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Power and Passion of the R
Power and Passion of the R
The Power and the Passion of the R. Written 10/8/08
This story is as much about telling you about the best Volvo (modern) Performance Cars Ever built as it is as much about why I have an unnatural passion with Volvo.
Let’s start at the beginning. PART 1
R does not stand for Racing as most people may think but for Refinement. Back in 1994 Volvo decided that 166kw (in the 850T5) running through a very soft chassis was not enough for a car to have to cope with so the Scando’s decided to up the anti to a 176kw with a yellow low slung thing called the T5-R (someone at that point should have told them that front wheel drive vehicles don’t like that much power running through them – ask Saab Owners Why). Volvo has a long history or hysteria of turbo charging cars past the point of being usable. 
I had the pleasure to drive a 240T many years ago now (same car that was campaigned by Robbie Franzivik in the International Turing Cars with great success in the 80’s in Australia). The standard road 240T in its day was a ball breaker. Even in road trim it would rush the power to the back wheels at such an alarming rate for its day that their needed to be the utmost of respect and driver skill needed to keep it from trying to destroy it’s self and you on the nearest tree or lamp post at the side of the road. Keep in mind this generation of vehicle was well before traction control (and before you ask the Volvo 240T race cars did not have any launch or stability control and no matter how many times you ask me I am sticking to that statement – HA HA) was even a system that could be utilized. But it suddenly gave Volvo a performance edge over its rivals and world wide success on the racetracks. It also brought Volvo out of the Safety Closet and in to a serious contender in the fast Saloon stakes.
Australia never saw this model which was a pity because at that time the 240 was the biggest selling luxury European car in Australia (and the world) and would have just iced the cake. Having also spent a lot of time in the 740T the 240 was by far the better performance model of the two. But knowing the vehicle first hand it would have also created some serious moral issues with the brand as I don’t think that even back then Volvo Car Australia would have wanted to see Volvo sedans smoking tyres and blowing away V8 Fords and Holden’s. 
So instead Volvo brought out in 1983/4 the much more sedate 760/40T. The vehicle had a reduced power plant, using a low blow turbo 4cy engine. The vehicle was more about having better pulling power than strait line speed. You see the power difference between the 760 V6 motor and the 740T was marginal. But the 740T had generally stiffer suspension, more aggressive looks and better handling than its luxury rival. But it was not till 1988 did Volvo bring out the update 740T in any significant numbers. But then Volvo had learnt some valuable lessons and the 1988 model was refined, had a smooth and powerful delivery of torque and was accepted as being a performance vehicle. Volvo also started to play with more power and handling by then. Soon after the standard 740T arrived you could also factory order the 740T HP. 
This was fundamentally the same car but with a few spoilers, interior tweaks and different wheels and suspension on it. But the big advances were for what Volvo learnt on the track. The bottom end of the motor was strength and, the turbo go more induction, bigger intercoolers, better cooling, and a thing Volvo called the Plus Kit performance computer box. This basically was Volvos first time (in the lets build boxy safe days) playing with bolt on bits to dramatically change the characteristics of the vehicle. It basically added a 20% performance edge to the vehicle so it made this a particularly fun car to drive. But still the limitation of the day held it back a bit. With no traction controls, stability programs, etc and only (for Australia) in manual format, it when pushed hard still show signes that Volvo basically took a 740 and fed it on steroids. 
