1998 Volvo S70 t5 2.3 from North America
Swedish comfort and impressive performance for a little more money
The car was possibly a little abused when I got it, and is a rust-belt car. Bear that in mind. I had a lot of initial things done at the dealer, who really ripped me off even after I haggled with them. The dealer missed some serious issues on a pre-buy inspection and then lied about them later. I finally got them to concede they missed things after I brought them the parts off the car from the brake shop who found what the dealer missed, but not until after the dealer had pretty much called me and the brake shop a liar. I will never, ever spend a dime in a Volvo service department. They could have handled "we were wrong" a whole lot better. They gave me 10% off, which is still 50% higher than it should be. So, that's why things like the oil return line were $80, though you can do it at home for $10 and ten minutes. Off my soapbox, but having spent my years in customer service and retail, I couldn't have been more disappointed. If Volvo only knew how badly they were screwing themselves...
Car needed new pads all around, and new calipers on the front. One seized while driving, overheating the rotor, necessitating new rotors, calipers, and pads up front. Probably poor brake system maintenance by previous owner coupled with rust belt. Salt and calipers never mix--I've replaced calipers on every used car I've ever bought here in IL. $600.
Tires were destroyed, heavily cupped with irregular side wear, because of front suspension issues. I believe I replaced toe rod ends and sway bar links, replaced tires, and aligned it. Put Kumho Ecstas on it--best tire I could have imagined. $800.
Driver's door lock wouldn't work using the key--this had broken no a car that only has one door keyhole. Brilliant, Volvo. $200.
Oil return line was seeping, which happens on all turbos at some point. Cheap fix. $80.
Driver's seat rocks back and forth slightly and makes an annoy clunk multiple times each time I drive the car. There's a repair kit for this defect that costs an exorbitant amount (like $400 with labor or something), so I'll put up with the clunk.
Steering also clunks when turning, but is not front end related. Told it was the steering knuckle ("they all do that") and was advised not to consider dealing with it.
As with all Volvos, the power antenna does not work. Still get decent reception with diversity tuner. I will eventually spend the $130 to get the antenna that looks correct for the car. It seems that inevitably when these things fail, the motor does, too. Can someone invent a power antenna motor that can figure out when to stop trying? I believe it's called a circuit breaker, for pete's sakes.
A/C line failed. $150 or so with R134. I have not had the dreaded evaporator failure, but I try to be careful with A/C, making sure to use it periodically to keep the seals lubricated (although my fastidiousness probably has little to do with whether the evaporator fails or not). Who knows? Since apparently all S70 evaporators fail sooner or later (check user groups), maybe mine had before I bought it and was replaced by the PO.
Car needed major maintenance when I got it--using a cheap independent mechanic, it was maybe $450 total, meaning all fluids, filters, plugs, cap, rotor, etc. Well worth it. Change the cabin air filter frequently. It sits right at the leading edge of the hood and gets filthy quickly.
Had to replace a lot of bulbs--fog light, little switch lights, tail-lights, but I they have not burnt out since. Volvos, thanks mainly to Hella, I think, have a sordid reputation for lighting systems. I've owned 4 Volvos over the years, mostly 200 series, but unless those lights are clean and free of moisture, it's tough to keep things working. It's rare to find a 200 or 700-series Volvo with all its tail-lights working. This car has had no such problems for me. Expensive bulbs, though. $60.
Replaced parking brake shoes, but still don't have great parking brake function, likely due to variance in aftermarket rotors. I replaced the rear rotors when I bought the car (but not calipers, knock on wood) because rust had built up on the inside of the rear rotors, right where the parking brake shoes press against them. This rust tore up the old shoes and also caused the rear brakes to drag. What a mess. My mechanic had to go through a couple of different rotors to get a fit--apparently parts warehouses often screw up brake parts for S70s because of differences between the t5 and GLT/base. Anyway, the e-brake is still irritatingly weak. $80 for shoes, $200 for rotors.
Thermostat failed, leading to bottom-of-the-gauge engine temps and lots of "check engine" light issues. $70 later with fresh coolant and it warms up quickly, even in sub-zero temps.
Coolant temp sensor also failed last year, tripping a check engine light. Maybe related to the year I drove it with the stuck open thermostat, who knows? $100.
Exhaust heat shield broke loose, maybe a nasty racket. $10 to fix.
