WHITEFISH LAKE, Mont. — The wait is finally over. Early in October Volvo will begin rolling out the third generation XC70 AWD crossover wagon — and it is absolutely phenomenal.

Featuring a more powerful powertrain, new styling and a bevy of new safety and convenience features, the XC70 is designed for drivers and families who live an on-the-go lifestyle.

I had the chance to test drive the 2008 model during a recent media launch held in western Montana. By the way, most of the driving route was off-road in the Rocky Mountains. Like the previous generation, the XC70 proved it is capable of going just about anywhere.

Featuring an all-wheel drive system with Instant Traction, the ‘08 XC70 is powered by a new 3.2-liter I-6 engine (235 horsepower/236 lbs.-ft. torque) and mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission with Geartronic. It has a 0-60 mph time of 8.1 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph.

With 4.4 inches added to the length and a wheelbase that’s 2 inches longer, the XC70 provides a flexible platform for carrying both people and cargo. With the rear seat up, there is 33.3 cubic feet of available room in back — 72.1 cubic feet with the seats folded flat.

Not too bad when you add in a ground clearance of 8.3 inches capable of fording hill and stream.

Performance is outstanding and I especially enjoyed the addition of Hill Descent Control, which aids descents on steep hills. It even works in reverse for those planning to use the XC70 to tow lower their boat to a favorite launch. (The new XC70 can tow up to 3,300 pounds). The Hill Descent Control is just one of a long list of standard and optional safety features, which includes: Dynamic Stability Traction Control, tire pressure monitoring system, redesigned mirrors with integrated turn signals, Side Impact Protection System with side airbags and inflatable curtain, Whiplash Protection Seating System, seat belts with pyrotechnic pretensioners in all seating positions, dual-stage front airbags, Volvo’s safety cage construction and anti-lock brake (all standard).

Available for the first time in the ‘08 model, XC70 customers also have the option of adaptive cruise control with collision warning and brake support.

Using a radar sensor in front of the vehicle, the system can detect if the car is approaching another vehicle from the rear and if the driver does not react, a red warning light flashes in the windshield while sounding an audible alarm. In certain situations, this is enough for the driver to respond and take action to avoid the danger.

If the risk of a collision increases despite the warning, the brake support system is activated to reduce in the impact of a imminent collision.

Additionally, consumers also have the option of Volvo’s Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) first introduced in the new S80. The system uses a light in each of the side mirrors to alert the driver of another vehicle traveling in their blind spot.

A third safety option is the Personal Car Communicator, which helps alert the driver via the remote keyfob if they have locked the vehicle or not. It also detects a heartbeat inside the car, notifying the driver is someone is inside the vehicle.

Later in the model year, the XC70 will also offer Lane Departure Warning to help alert tired drivers if the vehicle begins drifting out of the designated lanes.

Buyers with small children can opt for Volvo’s dual outboard two-stage child booster seat, integrated into the normal rear seats. If a booster seat is needed, the seat cushion can be elevated to two settings and is designed to work in unison with the seat belts to provide a more secure environment for children.

Although nicely equipped, consumers also have a choice of package and stand alone options, such as the Volvo Navigation system, dual screen rear seat entertainment system and a 650-watt Dynaudio Premium sound system.

Available Oct. 1, the 2008 Volvo XC70 has a base price of $36,775 with a $745 destination charge.

For consumers in the market for a crossover vehicle, the new XC70 is an absolute must for a test drive.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at neal.white@waxahachiedailylight.com.