I was lucky enough to have owned the only factory built (for Australia) 740T HP in auto. It was a 1989 fully loaded vehicle that was an ex Volvo Car Australia vehicle and then owned by the MD of Bauldistone Hornibrook. It was only 5 years old when I got with only 40,000km on it (this car was over $90,000 in its day so not many were ever sold). So when I got it the first thing I did was a blistering run from Coorparoo in Brisbane to Toowoomba (ask Jim Shilling from Volvo Lindsay Street Auto Service about the run). To my surprise this think not only handled like on rails but easily pushed past 240km per hour (on private roads offcourse). I thought this is not bad for an auto and I don’t remember 740T HP’s being this good. I did the run in just under 30minuets and arrived with motor and exhaust crackling, brakes smoking (from the climb up the range) and a grin from ear to ear. So Jim Schilling from Volvo Lindsay Street Auto Service fully inspected the vehicle. We found that it had lowered Swedish factory fitted Motor spot suspension, massive sway bars and this thing called a Turbo ++ kit. Jim my racing mechanic at the time said to me strait away this vehicle has been factory enhanced like the ones you could buy standard in Sweden. The Turbo ++ kit was an unadvertised very limited edition performance enhancement by the factory. It was actually a two stage boost kit which gave the vehicle a total of a 32% (I am not sure of the final spec but that is what I remember) power increase. It was fitted as what was called a motor sport package 2 in the option list and came with the revised suspension, larger brake disks, bigger and wider alloys (later seen on the 1991 940T SE) and a larger intercooler. This was Volvo’s first stage of getting serious with playing with usable power. The 740T morphed on to the 940T then the 940SE. These models were very subdued compared to the 740T HP+ and in my opinion a backwards step. Volvo unfortunately never got the 740R right during development, which was planned to replace the 240T as its next race car in the motor sport program. If you look hard on the net you will find some articles on the 740R future racecar. One article I read was by the only Journalist that ever got to drive the car. This was actually about a year after Volvo shelved the racing program on the car. The car had been sitting for 12 months unused and was apparently running quite sick. But even in this condition the journalist said that it was the most manic ballistic think he has ever punted around a racetrack. The handling was amazing and the willingness of the car to just beg to be driven faster and shred the back tyres at any speed was like nothing he has ever experienced. By the sounds of it a pity Volvo could never get the car right (mostly in the commuters and owe that thing Volvo race cars never had with stability and launch control).
Then we entered the dawn of stupidity by Volvo. The launch of the 850 by the factory was by far the biggest quantum leap by Volvo and is regarded in the industry as the biggest turn around by any manufacture to date when it came to technology and engineering. The 850 first saw a performance model called the GLT. It was a 20v 5cy motor developing 125kw. Not bad and was well received and sold well. So then Volvo took the same and renamed it as a T5 and induced a Turbo 166kw motor in to it. This basically was a tyre shredder. The car had what was called TRACKS as some attempt to curve its power on launch and better suspension. But TRACKS switched off once the car reached 40km/h. Right about the time the motor was trying to deliver maximum torque and power to the FRONT WHEELS. Although it sounded fun to the average person the amount of torque steer and tyre smoke the car put out soon gave it a less than desirable tag. Needless to say bloody dangerous in the wet. Hence never sold that well. 
Then we saw the as mentioned earlier a very limited edition T5-R. Mostly in yellow and only about 25 of them. Basically I say thank god. This was not a pleasant car either. Take the unruly habits of the T5 and increase them 10 fold. But the T5-R was loved by the motoring press and Volvo Sold every one it could get their hands on. But what the T5-R showed the world is that Volvo could and was willing to build a very fast and in many ways for its day REFINED Sport Sedan. Don’t get me wrong the T5 and T5-R were not bad cars. Had all the toys in them, looked good, drove well and to an experienced driver were bloody heaps of fun. But unfortunately in those days Volvo were bought by families not experienced drivers and lighting up the front wheels after picking up your kids from outside Melbourne Grammar buy the MUM was not the done thing. But it did give us a new generation of Motor Sport History. 
After the T5-R, Volvo went back to the drawing board and in 1996 arrives the 850R. The first of the true heritage of R cars from Volvo. The 850R again benefited from Volvo being heavily involved in motor sports. The chassis was better, suspension was improved, the controlling of power was smoothed out and controlled better, etc. The 850R arrived in Australia with 184kw. Basically the same look as its predecessor T5-R but as a standard model in the range. The 850R was still a handful to drive but with more of them sold and on the road is the most accepted of the range. 
