Volvo S70 (1998)
Nice car. A really nice car. It's comfortable. It handles like a dream.
This is the old 850. Why they changed the name, we don't know. Supposedly, it has something to do with this being the 70th year that Volvo's been in business. I think they just got bored...and since changing the shape of Volvos more frequently than once every three decades is off-limits, they played with the only thing they could: the name.
They have made some incremental improvements. We've driven other 850s, but this car seemed quieter and more comfortable. We drove the five-cylinder turbo, which really flies. For us, it was more than fast enough. I suspect the five-cylinder, even without the turbo, would be very adequate.
Perhaps the biggest news is that all-wheel drive is now an option with this car, which should prove very popular in the great frozen northern U.S. It adds about another $5,000 to the cost of the car, but it gives you the safety of a Volvo and the on-road utility of a sport utility vehicle. Put the AWD together with the wagon, and you may have the world's best all-purpose vehicle.
The car we test drove (list price $35,500) came with absolutely everything: leather seats, premier sound system, cappuccino maker, etc. It's a very plush-feeling car. You could get the S70 without all this stuff, though, and save yourself a few thousand bucks.
Volvos are not known for their great reliability, but they are known for their incredible longevity. If you have the dough to keep fixing the car, you can usually make a Volvo run forever. We have a customer, Elsa Dorfmann (the famous photographer), who has a 1978 Volvo wagon. She brought it in to us and had us check it all out. We came up with a list of about $5,000 worth of work that needed to be done. (We had a few boat payments coming up.) She told us to fix everything--body work, mechanical repairs--everything. This was five years ago. Since then she's had the car painted, and it looks brand new and still runs fine. And that's been our experience with most Volvo owners: once they've been indoctrinated with a few $1,200 repair bills, they catch on. And, with proper maintenance, most Volvos will last for decades.
We're sure this car is as good as, or better than, any of its predecessors. The 850 is pretty well proven at this point, and this is a slightly nicer version of that old standby.
View cars.com model report on this vehicle.