The Volvo S70 was introduced in 1997 as a rebadged continuation of the Volvo 850 sedan variant. The S70 was released in a pairing with the Volvo V70, which in turn is basically a rebadged continuation of the wagon variant of the 850.
The S70 differs from its 850 predecessor in terms of the styling of the body, which became more rounded and was given a reshaped bonnet and new headlights. The S70 was also given a new interior, which was remodelled to include front and side airbags as standard.
The S70 started life with a choice of three different trim levels in the Base, SE and T models. S70s were noticeably faster than their 850 predecessors, both in terms of maximum speed and in acceleration.
In late 1998, the S70, the second and final generation in its lifespan, was released adding new 2.4L, 2.5L turbo and bi-fuel engines to the range. Changes included updates to its braking systems and gearboxes, as well as the addition of sensors on airbags designed to automatically unlock doors in the event of a crash. The S70 was discontinued in 2000 and replaced by the Volvo S60.
The S70 Base model adhered to the growing propensity for powerful engines, having been equipped with a straight 5 2.5L 20 valve engine, with an output of 125kW and a torque of 220Nm at 4700rpm. This model could reach a top speed of 210km/h and 0-100km/h in 8.95 seconds, which was more than adequate.
The most powerful model in the range was the 2.3T, which had a power output of 177kW and a torque of 330Nm. This propelled the car to reach 0-100 in 6.45 seconds, with a top speed of 245km/h.
In terms of fuel economy, the S70 models were reasonable considering their power. The Base S70 used 7.5L/100km, whereas the T5 2.3L model used 8.9L/100km.
The second-generation mid-range S70 T SE was paired with the less capacious, yet hotter 5-cylinder 20V straight 5 2.4T petrol engine, which was turbocharged to give 142kW of power output and 270Nm at 1600rpm. The T SE had a maximum speed of 220km/h and an acceleration time 0-100km/h in 7.8 seconds.
Considering that automatic gearboxes are by far the preferred choice of drivers, it is heartening to know that the powerful turbo engines are well-suited to automatic transmission, shifting smoothly and promptly up or down.
In terms of the ride, this quality depends entirely on the model in question. The Base and GLT models move comfortably over bumps in the road even at highway speeds, whereas the 2.3 T5 has a tighter suspension and accordingly does not handle as well on rougher surfaces.
Body lean is kept to a minimum on all models, and the grip of the tyres is secure. Steering is accurate despite the reputation that front-wheel drive cars of this era had for under-steer.
Standard features on the introductory models included air-conditioning, climate control, peripheral anti-theft protection, 6-speaker audio system which could be controlled by knobs attached the steering column, cruise control, power windows and power mirrors, and front driver and passenger airbags. The S70 was also equipped with a 60/40 split-folding rear seats, which helps to expand the already ample cargo space of 428L.
In 1998, the second-generation S70 was released, adding traction-control provisions for the throttle as well as for the braking systems, which in turn were provided with electronic brake modulation for optimal performance. Automatic gearboxes were given ‘adaptive’ shift logic and an engine immobiliser became standard on all models. This new technology monitors patterns in driving behaviour and modifies gear changes to suit.
In addition, electronic two-stage sensors were added to airbags, the purpose of which was to automatically unlock doors upon deployment and also to match deployment force to road speed. Theses sensors also prevented airbags from inflating unnecessarily in the event of a low-speed crash.
In terms of optional extras, stability and traction control were available on the earlier turbo models, but they came as standard for these models from late-1998 onwards.
Competition came in the form of the Audi A6, Acura TL, and Saab 900.
The Saab was beginning to look dated and was actually outperformed by the S70’s 850 predecessor in many respects, and it was no different here. The Volvo S70 T5 even outperforms the Audi A6, which has an acceleration time of 0-100km/h in 8.8 seconds, although the Audi will command higher resale percentages.