In 1997 Volvo changes from the 850 to what I call the series III 850, but Volvo called it the S70 / V70. Australia never saw the super hot S70R here in Australia. Due to the S70 being again a quantum leap in body and chassis stiffness it was the start of the best performance range of Volvo’s that will start to arrive from now on.  I drove a manual S70R in Sweden a few years ago. It was predominantly only available in the USA. The S70R was only a FWD (but the V70R was AWD. Go figure). Felt similar to the 850R but you could push the car much harder before it started to give you quiet reminders that no matter how many airbags and mettle Volvo’s have, it is getting to a point of no return. I was very impressed with this car. For a FWD Volvo they’re starting to get it together. It also had a power output of 194kw but some hot versions rolled out of the factory with up to 220kw (Ask Heino the Prez of the Volvo Car Club of Vic how much fun 220kw’s is in his S70). Basically Australia only saw the soft version of the S70 the S70T5 with back to 176kw. A nice car but no R! 
What Australia did see was the V70R AWD with a 194kw, viscous coupling AWD system fitted. The biggest issue with the V70R was it had great handling due to it’s AWD setup, was loaded with nice toys, an extremely refined car, but horribly underpowered. The car looked and felt like it needed about 50 more kw’s. The extra beef of the AWD system basically made it slower then the S70 T5 off the line and in strait line speed. But it made up on it in handling. I punted a V70R hard at a launch day up at Lakeside in QLD and the thing stuck like glue, which made the car feel much faster than it actually was. This vehicle would have set a new international benchmark in how to do it right when you want to build an express wagon if it had the 220kw motor in it. But again the technology in those days might have not been up to that with the mechanical AWD system and sloppy gearboxes for both Auto and Manual that Volvo used in those days. But all in all a nice thing and again well received in Australia, but bloody expensive. Hence if you pick up a good used one it is great value. 
Volvo has also played with outer performance models like the totally manic S40 T4. 1300kg body being punted by a turbo motor that just wants to kill you and front tyres that give up in a cloud of grey tyre smoke at any rev range and speed. But if you have never driven one of these hard and you ever get the opportunity I highly recommend it. I had a Yellow Motorsport edition at home for sale a couple of months ago. I used to lend it out to Luna Park on weekends as a ride attraction. That’s how much fun the car is. Just remember you have to react very quickly as it bits hard when pushed. 
Then we had the 200kw (first time Volvo went in to the 200+ figures) S80T6. This was too a fun car to drive hard and for some reason I still say to this day a car that was so totally forgiving if pushed past the limit. It was also the first of the new FLY BY WIRE total computer controlled Volvo’s. The DSTC system that the S80 had was very much needed and hid a lot of the vehicles major traction and chassis flaws. But it was a long wheel base express sedan that frightened the hell out of most V8’s that tried to go up against it at the lights. 
After this Volvo again seemed to learn some vital lessons. It was time to build a performance car that did everything right (well almost) and was also user friendly for both Mum and Dad. The arrival of the NEW S60 T5 and V70 T5 in 2000 set new benchmarks. The bodies were massively stiffer than anything else Volvo had built before, suspension was getting close to being right and the comfort and styling hit new highs. These cars also introduced the new 184kw high-pressure turbo motor (same power but more torque), advanced computer stability and traction systems and refined gearboxes. Volvo was now seriously pushing its German rivals at the performance end of the market and Volvo had the only express estate in its class. I very much liked the V70 T5 and until the S60R and V70R arrived was my all-time favourite Volvo. The biggest issues with the S60 T5 and V70 T5 was that even though Volvo was nearly there they still could not build a front end that could handle the power. Switch the DSTC off in the T5’s and the cars would not only leave massive out of control skid marks on the road but to a person not expecting it or not familiar with brut turbo induced power would frighten the living hell out of them. Basically these were cars that were not for the faint hearted if the computers are not helping you keep them on the road. But still the best performance Volvo’s of that time every built. But these paled in to insignificance compared to what Volvo was going to let loose on the world in 2003. Ladies and Gentlemen can you please put your hands together for the all concerning next generation of Volvo R’s. 
