spacious, and well-designed for stowage and storage. The boot is massive, and there's plenty of legroom in the back

Running costs
The biggest money-swallower will be the loss in value - the S70 depreciates much faster than the V70 estate and C70 coupe as there's not so much demand for it on the used market. Servicing is about average for this class of car, and insurance is quite reasonable for the T5; fuel consumption is a little high

The interior is much softer and more welcoming than in the old 850; the seats are comfortable and supportive, though electric adjustment is only optional on most. Climate control air conditioning comes as standard, and there's all the usual executive toys and gadgets to keep occupants happy. Leather upholstery is an option, standard on XT versions. The SE options pack comprises a CD player, leather upholstery, cruise control, on-board computer information system, front fog lights, height-adjustable driver's seat and wood-effect trim.

Fun to Drive
Despite being a big, heavy car, it's surprisingly dynamic, even with the smaller engines. Poise and balance is good, roadholding secure - absolutely solid with AWD four-wheel drive - and it is engaging enough to provide a mildly sporting drive though it falls short of outright thrills and excitement.

Stereo/Sat Nav
An eight-speaker stereo system is standard, with a radio/cassette and RDS traffic information system. A single-CD player is optional, but standard on XT models and with the SE options pack. The quality of these set-ups is very good - but a CD multi-disc autochanger should really be standard-fit in a car of this calibre.

Value for Money
The S70 is a viable and well-priced quality alternative to, say, a Passat, A6 or 9-5, though in image terms it's not quite up there with the E-Class or 5-Series. It's best value as a long-term purchase, to avoid that big early-years depreciation. It's also expensive for an old design, so look for a discount, buy abroad or wait for the new range

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