Category Archives: Volvo

2004 Volvo XC90 AWD Sport Utility Vehicle (467)

Overview:
This week I test-drove the 2004 Volvo XC90 AWD Sport Utility Vehicle. If you don’t have to give up the essentials of life to afford one, this vehicle is wonderful.

I love the automobile, generally, and its rich history over the past 100 plus years. I love the freedom it provides and the romance of a simple week end drive in the country with a picnic basket and blanket for a stopover somewhere along the adventure. Such adventures are available to all with varying price tags most can afford to carry you to incredible vistas of the world we live in. Sure, you can walk, take a bus or train or even a horse and buggy but why when a few hundred bucks will buy you a car.

Ok, so if you must do it in style, this Volvo isn’t a bad option, just expensive.

The overriding interest in Volvo comes moms with children who have bought into the advertising blast about safety. They are obsessed with this fact so obviously Volvo has done a great marketing job. However the competition aren’t chopped liver and crash tests aside it is still better to stay out of harms way by driving defensively and simply being aware of your surroundings when you drive. Dummy’s can take the testing, you cannot. 

Handling & Performance:
You be the judge, but with things like Front Independent Strut suspension with Anti Roll Bar and anti-dive geometry and fully independent rear multi-link suspension, electronic brake distribution and assistance and don’t forget the Dynamic Stability Traction Control… how can you have anything but the best handling vehicle available on the planet?

On the other hand, gas performance is pitiful and I encourage you to ask for better. I truly believe consumers would buy more fuel efficient SUV’s if they were an option. There is talk that hybrid SUV’s may be available in a few years. If you are interested in learning more about 90 mpg capability, go to my website www.atthewheel.com, Point/CounterPoint and to the interview with auto design engineer Merkel Weiss – The Modern Diesel Engine in America.

Styling:
Is this beautiful, or what. On balance though the competition is pretty good looking too. Remember the “Good old days” of design differences when carmakers weren’t sophisticated at marketing. The design “was” the thing they sought to achieve. Profits have replaced those idealistic days now gone the way of the Delorian and others.

Volvo has made setting up seating for 7 easy, when you need them. But you must really need them because adults will have to strain to get themselves into the third row. Mini Vans do a much better job.

Fit and Finish:
Exceptional.

Conveniences:

There are lots of neat features and all are first class and the controls are well-placed for easy reach. I also like the inclusion of rear sensors that help you avoid embarrassing bumper taps while parking. Just being an SUV is a convenience and it’s easy to understand why folks buy so many at every price level. Just think, you can run over curbs and make your own road without feeling like a Duface.

I appreciate the seat belt reminder on this Volvo as contrasted with Ford and others who badger you until you buckle up. Yes, I know you should wear the belt, but give it a rest already. If you’re old enough to drive you should be old enough to think for yourself. Got it Ford?

Cost:

Way too much money for most to justify for transportation because there are just too many competitors on the market at half the dough. 

Consumer Recommendation:

Test-drive the Volvo if $45K is in your budget, and then drive one at each price level and size. You have 80 or more to choose from. They are small, medium and large and consume fuel accordingly so also consider the cost to operate. ALL SUV’s are terrible gas hogs relative to a Mini Van that will do everything but go off road, so throw a Mini Van into the equation as well.

The Competition:
Volvo XC 90 $35-41,000, Land Rover Discovery $34-40,000, Infiniti QX4 $35-36,000, Nissan Murano $28-31,000, Infiniti FX 35/45 $34-44,000, Jeep Grand Cherokee $27-39,000, Mitsubishi Endeavor $26-33,000, Lexus RX 330 $35-36,000, Lincoln Aviator $40-45,000, GMC Envoy $29-38,000, Ford Explorer $26-37,000, Mercury Mountaineer $29-38,000, Chevrolet TrailBlazer $27-34,000, Audi All road Quattro $40-47,000, Mercedes-Benz M-Class $37-46,000, Acura MDX $36-43,000, BMW X5 $40-52,000.

Good News:
Solid ride, lots of power, elegant and comfortable and can seat up to 7.

 Bad News:
 Horrible gas-guzzler. I got 12.5 average mpg. Shift lever drops down into “manual shift” instead of stopping at the drive setting.

 Standard Equipment:

2.9 liter twin turbo 268 hp inline 6 cylinder engine, continuous variable valve timing, 4-speed automatic trans with winter mode, 4-wheel power ABS disc brakes, electronic brake distribution and assistance (EBD & EBA), dynamic stability traction control (DSTC), Unibody construction with rollover protection system ROPS, side inflatable curtains for all rows, dual front and side air bags, anti theft and security systems, power glass moonroof, leather seating surfaces, 8-way power front seats with memory on driver seat, climate control, tilt and telescopic wheel, flat folding second and third row seats, keyless entry, power windows with auto up/down controls, heated power mirrors, 12 beverage holders, roof rails, deep tinted windows, in dash 6 CD changer with stereo radio cruise control.     

  Gas Stats:
15 City and 20 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $40,565.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2003 – An Automotive Love Affair

2002 Volvo V70 Station Wagon (405)

Overview:

This week let’s take a look at the 2002 Volvo V70 Station Wagon. I had the opportunity of checking it out in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. What a beautiful country America is. The gentle rolling hills of the east coast, and particularly the states we visited didn’t give the kind of rigorous tests I’ve done in the Rockies of Colorado, for example, but the terrain is similar to what most of us travel most of the time.

Thanks to the great air conditioning system, the July heat and humidity of New England was eliminated… until you had to stop. Well, we left Manhattan and traveled upstate all the way to Niagara Falls. Enroute we stayed in the Fingerlakes, Watkins Glen, Ithaca and surrounding areas. Beautiful. We stayed at a bed and breakfast on Seneca Lake and I can understand why New Yorkers talk so much about “Upstate New York”.

Handling & Performance:

Delightful. I have to say that I’m prejudiced and have always loved Volvo cars. They are well built and the solid feel adds to the confidence you get from the performance from the 247 horsepower 5-cylinder engine and seamless transfer of that power to the front drive wheels via a 5-speed automatic Geartronic transmission with “Adaptive Shift Logic”.

Styling:

Thankfully Volvo has smoothed out the lines over the past several years and they’ve done it beautifully.

Fit and Finish:

Exceptional. And when you think about it the way something looks is usually has a lot to say about how it will perform as well. There are exceptions, and Jaguar is a classic example in past years.

Cost:

Pricey but you get what you pay for. This is an elegant wagon that rivals or eclipses the Mercedes and other even more expensive wagons.

Consumer Recommendation:

Perhaps the best image in the family wagon market that projects safety and quality and it stands alone. You have to love the progression in styling over the years even if you are not a Volvo lover. This is in my top 3 list of cars in this class.


The Competition: * (see ranking below)
(1) Volkswagen Passat Wagon $23-39,000, (2) Subaru Legacy Wagon $20-24,000, (3) Volvo V70 Wagon $30-36,000, (4) Audi A6 Avant $38,000, (5) BMW 5 Series Sport Wagon $38-54,000, (6) Mercedes Benz E-Class Wagon $49,000.

* – Ranking is based on cost, cu ft, number of features, warranty and gas mileage.

  Good News:

It’s a Volvo that projects safety and Swedish quality, first cabin luxury appointments and equipment, station wagon styling that is classy and projects the thoughtful character and personality of the owners, comfortable seating.

Bad News:

Sensitive window controls, small cargo area while using rear seats, pricey.

Standard Equipment:

2.3 liter 5 cylinder w/ variable valve timing, 247 hp engine,  5-speed automatic Geartronic trans, 4-wheel power ABS disc brakes, dynamic stability traction control, power steering, unibody construction, dual front and side airbags, whiplash protection system, anti theft ignition immobilizer system, security system, rear door wiper, child safety locks, side turn indicators, fog lights, cargo cover, 8-way front power seats with memory and lumbar support, dual zone climate control, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, rear center armrests, remote keyless entry, power windows, heated power mirror, power sunroof, leather shift knob and steering wheel, dust and pollen filter, lighted vanity mirrors, Dolby Stereo audio system with 4 in-dash CD and cassette players and steering wheel controls.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 26 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $36,425.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2002 – An Automotive Love Affair

2001 Volvo S60 4-door sedan. (360)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the Volvo S 60 4-door sedan. Son Mike says, “This is way cool dad and I would really like to own this car”. Well, with the image of Volvo as being a super safe car and Mike and wife Lindsey have two young children, it’s not surprising they’d love to own the Volvo S60. It is truly a great family car. But if it were me, I’d opt for a minivan for the young family. I think Lindsey agrees.

But, as for me personally, I really liked driving this car and would rank it in the top ten of my wish list of cars to own. Yes, the minivan is more practical for the family, but I don’t need one any longer since I’m not expecting any more children in my life. But at the same time, I like the comfort and size of a sedan and I’m tired of crawling in and out of the smaller cars I’ve owned, including Porsche, Lamborghini, MGB, Volkswagen and T-Bird to name a few. So it always comes down to what you need at whatever stage of life you find yourself. If you’re 40’ish you may be going through a mid-life crisis and practicality goes out the window. If you’re there I suggest you take some of the budget and buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle. That worked for me even if I did need training wheels.

Handling & Performance:

Tops. It’s like driving a Mercedes Benz. Volvo devotees will likely resent that statement, but it’s the truth and a compliment to both Volvo and Mercedes Benz for achieving unsurpassed levels of quality. Let’s face it, Mercedes is the “Cadillac” of cars the world over.