No matter how you look at it the S60R and V70R was a purpose built, ground up performance car. Little except the look was similar to the outgoing T5’s. New suspension, updated and refined motor, updated auto (but Volvo stuck with that porridge stirring space ball manual gearbox. WHY I SAY!), stiffer body, beautiful new interior, styling tweaks on the outside, etc. This car had the makings of something special. Unfortunately by now in Australia Volvo was not involved nor did they support any motorsport activities (in fact they were quite hostile towards anyone looking to drive a Volvo fast on a race track). So when the new generation R’s arrived Volvo really had no way of marketing these. But the R’s were here in limited numbers anyway. Only about 75 examples of the R’s are in Australia and they are spread over sedans and wagons and auto and manuals. So how do they drive and rate I hear you ask. Well I can tell you from experience for I have a V70R and I have both road and track experience with the car that brings a smile to my face regardless when and where I am driving it.

First the specs. 2.5lt 5cy 20v DOHC KKK (big) turbo charged motor. Developing a not so Volvo like 220kw and up to 400nm(Manual only. Auto was 350nm). Good stats yes but that is only part of the story on why these R’s are so good. Add to the motor a Haldex II generation AWD system (at the time this was the fastest reacting AWD in the world) and the highly sophisticated 4C suspension. You can choose multiple driving modes from the driver’s seat. From racetrack teeth shacking hard as a rock and automatic extra power with zero body roll to extreme country dirt roads soft and flexible chassis. This suspension is rated as one of the beast chassis available in a production car.





Continuing on from last editions article I will now finish off the V70 / S60 R and move through the new model range to today. The questions I asked of all the new models is do they stack up to the outgoing R’s compared to being able to really drive them fast and hard? These reviews are not based on how the cars drive at 60km but at 160KM+ and on windy roads / Race Tracks under extreme conditions that 99% of the owners / Drivers would ever experience.
The 2003 release S60 / V70 R were like I said last issue, a real brake through for Volvo. Their willingness to invest time, money and engineering as a stand allow project showed that the not so regimented Swedes could get their heads around wanting to deal in the fast saloon and wagon market in a serious attach. The PCC (Performance Concept Car) that VCC (Volvo Car Corporation) built as a show piece for the International Motor Shows in 2002 had the desired effect. True to Volvo’s word the final production cars has a lot of the attributes that the PCC showed including the aggressive styling and advanced driving dynamics. The S60 / V70R’s were at the premium end of the market for Volvo, but tens of thousands of dollars cheaper than the equivalent models in the German stables.  
The S60 / V70 R were good. But were they good enough to sway buyers to Volvo. These cars came out right in the middle of the “Bloody Volvo Driver” advertising campaign here in Australia. This campaign was unique to Australia only and was much disliked by the powers to be in Sweden. But it had the desired effect with brand awareness and turned around Volvo’s sales from going backwards to finally moving forward and brining people back in to the dealerships. OK History lesson over, lets get back to the cars.
How did the new generation “R’s” drive. A good way of putting it is TIGHT! At low speed city driving in comfort mode they would drive like all other New Volvos. Only the throatier sound of the exhaust and stiffer suspension were the only give ways of the cars potential. Apart from offcourse the R emblems and blue unique instrument panel that you are looking at from behind the steering wheel. 
But it was as the roads get tighter, faster and busier behind the wheel that you can start to feel the cars potential. There is no questioning that this cars chassis is its true attribute from a driving perspective. God knows what the motoring jurnos were talking about when they bagged the cars handling. Just because it did not have a propeller or 3 point star badge on it, then it was never going to be good enough for them. I mean they would never admit that Volvo built a good thing. But the car did win countless (infact over 300) wards world wide as being best this, best that, etc. So I don’t think it was that bad a car in everyone else’s eyes.
We all knew how good the motor was already as Volvo have been using it for over 10 years and turbo charging it to the point of self destruction (although it never faulted). The difference with this S60 / V70R compared to the outgoing V70R AWD was that the old V70R (1998 to 2000) was slow but handled well so you could get some real speed out of the car and make it feel dynamic. The New R cars were fast and dynamic. Strait line speed was impressive in the manual (and Auto if you gave it to Mark Richardson from VP Tuning to do his number on it). Power delivery was instant, direct, progressive and endless right up to the 250km cut off. When in Europe working with Volvo in 2004 I got given a V70R by Volvo to use. So what’s the first thing you do when you get a fast car in Europe? Go find an auto barn to drag it on. I had driven lots of R’s by then but only in Australia with our ridiculously restrictive speed limits or on a race track were you cannot really wind the car up fully. So being able to take it out to test its legs fully was a treat. A quick trip to a not to be named Volvo Tec, and the speed limiter was disabled. I remember the last thing he said to me was “you blow it up you own it”. Comforting words!
So off I went. As normal, driving it up from 0 to 200km/h I had done before on tracks in Australia and as normal with all the other R’s it got their quickly (infact the R is quicker from 100 to 160+ than from 0 to 100). But it blew me away how willingly it reached the 260km mark and then well past it. I left 2 M3’s in my wake. Keep in mind this is a behemoth of a car that with on board fuel, oils, people and stuff it would tip the scales at well over 2 tonne (1880km dry weight normally is the cars starting point). I was not sure how fast I got the think too but I remember those words of wisdom “You blow it up, you own it”, so I thought that 7200rpm in top gear was enough. The only thing I will say is that the car felt extremely stable and felt solid on the road, but the wind and engine noise was less than pleasant (compared to things like the AMG’s and M BMWs). But hey at those speeds that is the least of your problems and keep in mind the Volvo was up to $100,000 cheaper to buy. But the point I am trying to make is that most people that will ever own or drive one of these will massively appreciate its ability as a sure footed, stable, refined, practical and fun to drive car. But, and there is always a BUT with Volvo Performance cars. Turn the computers off and the weight with mostly FWD bias will prove that the laws of physics still apply. It is also one of the few AWD’s that with no DSTC assistance can get quite tail happy. Again this is of limited concern as most people would not even know where the button is to turn off the computers. So in summary a bloody good thing, well worth considering as a used car (cannot buy them new anymore) and will give years of smiles behind the wheel. Only down side to the car is that space ball manual gear box. Will someone PLEASE tell Volvo that it is C@%P. Buy the Auto instead and get it tricked up by Mark from VP Tuning. 
About the same time (2004) Volvo released the updated S80T6 (old shape). Generation 3 lemon I say. It came with the T6 200KW motor still, new updated looks and Volvo though they would be funny and include the Active 4C chassis from the R’s in it. Probably the most underwhelming car Volvo has ever made. Under powered (still tipped the scales at nearly 2 tonne), a body that started life with problems and struggled to handle the original set-up and power. Impressive car on paper, impressive comfort, toys and looks. Unimpressive driving with any form of hast. The 4C setting only had 2 settings (3 in the R). That was comfort and Advanced. With no AWD the comfort mode the car had similar characteristics to the Queen Mary. Infact NO I should not insult the Queen Mary like that because at least she has stability baffles. At no point did you know what the car was doing. The steering was so removed from the driver that you often just went through corners looking at the steering wheel position rather than feeling where the wheels were pointing. The Advance setting turned the car in to a jittering basket case. To hard for any road and to unconfutable to drive at any long distance. At least the R had the sports mode in-between the two which is perfect for things like the Great Ocean Road. Add to this a 4 speed auto that was out to lunch without knowing what the motor wanted to do, it made it a very hard car to have much fun with. Unfortunately this car was a left over from Volvo’s of old. But a nice thing if comfort, toys and driving on freeways at 100km or around town at 60km is your thing. 
