Strong engines but jittery low-speed ride, vague steering and noise levels mean most rivals are better
Smart and supremely comfortable, but controls are fiddly
Plenty of kit to help keep you safe
Rated as 'below average' in reliability survey but owners are still a happy bunch
Boot is a useful shape but a touch shallow and smaller than many rivals'
Even entry-level trim is very well equipped
Both of the 2.4 diesel engines (labelled D4 and, for the more powerful one, D5) have plenty of oomph to shift the XC70 when fully-laden with a family and their luggage, and make this car easily swift enough for most families' needs. They're both four-wheel-drive, and with the XC70's good ground clearance and the car's hill descent control they can drag you out of most sticky situations. A two-wheel-drive, 2.0-litre diesel XC70 is also available and is slightly quicker than the 2.4 D4. A 3.0-litre petrol, with four-wheel-drive, completes the engine range: it's very quick but it's expensive both to buy and run. Around town the XC70 feels rather jittery and you can hear various clunks from the suspension. Things improve at higher speeds, however, when the car stays well composed on corners, without leaning over as it takes the bend. However, the XC70's vague steering means it's not very involving to drive, and while the ride is smooth on the motorway, road noise and buffeting around the door mirrors means the cabin isn't totally tranquil.
The XC70's cabin is full of classy yet durable materials - it feels built to last a lifetime of hard use, which is certainly what it will get with a family on board. The XC70's seats are very comfortable and there's lots of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel. However, the dashboard has too many small, poorly marked buttons and the way the infotainment system works is confusing. The XC70's boot is a useful square shape but it's on the shallow side which means many rivals have more overall capacity. The rear seat bench is split 40/20/40 so you can load taller items down the middle of the car without compromising the two larger seats. These can be specified with built-in child booster seats, which is particularly handy if you regularly take different passengers in the back. Standard equipment is generous: all models have alloy wheels, a powered driver's seat and a CD player, as well as either climate control or air-con. Roof rails and powered windows and door mirrors are also standard, while the optional Premium pack adds leather-faced seats and satellite-navigation. The V70 estate is no less practical inside, however; it just comes without the four-wheel-drive, raised ground clearance and the plastic cladding.
All XC70s come with Isofix fittings on the outer rear seats, but these are set quite far back behind the thick upholstery so accessing them may be awkward with some child seats. Also, you can't remove the headrests on the XC70 (you can only fold them down for when you drop the seats), which can prevent a good fit of high-backed booster seats (Group 2/3). On the plus side, the centre rear seat is just wide enough, and the seat belt buckles set far back enough, that it is possible to fit some models of child seat three abreast here, particularly if you are using only a seat-only booster, or 'booster cushion'.
The XC70 was rated 'below average' in the latest What Car? Reliability Survey, though owners gave a decent overall score for ownership in the 2013 JD Power study, ranking the car - along with the V70 - 25th out of 116 models, though it still scored only 'average' for mechanical reliability. One thing you can rely on, though, is the XC70's safety provision: Volvo's anti-whiplash and side-impact protection systems are standard across the range, as is traction control. However, while the V70 upon which the XC70 is based scored the maximum five stars in crash tests by Euro NCAP, it scored only 88% for adult safety and 84% for children, which isn't as good an Audi A6, which also comes as an off-road estate as the A6 Allroad. An optional Blind Spot Information System is available to alert you to cars nearby.
The XC70 is hard to justify over the V70 unless you love the latter but also need some off-road ability. The two-wheel-drive D4 model has the best fuel economy at 53.3mpg; this falls to 41mpg for both the four-wheel-drive D4 and the D5. The XC70 sells in limited numbers but it's quite desirable so residual values are respectable as long as you avoid the T6 petrol.