For the Volvo Enthusiast

Project V70R: Introduction

First introduced in the summer of 2003 as Volvo’s new halo cars, the S60R and V70R made a statement that Volvo was back in the performance segment, finally resurrecting the “R” line of premium performance. Volvo enthusiasts were eager to make the comparisons to their aging R badged 850s and first generation V70s. Three model years have passed and the P2 generation R series has entered its twilight. But before driving off into the sunset, the potentially last year for the P2 R has a few enhancements to help keep it from going quietly into the night.

Since the introduction Volvo has made subtle and not so subtle improvements to the R series to help keep up with the competition and to polish some obvious rough edges. The most noticeable updates came in 2005 with the monochromatic paint treatment, redesigned modular rear bumper design and the interior center console with sliding cover and folding armrest. The less obvious changes come in the form of software improvements to the 4C suspension programming and engine management. First introduced in the V8 XC90, the 2006 R’s electronic AWD system adds Instant Traction �. The new 6-speed Geartronic is also available in the R series, helping reduce the torque deficiencies of the out going 5-speed Geartronic. Or, for those preferring to shift on their own, Volvo’s 6-speed manual gearbox is still available.

Every car has its shortcomings and the R has its few. Unfortunately, the 2006 R series continue to have a 1970s truck sized turning radius of 43.3ft and U.S. bound cars do not have a dedicated high-beam bulb in their headlights. Many members on Swedespeed have their own nit picks with the R cars but from a non-track use, daily driver perspective, these two oversights are glaring. Additionally, it would be nice if the 18-inch wheel option were available on the V70R in North America. That, unfortunately, remains an option for dealers to install if they wish.

With that in mind, it was time for a re-examination of the market. Swedespeed launched a project S60R back in 2003, and since then the aftermarket catering to these cars has seriously expanded. Combine that with updates done to the car and the timing just seemed right for another R project.

Enter our 2006 Sonic Blue V70R project car. This particular example was nearly loaded with an MSRP just over $47k with the 6-speed manual transmission. Working with Stillman Volvo in Westchester, PA, we were able to locate this very enthusiast-oriented specimen. This V70R had been on their lot and out of Volvo’s online inventory system hiding it from the prying eyes of other dealers.

We worked directly with their sales manager and Swedespeed forum regular, Yannis Alatzas, who made the transaction and five hour round trip a very rewarding experience. While there, Stillman installed the Apple iPod adapter and the 18” titanium Pegasus wheel upgrade. Alatzas took the time to go over every option in the car, from the basic controls, audio and iPod to a thorough class on how to use the Navigation system. After installing the temporary tags, our new R was on the way back to Virginia. It felt good to be back in a Volvo and more specifically a V70R with a manual transmission.

The V70 platform offers a level of usability and luxury not found in the Project A4 Avant of our sister publication Fourtitude. The integrated child booster seats are a great choice for those who take co-workers to lunch and then pick up the kids on the way home. Yes, some styling items are subjective but when you need hauling capacity and sportiness the V70 is the practical choice. While Audi’s S4 Avant offers superior performance and a better 37.7ft turning radius, the V70R is less expensive by ten to fifteen thousand dollars and offers only slightly less real world performance differences.

Over the past 1200 miles we’ve come up with a few small gripes. I enjoy having my iPod able to play through the head unit yet the integration feels like a half measure. A simple AUX audio input jack would have offered more choices for owners in playlist availability with the price of a slight loss in functionality. Sure, you can control songs via the steering wheel, but it would be nice to have the song titles displayed on the head unit and not limit the number of play lists. However, the sound quality from the stereo is fantastic and with the addition of the factory subwoofer, there is more than enough thump in the trunk.

It would also be nice to have a choice between XM or Sirius as satellite radio providers. Currently Volvo only offers Sirius. But, competitors such as Audi give customers a choice between the two � a nice option to have.

Another in-car entertainment miss for the ’06 V70s is the lack of a rear entertainment system option across all models. The ’06 Ocean Race XC70 does offer a center console DVD player and LCD screens in the driver and passenger seat headrests much like options we’ve seen in the past in the S80 and XC90. We can debate the merits of an RES but why not offer it on the top-line V70?

The integrated DVD based Navigation system is nice but not as other systems such as those from Honda. It slides up and hides out of the way, a nice touch, though its placement makes cool features like touch-screen technology not an option. Instead, the input controls on the steering wheel are a bit clunky, though there is a remote control that comes with the system with some slightly better input options.

The bi-xenon headlights were frustrating in 2004 and equally in 2006. U.S. bound cars get a daytime running light (DRL) bulb where European cars get a supplemental halogen bulb that really transforms the visibility at night. Another oddity is the fact that the lights physically move up for the high beam position and back down for low beam. The U.S. xenon casts a nice pattern but when ticked up for high beam mode, they are just not bright enough.

The first few weeks of ownership have been uneventful. The passenger side rear window moves up and down a bit slower than the other windows but aside from that the fit and finish is excellent.

Since 2004 we have watched numerous R owners pioneer various innovations for the R cars and we may revisit some of those modifications with this project. We also hope to bring you some new products or a new twist on some existing products that maybe you haven’t seen before.

At the same time, we’ll be focusing on upgrades that are easily acquired or replicable by other owners who may be following the series. The focus will also be to maintain the car’s daily drivability. As this generation of R enters its twilight, we look forward to showing just how far it has come.

Related Links:

Project V70R Main Page

Project V70R Photo Gallery


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