21 November 1997

FOUR WHEEL

DRIVE ESTATE

GOES UP IN

THE WORLD…

In this months Country Car David Cousins tried

Volvos 4WD V70 Cross Country and

Geoff Ashcroft drove the 2WD V90. meanwhile

Andrew Pearce reviews the Jeep Grand Cherokee

diesel and Tessa Gates survived a 4WD course.

Oh, and weve driven the new Freelander!

FAMED though we may be the world over for our modesty, bashfulness and sheer shrinking-violet shyness, we Brits can on occasion be pretty boastful.

How else do you explain the apparent ease with which vehicle makers persuade us to buy off-roaders awash with the sort of decals normally seen glimmering above a seaside disco?

Not so Volvo. Its new 4WD V70 (called the AWD XC Cross Country) hides its all-wheel drive as diligently as a squirrel burying its nuts. Well nearly. You can still opt for a faintly kitsch cross-country badge across the back of the car. If you must.

Unless youve spent time lying underneath them, youd be hard put to tell the XC from its lowlier 2WD brethren. But there are some subtle differences.

The XC has raised itself up souffle-like by 30mm (1.2in) at the front and 60mm (2.4in) at the rear. Not enough to persuade Major Blashford-Snell to invite you to join his next trans-Saharan expedition, maybe, but helpful if you value your sump. The front-end has also been given a slightly more aggressive look, though were talking quizzical Cocker Spaniel here rather than snarling Dobermann.

Volvo, like makers of conventional off-roaders, knows that its market consists largely of drivers who will venture off road about as often as they will eat little black puppy dog soup – ie rarely. So rather than intimidate buyers with lots of levers, the grubby mechanical bits are kept well away from sensitive suburban eyes.

Which isnt to say that the XCs four-wheel drive vitals arent sophisticated or effective. Power normally goes 95% to the front wheels and 5% to the rear. Hit a sticky patch and a viscous coupling will send torque scurrying to the rear wheels until traction has been regained.

Similarly, the rear diff will progressively lock if one of the rear wheels starts to slip and Volvos Trac system does a similar job at the front using the ABS brakes. So if you get stuck its probably because you were trying to impress someone of the opposite sex.

Power for all this mechanical jiggery-pokery comes from a five-cylinder light-pressure turbo petrol engine mustering 193hp. Diesel options? Er…none.

&#42 A category of its own

So is this an off-roader disguised as an estate or an estate done up to look like an off-roader? Well, neither and both; its a hybrid vehicle that (Subaru Legacy apart) is in a category of its own.

It lacks the high driving position, flamboyance and greater ground clearance of the more serious off-roaders. But then it doesnt have their jiggly ride, reluctance to go round corners with any aplomb or their John Wayne pseudo-cowboy image.

So its time to lay on the psychiatrists couch and examine your lifestyle. If you really do need a serious off-roader that you can chuck around the hillocks and hollows with impunity, this isnt the vehicle for you. If, on the other hand, your off-roading is genteel rather than gut-wrenching and youd rather have a vehicle that goes and corners 10 times better than most off-roaders, go for the Volvo.

Four wheel drive kicks in automatically. Driver doesnt have to worry about a thing.

VOLVOV70XC FACTS

&#8226 Model: V70 AWD XC

&#8226 Price: £29,925

&#8226 Engine: 2.5 litre 5-cyl turbo petrol (193hp)

&#8226 0-60mph: 8.7secs

&#8226 Top speed: 133mph

&#8226 Insurance grp: 15

&#8226 Fuel consumption (manufacturers combined figure): 24.2mpg