$35,000 to $45,000 Front-wheel drive Retractable Hardtop Convertible
Who should buy this car:
A family looking for a smooth, quiet, comfortable American car with all the traditional trappings.
Comparable models in this class:
2007 Volvo C70 Convertible Road Test
The no-compromise compromise
The new 2006 Volvo C70 convertible hardtop is a problem solver, excuse terminator and convertible aversion eliminator. With Volvos C70 hardtop convertible, theres simply no reason to not own a convertible.
A convertible hardtop like the Volvo C70 is exactly what it says. Its a convertible with a steel (usually) top that retracts, lowers or stows itself to some degree of satisfaction for al fresco motoring. The original Volvo C70 wasnt one of those. Introduced as a 1998 Model, the first C70 was either a traditional coupe or a traditional convertible with a traditional fabric top.
Traditional convertibles had a cloth top stretched over metal stays, all of which folded like an accordion in full polka into a well behind the rear seat, more or less. To keep the stacked roof from looking like the collapsed vestiges of a Boy Scout camporee, the well and contents were covered either by a fabric tonneau, usually too tight to snap into place like its supposed to, or some floppy plastic comfab that didnt fit or wouldnt stay in place like it should. Either way, neither tonneau fit into the trunk when it wasnt being used so owners usually left it in the garage and put up with a car with that ugly stacked-up canvas thing.
Dispensing with ragtops The Volvo C70 T5 hardtop convertible, however, dispenses with the ragtop of yore completely, except for that part of riding around with no roof, of course. The C70 splits and shuffles components of a steel roof over a four-seat coupe and stows it under the trunklid that flips open to receive it. Voila, a Volvo C70 coupe becomes a Volvo C70 convertible.
The advantage of a retractable hardtop such as the Volvo C70 T5 convertible is that it eliminates the majorand legitimateobjections to a convertible: security, comfort and long-term durability. People view a fabric top, rightly or wrongly, as being vulnerable to an automotive Jack the Ripper who can slice the cloth top for fun or profit, however unlikely that may be. A steel top is better at blocking out the juvenile destruction of cochlear hair cells in the next lane. Finally, no matter how well cared for, a canvas top will not be freshman fresh by the time its working on its PhD.
The Volvo C70 is a relative Dorian Gray and a handsome one at that, top up or down. The shape of the C70 began, says Volvo exterior designer John Kinsey, as coupe. From there, Volvo designers and engineers worked with Italy famed styling house Pininfarina, at converting concept into reality. Important elements of the original C70, such as the sloping rear end and veed hood, were combined with Volvos current styling cues, such as the prominent shoulders and chair-shaped taillights, plus continuation of the hood contours into the front fascia. The result is a display of family heritage, but one that makes Pops suddenly old fashioned.
WHIPS and ROPS Although based on the current S40 platform, the Volvo C70 has a wider track though slightly shorter wheelbase than its predecessor, with fully independent suspension. stability control, anti-lock brakes and emergency braking assist, which fully applies the brakes in panic braking situations, are all standard. Ever true to its standards of security, the Volvo C70 directs impact forces around the passenger compartment. Volvos WHIPS and ROPS arent some sort of Swedish fetish, but rather systems for whiplash and rollover protection. The former is a special front seat mechanism, the latter rollbars that pop up behind the rear seat when needed. The C70 is the first convertible to have side curtain airbags in a convertible. They pop up in side impacts and rollovers. (Hmmm, more pop ups than a slow-pitch softball game).
Although in other markets, the C70 will be offered with several different engines including a diesel, in the U.S. it will have Volvos 2.5-liter light-pressure turbo five-cylinder T5 engine. Power peaks 218 bhp at 5000 rpm, but for front-drive drivability the turbo five makes a high plateau of 236 lb-ft of torque from 1,500 to 4,800 rpm. Transmission choices are a standard six-speed manual or five-speed automatic.
A masseuse named Ilva All of which looks good on paperor computer monitorbut whats it like to live with? In a word, delightful. Its not a sports car but rather a true four-place coupe and convertible. The C70s front seats are as good as a Swedish backrub by a masseuse named Ilva. The back seats are comfy too but snug on footroom unless the front seat occupants cooperate. The front seats power forward for entry to the aft compartment, but it still requires a ferret dance to get in or out.
If you're familiar with the Volvo S40, upon which the C70 is based, you'll recognize the interior's, particularly the neat "floating" center stack that looks like a bent slab of aluminum with nothing behind it. It's a clever bit of visual legerdemain and we like it.
Flex your tech Base upholstery in the C70 is something called Flextech. It feels like a cross between suede and a heavy vinyl cloth, and as we were to find out, beads water. Volvo swears by its durability but only an idiot would leave the top down in the rain. That said, Volvo says the tops electro-hydraulic gymnastics take thirty seconds to completewe timed closer to fortyand in a sudden shower thats forever.
With the top down, the C70 feels slightly less rigid than an iron skillet and rattle-free with top up or down. