- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

There's no question about the success of Volvo's first foray into SUV territory. The XC90 has won numerous car-of-the-year awards and demand continues to outstrip supply in dealer showrooms. That's the good news.
Unfortunately, the XC90 has received so much attention that buyers are overlooking another very capable vehicle in the Volvo lineup, the XC70.
To demonstrate just how capable the XC70 is, Volvo recently organized a test drive across Alaska in the dead of winter. Not for the faint of heart, the route took us from Anchorage to Prudhoe Bay more than 1,000 miles of ice-packed, snow-blown roads. Temperatures ranged from zero to -30F with winds more than 50 mph. Wind chill temperatures were well, you figure it out.
There was nothing special about our test cars, other than studded snow tires, engine block heaters, and an extra spare tire.
The route north to Dead Horse is a single-lane mostly paved road that follows the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. The ice on the road was thick enough to have its own potholes, but the carlike suspension of the XC70 soaked up the bumps easily. The low seating position eliminates the "head toss" problem associated with most SUVs.
Volvo's ever-present, but transparent, all-wheel drive never failed, even on roads that were so slippery it was difficult to walk on them. Four-wheel capability is automatically engaged when wheel slippage is sensed, so it's always there when you need it. Several times when gusty crosswinds tried to blow us off the road, we could feel the stability control system working to keep us out of trouble.
The 208-horsepower engine has plenty of power for the most rugged terrain, and the five-speed automatic transmission seems to get the most out of the engine.
The manual shift feature was particularly helpful for providing engine braking on hilly, twisty, icy roads.
And the antilock brakes came in handy more than once during our 1,000-mile, ice-covered odyssey.
Even though the weather outside was outrageously bad, we were more than comfortable inside. Heated seats were a godsend in the mornings, and the many power seat adjustments make it possible to stay comfortable on our two 500-mile days.
The heater and defrosters worked perfectly for a marvelous view of the great outdoors.
It didn't take long to get out of range of even the most powerful radio stations, but an ample supply of CDs and the XC70's great audio system kept up entertained. Meanwhile, there was plenty of room inside for an extra spare, our luggage, a satellite phone and all of the other paraphernalia needed for an outdoor adventure.
After two days behind the wheel of the XC70, traveling over some truly inhospitable terrain, we continue to be impressed, not only with its rugged capability, but with its many creature comforts as well. So, we have to ask ourselves, who needs an SUV?

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