The 2008 Volvo XC70 just may be the perfect all-around mountain touring machine. A sport-tuned chassis blends great driving with superb comfort and all-road ability. A powerful and efficient inline six ensures top performance and unparalleled safety equipment furthers the legend of Volvo occupant protection. So it’s off to the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Volvo XC70, the perfect ride for America’s favorite drive.
The Blue Ridge is part of the entire eastern Appalachian Mountains and is generally described as stretching from north Georgia into Pennsylvania, a region where fall foliage peaks in mid-October. Around 300 miles of the Parkway follow the upper reaches of the Blue Ridge Mountains, averaging about 3,000 feet in elevation and occasionally dipping down into the coves and hollows or crossing low-elevation water gaps. Then the Blue Ridge Parkway veers westward through the Black Mountains on into the Craggies before descending toward Asheville, North Carolina. From there, the road climbs to elevations over 6,000 feet in the Balsam Mountains before entering Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee. It’s quite a ride, and so is the Volvo XC70.
The 2008 Volvo XC70 is built to handle anything you might encounter on this trip. The sporty chassis setup seems to crave demanding driving situations and thrives on curves that might induce queasy rolls or wallow in lesser machines. It easily tames the decreasing radius turns you’ll find on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Weight is optimally distributed between the front and rear axles, which contributes to superb balance and traction. The transversely installed engine and Volvo's All Wheel Drive with Instant TractionTM from Haldex contribute to balanced control and confident handling.
The Blue Ridge Parkway was designed as a recreational motor road linking Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks. The Parkway is a bit steeper than most roads, and the curves can sometimes "tighten" (decreasing radius) as you get into them. The Parkway is a limited access highway and allows no commercial signs or vehicles. However, there are “natural” distractions such as beautiful vistas, interesting cabins, bicyclists and wildlife. Don’t stress out! The XC70’s impressive maneuverability and standard driver’s aids such as traction and stability control give it the reflexes of a mountain goat.
With its extra measure of ground clearance and all-wheel drive, the Volvo XC70 is capable of traversing terrain that would be impossible for a conventional passenger car. The MacPherson front suspension and wide track also contribute to excellent directional stability. The rear suspension ensures comfort and secure road contact even when the going gets rough.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a leaf-peeper’s paradise around the middle of October. Many factors, however, contribute to variations in when and where colors will peak. The Parkway stretches almost 500 miles north to south, meanders from the east to west facing slopes and, most importantly, varies in elevation from just under 650 feet at James River in Virginia to over 6,000 feet south of Mt. Pisgah in North Carolina. Many visitors have been frustrated trying to go to one spot on one day in October, hoping to find the leaves in full color. The best foliage strategy is to drive the Parkway from north to south from mid- to late-October. The changing elevations will ensure a “full spectrum” of fall foliage.
An all-wheel drive midsize wagon, the 2008 Volvo XC70 comes in a single trim level. Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloy wheels, skid plates, a roofrack, a power driver’s seat with memory settings, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, faux wood trim and an eight-speaker audio system with a CD/MP3 player and auxiliary audio jack. By the way, the great view afforded by the roomy XC70 cabin makes for great sightseeing, whether your interest is colorful foliage or the incredible civil engineering that went into the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Speaking of highway engineering, of particular interest is the Linn Cover Viaduct that skirts the rugged and rocky perimeter of Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. It was the last segment of the Parkway because of concerns over construction on the side of an ancient and majestic mountain. To lessen the impact on the environment and eliminate the need to cart in heavy equipment, the Viaduct was constructed from the top down. Only pier foundations were drilled, and only trees right beneath the structure were cut, meaning that the Viaduct doubled as its own access road. This incredible section of Parkway was finished in 1987.
Driving in the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains requires power. Not just high rpm peak power, but low-down grunt that always has the oomph to handle steep grades. The 2008 Volvo XC70 uses a 3.2-liter six equipped with variable valve timing and lift and variable-length intake runners. This naturally aspirated engine makes the most of its modest displacement to generate 235 hp and 236 lb/ft of torque. Best of all, 90 percent of the torque is on tap at just 2,000 rpm. By the way, the incoming 2009 XC70 lineup will include the new XC70 T6 with a 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine capable of 281 hp and 295 lb/ft of torque,which is 60 additional horses and 59 additional lb/ft of torque than the XC70's 3.2-liter. Both use a smooth six-speed automatic with manual shift capability and a true overdrive gear ratio in sixth gear for good fuel economy.
Meanwhile, the Blue Ridge Parkway beckons and we have your Volvo XC70!