Styling:

Tops in my opinion. Not to big and not too small and nice clean lines.

Fit and Finish:

Tops again. And that hasn’t always been so. Early Volvos were really poorly made and that can be attested to by observing them on the road. Most look pretty ratty. MSRP does not include simulated wood trim, which I think adds a lot to the interior.

Conveniences:

They left out the kitchen sink, and other options not listed include power sunroof, and passenger power seat and CD player that should be standard.

Cost:

Competitive for the quality and performance.

Recommendation:

When test-driving the competition noted below you’ll definitely want to include this model. Of those listed I would include Jaguar, Lexus, BMW, Audi and Mercedes as Volvos nearest competition.

The competition:

Acura TL $28,880-33,230, Audi A4 $24,540-30,990, BMW 3-Series $26,990-42,400, Chrysler 300M $29,640, Infiniti I30 $29,715-31,790, Jaguar X-Type $29,950-35,950, Lexus IS 300 $29,435-30,805, Lincoln LS $32,845-39,195, Mazda Millenia $28,025-31,025, Mercedes Benz C-Class.


Good News:

Wonderful ride, classy styling, great interior look and feel, arguably one of the safest constructed cars on the market, decent fuel economy in spite of the snappy performance.

Bad News:

I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this car but it could be a little more fuel-efficient.

Standard Equipment:

2.4 liter inline 5-cylinder 197 horsepower variable valve turbocharged engine, front wheel drive, 5-speed auto trans, Unibody construction with integral high strength steel and passenger safety cage, side impact head protection system, dual front and side airbags, 4-wheel ABS power assist disc brakes, power steering, anti-theft immobilizer ignition security system, 3-stage collapsible steering column, child safety locks, power 8-way driver seat with 3 remote memory settings and lumbar support, climate control with rear seat vents, tilt and tele steering wheel, rear armrest pass through to trunk, remote keyless entry, power windows with auto up and down, heated power mirrors, interior dust and pollen filter,  stereo with cassette and steering wheel controls, cruise control and more.

Gas Stats:

21 City and 28 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $29,800.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

Copyright © 2001 – An Automotive Love Affair

2000 Volvo V40 Station Wagon (277)

Overview:

Just last night at a party I listened to a conversation about how station wagons were out. I thought, hey I just drove a 2000 Volvo V40 Station wagon and loved it. The comment was made relative to SUV’s that have been all the rage over the past decade. Now even Porsche is said to be getting into that market. Fads may come and go, but when a fad turns into practicality, the product stays around for a while. And that’s the case with station wagons that have been around since those great old Woody’s. Even Mercedes has a station wagon. I’ll bet Moon Doggie now puts his surfboard on his Benz. What’s this world coming to?

No, station wagons are not out of style. But they have been replaced in large numbers by SUVs. Station wagons smack of the practical family car, and give the impression of “down home” kind of people. It is, after all, just a stretched out family sedan that speaks of mom, dad, the kids and grandma on vacation. Right now SUV’s are the IN thing. They are OFF ROAD for goodness sake. They’re safe. Mom can drive in the rain, sleet and snow to SHOP and get the KIDS to school and back safely. You never know what obstacles you’ll need to negotiate out there on the streets of suburbia.

SUV’s also allow dad to give a SPORTing reason for buying this robust “Wagon”. They can tow stuff, haul other stuff and best of all they’re unisex. Dad can have the benefits of a station wagon and still be MACHO and mom can have practicality and also display that new macho femininity.

Well, in theory that all works, but in the real world 90% of the time the SUV will never get off road and the 4-wheel thing is just a costly appendage. The wagon does it all and does it more efficiently including much better gas mileage.

Think about it. Is that right or wrong? If you said that’s right, you’re less likely to be swayed by fashions and fads designed by marketing experts to separate you from your wallet. You’re probably a leader rather than a follower. You’re your own person who really cares about the real utility of a station wagon to handle the chores of suburbia for less money. Don’t misunderstand me, I love SUV’s. I’ve done off-roading and even gone on a three day Jeep Jamboree. However, two things come to mind to contrast these two options. Consider that both perform relatively the exact same function. Now picture a little child climbing into both. The wagon is accessible to the child while a stepladder is needed for those little kids to get into the SUV.

I’ve owned both and driven tons of others over the years and objectively speaking “That’s the Truth”, as one of Lilly Tomlin’s characters used to say with a slight lisp. And since Volvo is built in Sweden it’s appropriate to recall the Old Swedish saying that “Vee get to soon Oldt, Undt to late Schmart”.

Smart considerate shoppers will consider this Volvo for their small or young family. I was truly surprised at the price after the test drive. I highly recommend you look at this station wagon. There is a window of opportunity to get Volvo quality at a great price. I don’t believe it will be as affordable after folks learn what a good deal it is today. Volvo is trying to appeal to younger buyers who couldn’t afford the usual higher prices. Informed young families will surely take them up on an offer that’s hard to refuse. Are my kids listening?

