Wednesday, October 27, 2004

For 2005, Volvo has made changes to its midlevel lineup of cars that it characterizes as the “most thorough” and “most significant” since their introduction.

Volvo lovers, don’t fret. The Swedish branch of Ford Motor Co. has not gone off in some radical new direction, a la BMW. In fact, many of the faithful probably will not even notice what is different about the new S60 sedans and V70 station wagons when they see them zipping down the road.

Instead, improvement has come as it always comes at Volvo — thoughtfully and carefully. There are design tweaks, mechanical updates and interior refinements. The most intriguing new feature will not be available until late winter or spring. It’s the optional Blind Spot Information System.

A digital camera capable of taking 25 pictures per second will be mounted on each door mirror and will be able to warn the driver when a vehicle is entering the Volvo’s blind spot. There is one limitation. Like all cameras, it will not function in times of poor visibility, such as fog or heavy snow.

Because all of the upgrades to the lineup are not equal throughout the product range, it’s necessary to separate them by their missions.



S60 R and V70 R

These are the hot rods, the 300-horsepower, all-wheel-drive enthusiast models that come standard with six-speed manual transmissions.

The R wagons have minor exterior trim changes and upgraded sound systems. New options include a rear-facing third seat and a rear warning system that tells the driver if he is about to back into something. Prices start at $37,250.

The R sedans all get exterior trim changes. Options include a Sport Body Package, which gives the cars a more aggressive look, and an upgraded sound system. Prices start at $38,750

XC70

The all-weather Volvo gets a new “egg crate” grille, clear-lens headlights and taillights, gray (instead of blue) bumpers and side panels, brushed aluminum roof rails and improved windshield wipers and headlight washers.

Inside, there are new front seats with improved adjusters, a revised console and center stack, a trip computer and an upgraded sound system. Options include the rear warning system, integrated booster seats and a rear-facing third seat.

The 2.5-liter, 208-horsepower, turbocharged five-cylinder engine, five-speed automatic transmission and electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system remain unchanged. Prices start at $34,180.

S60/V70

The bread-and-butter models in the lineup, these sedans and station wagons share three engines and get similar revisions for 2005, so they should be considered together.

The top-of-the-line variants, known as the T5, get a power boost. The 2.5-liter, turbocharged five-cylinder engine now puts out 257 horsepower (up 10) and 258 foot-pounds of torque (up 15). The T5 sedan has a standard six-speed manual transmission and an optional five-speed automatic, while the wagon comes only with the automatic.

Standard new features on all S60/V70 models — starting with the 168-horsepower, five-cylinder base model — include a revised grille, color-coordinated side and lower sill moldings, new front seats, new sound system, trip computer, headlights and taillights with clear lenses, and a new center console and armrest.

Finally, we come to the 2.5T, which has a 208-horsepower, turbocharged, five-cylinder engine. Beyond the basic changes there is little new on the station wagons. Actually, something has been taken away. All-wheel-drive is no longer available.

But the sedans are a different story. In addition to a carryover all-wheel-drive version, the S60 offers as options on all turbocharged models the aggressive Sport Body Package and a chassis-control system that allows the driver to choose with the flick of a button between “comfort” and “sport” suspension modes.

The sedan starting prices range from $27,235 for the base front-wheel-drive model to $33,285 for the most powerful T5. The front-wheel-drive station wagon base prices range from $28,760 to $36,010.

As always, all Volvos are ruggedly built, comfortable and comprehensively equipped with safety equipment. With the newest update, there’s a bit more of what Volvo believes its buyers want in their automobiles.

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