Volvo V70Volvo V70
Volvo V70
FOR the Japanese technology is king, for the Italians style rules the roost and for the Germans efficiency and luxury take precedence.

Engine: 996cc, three-cylinder, VVTi

Power: 67bhp and 67lb.ft.

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 14.7 seconds and 93mph

Fuel economy: 65.7mpg (combined)

CO2 emissions: 99g/km (manual)

Price: from £9,495

Rating: ***

When it comes to safety, comfort and simple, functional design however, there are few who can touch the Swedes and Volvo, in particular.

Their boxy, square-edged V70 is a blueprint for the perfect load carrying estate car.

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At the its core is a design that typical most people's preconceptions of how a family orientated estate car should look.

The square rear end is the perfect shape for maximising load space and access while the long bonnet and side impact protection bring excellent safety levels.

As ever with a Volvo, however, its beauty comes from its simplicity rather than a beautifully rendered aesthetic.

Now, with the V70 R-design, Volvo hope to redress the balance between style and form to broaden the V70's appeal even further.

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Those with memories of the 850-R, once the fastest estate car on the roads, should not get their hopes up though. The 'R' that appears on the V70's grill simply isn't the same 'R' that appeared on fastest estate car of the 90s.

The R-design treatment has been given to cars throughout Volvo's range and sees largely aesthetic tweaks amounting to revised skirts, alloy wheels, a boot spoiler, chrome exhaust pipes and a lowered ride height (20mm at the front and 15mm at the rear). Under the skin there is the addition of stiffer anti-roll bars. There's also the addition of 18-inch Cratus alloy wheels.

Sitting in the car park at Advertiser HQ the V70 R-design has presence. It's a big, menacing car, even if silver isn't the boldest colour to show off its newly found edge and satin-effect wing mirrors.

Despite its stance any allusions that the R-design is Volvo's take on BMW's M-division or Mercedes' AMG branch should be quickly dismissed.

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The V70 R-design comes with a choice of four diesel, four petrol and two FlexiFuel engines, with prices range from £26,745 to £37,235. Our test car came with the 134bhp 2-litre turbo diesel.

Clearly a 10.9 second sprint to 62mph is never going to blow your socks off but the trip computer's claim of a 600-mile fuel range from a full tank (combined consumption is 48mpg) will appeal to those used to buying a Volvo for its practicality rather than style or performance.

The V70's interior is a great place to be. Volvo's simple, functional design philosophy extends to every surface and control.

Shying away from iDrive-style control "solutions" there are clearly labelled buttons for everything but somehow the dash remains uncluttered with the Sat-Nav screen emerging neatly from the centre of the dash when called upon.

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It's a crisp, stylish and (though I wanted to avoid any comparison) very IKEA-like approach to interiors.

R-design tweaks are evident in an R-design aluminium base to Volvo's typically large steering wheel, R-design kick plates and blue speed and rev-counter dials.

Volvo also claim that extra padding has been added to their extremely comfortable seats to make them more supportive but, though the comfort remains, they hardly grab you by the torso.

The R-design embossed chairs' trim is also an curious blend of leather and corrugated plastic.

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On the public highway the R-design's performance proves a little more rapid than I had initially anticipated, the 2-litre diesel pulling smoothly and—thanks to Volvo's sound-deadening expertise—offering excellent refinement. Overtaking offers up a particularly surprising slug of torque.

Like the S80s and C30s tested here in the past, the V70 makes a class-leading motorway cruiser.

Hard-edged dynamics are still not the V70's forte, however.

The chassis changes provide a more eager turn in and increased grip but the ride is still supple, cosseting even, and untroubled by road imperfections.

It's important to approach the V70 R-design with the right frame of mind.

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A harder look can give mixed messages but this is a car that remains largely true to Volvo's core values of safety, comfort and practicality.

Just how much the subtle additions bring to the V70 range is up for debate with marginal improvements to its image and a slightly sharper drive.

The Swedes, it seems, were a little apprehensive when it came to putting too much style before function.

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