2000 Volvo S70 SE 2.4 liter, no turbo from North America
Well designed, old fashioned and wonderful
Two front struts (old units were very rusty).
Brake pads and rotors, front and rear.
Wheel bearings, front and rear.
Two front control arms.
Parking brake shoes.
One parking brake cable.
Two tie rod ends.
One drive shaft.
2 feet of exhaust tail pipe.
Right rear power window switch.
5 spark plugs.
Electronic throttle body (previous owner).
Battery (previous owner).
I bought this car as a winter beater for $700. The car is virtually rust free and looks like new. The paint and body have held up well for the age of the car.
The list of repairs looks long, but most items were changed for reliability and to ensure the car would pass our tough mandatory vehicle safety inspection. I did them all at once, after I bought the car, but before I started driving it. Had the inspection not been a factor I could have squeezed some more miles out of these components.
Professional Volvo service around here is very expensive, as are dealership parts. I did all repairs myself, which saved a lot of money. There's a wide selection of inexpensive, high quality parts available on-line. I only had to get one minor part from the dealer (parking brake expander) which was expensive. But I was impressed it was still available after all these years.
These cars are very easy to repair and maintain, compared to other modern cars. Almost all components are easily accessible. The design and engineering is relatively simple and straightforward, with plenty of space to access all components. The car has been engineered for easy servicing, something that cannot be said for many other vehicles.
These cars also have the best factory rust -proofing I've ever seen. My car is rust-free despite 19 salty-road winters, All fasteners are plated to avoid rust, which aids service. All sheet metal is well coated and painted. The subframe and suspension components are thoroughly galvanized. There's not a speck of rust on it, except for a handful of un-coated minor brackets and clamps underneath, which needed minor repair.
The original electronic throttle control is a weak point. It has an electro-mechanical position sensor which wears out, causing problems. The best solution is to get a new, updated throttle with a Hall-effect electronic sensor. These are expensive, but last much longer.
The car performs well. The 20-valve engine is not particularly powerful, at 168 hp. But it revs easily and is responsive. This was the first year for the 5 speed Aisin-Warner automatic transmission. It has a short first gear and nicely matched gear ratios allowing the engine to quickly build revs and take advantage of its modest power output. It always serves up the proper gear for any situation quickly with firm, positive shifts. The car can easily keep up with modern traffic, but heroic sporty driving is unsatisfying because there's no real surplus of power.
The car is a bit more noisy and harsh than one might expect for an entry-level luxury car. Wind-noise is modest but there's more road noise and mechanical noise than in other cars. I've driven other Volvos and they all do this, it's normal.
One culprit is the 5-cylinder engine, an inherently poorly-balanced design. It creates some mild buzz-vibration that comes through the steering wheel and pedals, especially at low revs. It's easy to get used to and not obtrusive, but it's noticeable.
Many European spec Volvos are equipped with a manual transmission, where this extra engine noise is handy. An experienced driver knows when to shift gears by this noise and feel.
Sound insulation is relatively poor, allowing some road noise to get through to the passenger compartment. Additional sound-absorbing material under the carpet and in the doors would help create a more quiet, serene experience. It's surprising Volvo did not make the effort to do this.
The interior is pleasant, with excellent instruments and controls, and magnificently comfortable seats. My car came with all options (except the turbo) so it has highly adjustable heated leather power seats (with memory), the premium stereo (sounds nice), and a sunroof.
The car is jammed with features and it pays to read the manual to appreciate them all, as some aren't obvious. For example, the defroster also activates heat on the rear view mirrors, the daytime running lights have a hidden function selector, the trunk light has an override switch, the hood has a special linkage switch so it opens extra wide. All these features and more aren't typically available in most other cars, so I wouldn't normally know to look for them.
The back seats fold down for long cargo. One has options of a little trap door, or one seat, or both seats down. Nice.
One minor quibble: There's no door lock on the passenger side. If you don't have a working key fob (I don't) you must unlock the driver's side before loading passengers or items on the passenger side. This is a bit annoying, especially when there's busy traffic.
The car is very space - efficient. The boxy, upright shape isn't too stylish, but the interior and trunk are impressively large for the overall size of the car. It's well built too; the doors all close with a precise fit, no sagging hinges and no air leaks.
The dashboard creaks and rattles, though, especially if it's been heated up by the summer sun. Thermal expansion or softening plastic that makes the dash shake and creak on rough roads.
The car handles well. The steering is accurate, with good feel and sensitivity, and tracks nicely. The brakes are powerful and a nice firm feel, it's very easy to precisely modulate them. Fast highway driving feels calm and confident. In the city, the car feels light and compact, easy to maneuver, and has a tight turning circle. Long distance driving is comfortable, and not tiring at all.
The tires are relatively small and skinny, so heroic levels of high speed cornering produces some understeer and drift. However the skinnier tires produces a better ride on rough pavement than the wider tires on newer cars. They are much cheaper to buy, too.
The rear suspension feels excellent, with long travel and a supple ride over bumps. The front suspension isn't so good. Typical of MacPherson struts, the ride feels a bit more harsh in front, with less suspension travel than the rear. But it's acceptable.
My car has several minor problems. The 'check engine' light comes on because the coolant temperature sensor is inaccurate, producing an excessively rich mixture. This problem is intermittent and easy to fix.
The leather seats have cracked and show a lot of wear, more than other cars with the same mileage.
The gear shifter broke and jammed for the previous owner. He simply removed the push-button interlock mechanism. At present, one can slide the shifter into any gear without pushing any button. This is hazardous because a careless person might knock the shifter into the wrong gear, or even 'Park' when driving, causing diminished control or possibly damage to the car. I don't blame the car for this unsafe condition, as it's the lack or proper repairs at fault.
There's a poor connection in the alarm system. Occasionally the car won't start because the system does not detect the transponder chip in the key. Wiggling the ignition key in the lock a bit before starting avoids the problem.
I'm very happy with the car. It functions well, handles well, is reliable, easy to drive and easy to live with. I'm a car collector and have sixteen cars. This is one of my favorites for daily driving due to the logical, efficient design and excellent overall function and performance.
But it feels... old. The tall boxy shape, the style (inside and out), the skinny tires, noisy interior and overall feel are like a car from the early 1980's. A really good car mind you, but an old one. I don't mind as I like old cars, but other people might object.
This old-feel occurs because this car uses the Volvo P80 platform, introduced in 1991, but developed between 1978 to 1990, and influenced by Volvo's competitors of the time. This car looks and feels a lot like the boxy early 80's Audi 5000, the Peugeot 505 or BMW's that I drove at that time. These were fine cars but had become obsolete and were replaced by the time the P80 was introduced. Volvo had less money for development than other makes, so it took longer. By the time the P80 came out, the competitors had advanced their designs to the next generation, leaving Volvo behind.
Volvo did update the P80 platform in the 90's, but had limited funds and couldn't do too much by comparison. By 2000 my car felt old, even when new. At present, my 19 year old car looks and feels like a 40 year old model. Again, I like this nostalgia, and I love the car's virtues, but the average buyer may be put-off with such an old look and feel.
For me, no regrets, I love the car, I would get another and I recommend it to anyone who would appreciate such a fine machine.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 10th October, 2019