In addition to the standard equipment noted below, the Volvo S70 that I tested was a Bi-fuel model. That means it has two tanks; a 15-gal gasoline tank and a 7 gal compressed natural gas (CNG) tank. According to Volvo they haven’t released the Bi-fuel model for sale in the US yet so they have not determined how much of the $3-4,000 added cost will be passed on to North American consumer. The S70 is a slight refinement of the 850, a car that launched a change in the company‘s marketing direction. Volvo has done a great job selling us on the safety features of the car but failed to impress us with the square boxy look so common to its design. The look of the S70 presents another change in direction for Volvo—more rounded styling. In keeping with the general perception of the consumer that Volvo is a safe car, it was the first in the auto industry to add side-impact airbags.
By the way, under Volvo‘s new model-naming scheme, S stands for sedan, V is for versatility and C denotes a coupe. The 1998 Volvo S70 Sedan is available in four trims: S70 (base), GT, GLT and T5. The GLT adds a light-pressure turbo to boost horsepower to 190. The T5 gets a 2.3-literturbocharged 5-cylinder that puts out 236 horsepower. I felt the GLT was sluggish and would suggest looking at the T5 for the added power. But the Bi-fuel feature has no impact on the performance, as it was equally sluggish with either fuel.
The infrastructure is not yet established, as it would need to be for the car to sell here in America. Presently in Southern California the stations are about 30 miles apart, which explains the need for the dual fuel system. Alternate propulsion vehicles like electric cars and this Bi-fuel Volvo suffer the same drawbacks. The refueling process for the CNG was ok once I figured out how to operate the equipment but it was slow. The only other customers at the Glendale SCE station I went to a couple of times were airport Super Shuttle’s which are CNG equipped. The driver I spoke with had only one complaint – the limited number of refueling sites. He didn’t mind the slowness of refilling since he brought his lunch for the occasion. The experience reminded me of the EV1 (electric vehicle from Saturn) I drove a few months ago. Now EV’s have dual propulsion and include a gas-burning engine to supplement the batteries.
I guess if you’re a “Bunny Hugger” and have a bent to preserve the forest, and save the whales and spotted owls you won’t mind a few negatives to make a positive impact on the environment. CNG as a fuel burns much cleaner and thus emits far fewer substances into the atmosphere.
It is unfortunate SCE can’t place the refueling facility in the already existing gas stations that are on every corner. Until they do that it will be tough for spoiled Americans to embrace the concept of alternate fuels or propulsion systems.
Fuel system aside, this S70 is the same great Volvo we’ve always known. It is close in price and quality to the Mercedes C280 and dollar for dollar I’d find it difficult to chose between the two.
Audi A6 $33,750 – $35,400, BMW 5-Series $38,900 – $88,900, Chrysler Concorde $21,305, Infiniti I30 $28,900 -$31,500, Lexus ES 300 $30,790, Mazda Millenia $28,995 – $36,595, Mercedes-Benz C-Class $30,450 -$52,750, Mitsubishi Diamante $27,650 – $33,050
Priced well, nice lines, good reputation for quality and safety, roomier than the competition, handles well.
Sluggish without the turbocharger.
2.4 liter 190 HP 5-cyl. Engine, 4-speed auto trans, front wheel drive, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, rack & pinion power steering, front and side air bags, child safety locks, power glass sunroof, 9-way power driver seat, remote keyless entry, security system, climate control, power windows & mirrors, stereo sound system w/ cassette, tilt /telescopic wheel and remote trunk & fuel lids.
19 City and 27 Highway MPG.
MSRP is $32,440 without Bi-fuel equipment.
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