The updated S80 came in late 2006. It also came with a new V8 4.4 litre that was designed in conjunction with Yamaha. Plus the normal T6 motor and D5 diesel. The T6 is the updated 220km motor and a good thing compared to the outgoing 200km T6. Time will tell how reliable this will be. The D5 125kw diesel is good but no sports car exhilaration. The motor of choice suddenly became the 4.4lt V8 (also seen in the XC90). The joint development motor was chosen based on its marine engine high revving ability (similar to a go kart). Volvo needed a compact powerful motor that could bolt on to the auto and still be placed East / West across the engine bay, as the S80 is still AWD driving mostly the front wheels. It also got the latest generation Haldex AWD which was even more refined, faster and could take the power of the V8.  This looked like it could challenge the 03 S60 / V70R’s for best performance car mantel. So did it?
In a word NO!. This car lacked one thing – Passion. What I mean by that was that the team that bought out the 03 S60 / V70R had passion to build the best performance car Volvo had ever built from the ground up. The S80 V8 was just a quick car. It baffles me that Volvo think that you build a nice luxury car, add some toys, put an AWD, Active 4C chassis on it, then drop a ballistic powerful motor in it and think this is the way to put a fast car together? Again this comes from Volvo thinking it does not have a buyer profile that want an M3 or AMG style of car. The problem is that the more Volvo thinks like this the more they do alienate this type of buyer. Anyway back to the S80 V8. 
The Drive: There are no questions that this car is quick. It sounds good, has that free flowing, responsive V8 feel and pulls like a train. The new S80’s chassis is much stiffer and greatly improved than the outgoing S80. So you don’t get that body flex and unwillingness to want to turn a corner and point towards the hardest biggest object in your path. But you can just feel that again the computers have to do far more work than is need to keep the car turning, especially in fast switchback turns. This is really exasperated once the computers are off. Going fast though corners give out more tyre noise (somewhere between a dying whale and a kid that cannot have an ice cream is the described sound) and nervous feel from the car than I was not comfortable with. So my suggestion is to leave the computers on. You will actually be able to drive it faster. Also that steering? What is the story with that. I think Volvo on purpose takes a good steering system and then spends millions of dollars to engineer any feel out of it. Don’t get me wrong I don’t drive like Jim Richards around on the streets, but I do like to drive and I just cannot feel this car at all. BUT having said all that. For what you get this car is good for all the reasons why someone would want to buy it in the first place. These are built to get point to point as quickly and as comfortably as possible in Europe. Not be raced. In general at normal driving they have good manners, all the goodies, super comfortable, look good and are under $100,000. This is something other car manufactures cannot match. God I would love to see a proper R version of this one. This car has lots of potential, just lost a bit in the translation.
In 2004 Volvo also put out the NEW S40 and V50. Apart from the standard S and SE (LE) 125kw non turbo motors they also introduced us to the T5. Now remember the outgoing S40/V40 T4’s. Remember the scitze nature of those cars and they were only 147kw driving through the front wheels. Well the new S40/V50 T5 had the 5cy motor turbo fed 169kw motor and you guessed it FWD. I don’t know about you but do you think that this was ever going to work? In general the new S40 / V50 were built well. Were stiffer and 100% improved body’s and chassis, good new styling and great advancements in interior and technology. BUT did anyone at Volvo think that maybe FWD and 169KW could be a stretch in a compact small body? 