The hood latch is out of adjustment and requires the release to be pulled up and held while someone pulls on the hood. It's a two-person fix to adjust, but it shouldn't cost anything. I'll get on that one of these days.
I've owned a lot of cars, from old Volvo turbos to BMW 5-series to an old Surburban. I bought the Volvo from a shady EBay wholesaler who picked it up at auction for next to nothing because it had been painted, had a Not Actual Mileage title (although the mileage is correct; I think this was a glitch that just worked in my favor as long as I never sell the car), and had 116,000 miles on it. It needed $2200 worth of work right off the bat, and they wanted some $6500. Right. I gave them $5600 and drove off in a t5. The car looks beautiful for the most part--it has some clear coat flaking around the door frames, drip rails, and some stone chips on the hood. It's Mystic Silver with a black leather interior, and the heated seats are great. I get tons of compliments on the car--it really looks awfully sharp. It has the spoiler, correctly installed with little plastic clips. I could take or leave the spoiler, but its paint matches well and it does look decent. The wheels just finish the look of the car--the t5 is one of the most handsome cars I've ever owned. My colleagues, who drive much newer and more expensive cars, often compliment me on the Volvo. Sure, I keep it clean and the leather oiled, but a lot of that is, it's a pretty timeless design. Very slick.
The audio system (I have the ultra-rare SC-901 Pro-Logic setup) is the best I've heard in a car short of the Mark Levinson setups in Lexuses. It really is great, and if I keep this car, I might even buy Dynaudio speakers to replace the originals. It's that good. If you want a really loud stereo, it does reach its limits on stuff with heavy bass content--it's not that high-powered, and it will begin to reach excursion limits and start slapping the door panels and rear deck with flapping woofers. Classical at high volumes can be a challenge, and so can electronic stuff. This system with 200 more watts for headroom would be about all I could ask for. I'm going to buy a Blitzsafe adaptor so I can play my mp3s from my smartphone through the radio, since I don't have the 6-cd changer input used right now (I never bought the 6-disc because I have the 3-disc in the dash).
Seats are out-of-this-world comfortable, rivaled only by the seats in my old 535iS for highway comfort.
I wish the car had boost and oil pressure gages. Differentiate it a little on the inside from a GLT or base.
Climate control is excellent. Turn to defrost and you'll get auto AC on and rapid action every time.
Sunroof is great, power windows good, but a little slow, perhaps. Cruise control works well (this is a first--I've never had a 9-year old Volvo with working cruise--pleasant surprise). Front and rear fogs do their job in bad fog. I love the security of having that rear fog light when I'm driving slow through Tennessee in fog country. I've almost been rear-ended on the interstate before going through that stuff.
The car is excellent in snow and all conditions. It doesn't have the balance of a rear-drive BMW, but that is the price I am willing to pay for an all-seasons car. The car will still surprise me with its boost. Floor it and it will leap forward with surprising alacrity--of this you can be assured. Runs fine on 89, but I run 93 when it's hot out or on long trips--mileage is slightly better on 93 when doing long cruises.
Lots of minor problems, but no major ones, and this car has never failed to start or get me where I needed to go in comfort. Sure, it will always have more problems and potential problem areas then a comparable Honda--but a Honda can't do what this car does in terms of luxury, style, surefootedness, and cold weather comfort. I'd say if you are a detail-oriented owner and are careful with it, $1500 a year should keep this car running right and looking good. I considered buying a newer car, like a GTO or something, just for kicks, but I kept coming back to the point that I have this great car, super comfortable, that does many things better than most new cars (especially an American one), and basically costs me $125 a month. Compare that to a car payment. I think I'll be keeping the Volvo for a while. I figure I won't get rid of it unless I tire of its looks or something really gets me excited, because the Volvo has proven its worth to me, day-in, day-out, like a trusty pocketknife. I've fallen out of love with a lot of cars, and so I can tell you that this car has to be doing a pretty good job to convince me I don't need anything else. No small thing, that.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 22nd October, 2006
24th Oct 2006, 23:29
Reviews like this one make me feel a little better about purchasing a Volvo.
Nice review overall!
7th Nov 2006, 07:55
This is a great review, I'm glad to see someone took the time to write a non-biased detailed review on this automobile. I'm also impressed that you took to the understanding of the car being abused, and being located in a region where salt is used. It disgusts me when someone jumps to conclusions about a car being of poor quality when they do not know its past, or don't take into consideration where the vehicle came from. Great Review! I'm even more inspired to purchase one of these vehicles!