The competition:

Subaru Legacy Wagon $18,395 – $23,695, All the mini vans in this price range, None of the pricey SUV’s .

Good News:

Compact size to zip around town, powerful, solid and well built, comfortable, handles great and is simply fun to drive, more rounded styling, lots of conveniences and most important it’s an exceptional value for the money.

Bad News:

Compact close quarters for bigger people, ignition poorly placed and hard to get the key in.

Standard Equipment:

1.9Liter inline turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, 4-Speed Automatic transmission with Sport, Economy and Winter settings, 4-wheel power antilock disc brakes, dual front and side airbags, rack and pinion power steering, unit body construction, rear child safety locks, open door warning system, 8-way adjustable driver’s seat, climate control, power windows and mirrors, cruise control, stereo with cassette, remote keyless entry, tilt steering column, and much more.

Gas Stats:

21 City and 28 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $23,900 – $23,900

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

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Copyright ©1994 – An Automotive Love Affair

1999 Volvo S70 Sedan AWD (248)

Overview: 

This S70 is Volvo’s best-selling sedan in North America. But I tested it in Texas which is not a part of North America, is it? One of the reasons I opted for a Volvo was because I’m advertising brain washed over many years and thus convinced I’d be safe in a Volvo …even in Texas. Do you know Texans have so much freedom they are allowed to carry guns? Must be for those lions, tigers and bears, oh my. Or maybe they still expect Mexico to invade. It turns out the most dangerous part of the journey was the weather in Texas. I was particularly thankful for the dual climate control, so I could stay cool and the my lady could do her thing and thus we could peacefully co-exist.

But for anyone who’s had the pleasure of flying in and out of Dallas, you know the worst part of the weather is that it is unpredictable. By the time you get to the airport the weather gets stormy and you’re delayed. Very common in much of the south and that’s particularly true in Texas. I could have driven this Volvo back to Los Angeles faster than it takes to wait for weather changes and other delays. And that’s the truth Lilly.

The weather can’t be blamed on Volvo, but it is truly comforting to be in one when the weather does get nasty. I would hazard a guess that you are as aware as I am that Volvo stresses safety and has promoted safety for as long as I can remember. However, they have always seemed to be unwilling to modify its somewhat stodgy performance and appearance. The S70’s predecessor, the 850, started the trend away from those perceptions and it was widely praised for its spirited turbocharged performance and handling. Now, the look of the S70 continues another change in direction for Volvo—more rounded styling. But they still tout their commitment to occupant protection, as evidenced by being the first to introduce Side Impact air bags to supplement the frontal airbags. A Stability and Traction Control (STC) system, taken from the new S80, is also available on turbocharged S70s, and all-wheel-drive (AWD) is now available on the S70 GLT.

If you’re wondering about the model-naming, it’s a new scheme; S stands for sedan, V is for versatility and C denotes a coupe.

The 1999 Volvo S70 Sedan is available in four trims: S70 (base), GLT, T5, and GLT AWD.

The competition:

Audi A6 $33,750 – $35,400, BMW 5-Series $38,900 – $53,900, Infiniti I30 $28,900 – $31,200, Lexus ES 300 $30,905, Mazda Millenia $26,745 – $31,245, Mitsubishi Diamante $27,199, Saab 9-5 $31,025 – $37,450.

Good News:

A leader in safety, great styling – finally, roomy comfort for five adults with luggage, seatback folds down to extend the trunk, quality fit and finish.

Bad News:

Practical car feel with a luxury car price tag, word is they are expensive to maintain, stiff suspension may offend some.

Standard Equipment:

2.4-liter 190-horsepower 5-cylinder engine, all wheel drive, front wheel traction control, 4-speed automatic trans, 4-wheel power anti locking disc brakes, uni-body construction with energy absorbing impact structures, dual front airbags, dual side airbags, child safety locks, daytime running lights, 8-way power driver’s seat with memory, keyless entry system w/ trunk release, dual climate control, power door locks and windows,

tilt steering wheel, cruise control, heated seats, headlight washers, and 6-speaker stereo sound system with cassette and CD.

Gas Stats:

18 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $33,520

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is movello@earthlink.net.

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Copyright ©1994 – An Automotive Love Affair

1998 Volvo S70 GLT Bi-Fuel (208)

Overview: 

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.

The competition:

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

Good News:

Priced well, nice lines, good reputation for quality and safety, roomier than the competition, handles well.

Bad News: 

Sluggish without the turbocharger.

Standard Equipment:

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.

Gas Stats:

19 City and 27 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP is $32,440 without Bi-fuel equipment.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

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Copyright ©1994 – Automotive Love Affair