​An Owner Review - 2003 Volvo XC70

Repost for the AM crowd.

It's basically an upscale Subaru Outback. The End.

Ok not really. The 2003 Volvo XC70 is a v70 AWD with a taller suspension and wider fenders/bumpers. The AWD system is electronic, as opposed to being mechanical as it was on the p80 chassis models. Does this mean it's better? No. While there is no mechanical driveshaft that can be removed once it breaks, the XC70 has an angle gear that is very leak happy and any terrain worse than loose gravel tends to be straining on this system. Newer models have revamped Haldex systems that make the car better offroad, so keep that in mind if you're planning on buying one as a budget rally car. Also keep in mind that that is a terrible idea. Trust me, I tried.


(Disclosure: Volvo didn't care if I drove an 03 XC70. So much so that the local Volvo dealer wanted to sell me a 1990s Infiniti with yellow windows when I asked about AWD wagons for sale. So this one came from a shady high mile Volvo specialist dealership.)

Exterior: 7/10

The 2003 Volvo XC70 retains the squared off rear that Volvo is known for, however there are more curves and lines around the rest of the body to give it a sleeker look. It also comes with body cladding in a different color from the rest of the car. Mine, though almost unnoticeable, is brown. Other options included black and blue with black being pretty common. Extended roof rails come standard as do foglights/driving lights and window tints. The paint is pretty thick and, despite being over 10 years old, it has no noticeable scratches or chips. I wish all cars had such good, quality paint.

Interior: 6/10


I'm deducting one point off of my personal car here because the tan interior is awful. It feels spacious initially but it's so difficult to keep clean and ultimately not as nice as the black interior that was available. Other than that, it's nice. The seats feel like a living room sofa, the wheel is thick and grippy (as someone who suffers from sweaty hands, a grippy wheel is important.) The interior on a whole doesn't feel like it's made of cheap materials and is a nice place to sit, as most people would expect from Volvo.

Acceleration: 6.5/10


The Volvo XC70 has a 2.5 litre turbocharged engine that produces 208 horsepower and 236 ft-lbs of torque. But it's dragging around nearly 4 thousand pounds of station wagon primarily on its front wheels as the AWD system is front wheel biased. 0 to 60 take roughly 8.5 seconds which is pretty quick for a heavy station wagon. Flooring the accelerator from a dead stop results in a fair amount of wheel spin as well.

Braking: 8/10


It stops, and it stops quick with stock brakes. I'm planning on upgrading the pads and calipers over the summer but let it be known that with ABS, this car can come to a stand still in a hurry if need be.

Handling: 6.5/10


Being that the XC70 sits pretty high compared to the other Volvo wagons, there is a lot of body roll when cornering. There's also a controllable amount of understeer but it is nearly impossible to get the wagon to oversteer unless you're on a sand or dirt road. The XC70 stock tire has a width of 215, I upgraded to a 225 and felt that it had more grip immediately. I'll be adding a strut brace and lowered springs come summer as well which will hopefully eliminate the body roll.

Gearbox: 4/10


Geartronic is rubbish. When you push the stick up to upshift, there's about a 10 second delay before it actually changes which leads me to believe that I actually have no control over the gear changes at all. Normal automatic is ok, still not as quick as I'd like but it is an 11 year old GM transmission.
HUGE DISCLAIMER: REGARDLESS OF WHAT THE MANUAL SAYS, YOU WILL NEED TO DO TRANS FLUID CHANGES. The 2001-2002 models got a very bad rep because the transmission would destroy itself around 100,000 miles from dirty trans fluid. Most 01-02 models for sale now will be at the mileage where the transmission is ready to go. My 2003 has 115k miles and on a cold day, it will come out of first and hesitate for about 3 seconds before going into second. I don't know if this is because it's cold or if I need a fluid change, so I'll be changing the fluid come summer anyway to be sure.

Audio/toys: 5/10


My personal car is a base model XC, so it has some features that are standard which would've been optional on a v70, but it's far from being fully loaded. Dual zone climate control is a very nice feature. The sound system is nice and very bassy on its own, however there was an option to have a subwoofer in the trunk. Other options that I don't have include third row seats, premium sound system, a 6 cd changer, buttons to turn the TRACS on and off. Features that are standard are dual power seats, power windows, child locks, front and rear fog lights and a sun roof.

Reliability: 6/10


So far I've done 2 oil changes, 1 when I bought it in August and one when it went to a shop in December. It went to the shop for a new ABS sensor (which I managed to tear in half after getting some air on an unpaved back road) as well as have a power steering pump replaced (which I caused it to explode after snow drifting too much). The only other thing was a coil pack going bad on the highway about a week after I got it. So two bits of maintenance and two things needed replacing because of hooning. Not bad for an 11 year old, 115 thousand mile euro.

Fuel Economy: 6/10


21 miles to the gallon. That's my average for nearly every trip. Sometimes I can manage 24 MPGs. If I go hard on the throttle, I can manage 18. I got 29.5 once through pure magic and sorcery and that has never happened again. Again, not terrible for a 4000 lbs, 200 horsepower luxo-wagon.

Value: 10/10


This wagon cost me $5600 dollars to buy before taxes, now they're up in value at 6400 which is still EXTREMELY good value for money as a Volvo wagon is as spacious as a pickup yet has more luxuries than one. It's also treated me well in terms of reliability and I haven't had to spend too much to keep it going compared to other luxury european vehicles.
It's a great vehicle for cruising and long trips but isn't the offroader that the look of it may imply.

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