Anyway the T5 to drive was fast at low(er) speeds, was a dynamic and direct car.   Much better effort from Volvo than anything they had put out in this size before. Had good manners and could handle up to a point hard spirited driving. But a true jeckel and hide car when really pushed. This car bought me back to the good old days of the 850 T5R. Tyre smoke, noise, understeer, wait for it to catch, then turn again. Again with no computer assistance, trying to drive the car out of corners hard left most of the tyres on the road behind you. Something I am sure VCA does not want to be seen coming out of their drivers. In some cases I ran out of lock on the steering (keep in mind these are track controlled conditions and not how 99.9% of people will be driving the car) in some corners trying to get the car around and no matter how hard I tried I could not stop it from giving up in a cloud of tyres smoke. But turn the computers back on and although it now has much better manners, there is so much interference from the DSTC that most 240’s could drive around the corner better (they might be doing it sideways, but still faster). You really had to drive the car with total respect and be extremely patient. Waite till the balance was right, the corner speed and exit was right and wash all the speed off before the corner, not during it like you can do with a lot of cars to just balance it up in the corner. But this was a car designed to feel quick in a straight line, be comfortable and practical. In this type of situation it does everything it should and very well. In 2007 Volvo updated the S40 / V50 T5 with AWD. Unfortunately the extra weight of the AWD system made the car slower. Nice through or should I say after thought! Did give the car more usable and sure footed handling, but still no R. Maybe drop the 220kw 5cy motor in one and see how we go. 
Also in 2007 the C30 T5 also came out. No need to write anything new about this car as just re-read the S40 / V50 T5 FWD and it will give you an idea of what this was like. But I will say one thing. The smaller body and shorter wheel base of the C30 made this car perform better than the  S40 / V50 T5 that it is based on. If felt faster and did accept the steering input better. So maybe if you are after a compact fast Volvo I would have to pick the C30 T5. Would be nice to see it with AWD and 220kw. Then we may have a contender for the R’s.
Don’t get me wrong all the cars I have mentioned are quick cars in normal driving circumstances, but this review is to tell you all about how the modern Volvo’s do when pushed and over pushed. Remember the S60 /V70 R’s set the bench mark in this and I am just seeing if Volvo’s efforts of today match the R Twin Kings. So far the S80 T6 / V8 and S40 / V40 T5 and C30 T5 – FAILED to be contenders against the R’s.
The last car to review I have a bit of a soft spot for. This is the car that replaced my V70R. Well had a crack at doing it anyway. It is the V70T6. Basically it has the 220kw 6cy large capacity turbo motor in it. It also came with the AWD system and 4C Chassis. So it should be a match to the V70R it replaced I hear your ask? Well no. Volvo now calls cars that are want-a-be from the R heritage – R By Design. This is exactly what it means. R design not R tuned. Sorry but just throwing a few extra spoilers, different interior, alloys, maybe lowered springs on a car does not constitute R in my Volvo speak. R to me means a ruff and ready performance car that can be a handful if not respected, fun and willing to be punished at will. Don’t get me wrong, the new V70T6 is a great car (I will eventually have to replace my V70R with one, but not till Mark from VP Tuning tells me I can get 300kw out of it), but it is just a nice express wagon. 
It is based on the S80 LWB platform so unfortunately all the faults the S80 as a dynamic driving car is passed down to the V70. But I will say for some reason Volvo always builds better wagons than sedans and in this case it is no different. The V70 drives and handles better than the S80 as to does the V50 to the S40. Go figure. 
So as good as the V70 T6 is as a car (I will tell you it is the best value for money wagon in the luxury end by miles) it fails as an R replacement. For me the toys, comfort and dynamics in a car should all work as one. The 03 S60 / V70R’s seem to pull all this together. Maybe just maybe under different ownership for Volvo, one day they will build the conqueror to the R. But for now you will just have to put up with some of the best built, value for money cars that you can buy in the European segment, and something they call R By Design. But don’t expect to blow those Holden’s - HSV’s or Fords - FPV’s or WRX’s away like you could in a buy gone time of the 740T HP, 850 T5 / T5R / R, S70 T5, V70R AWD (98), S/V40 T4, S60/V70 T5 and the all concurring S60 / V70 R’s.
To me Volvo should retire the “R” badge until they have a car worthy to wear its title proudly again. I keep asking myself WILL THAT DAY EVER COME? Maybe not! So for now I will just have to make my own 2004 V70R go faster (Mark from VP Tuning - get ready for Project 300+). Long live the “R”.
Peter Sokolowski
Register Captain – Moderns
Volvo Car Club of Victoria


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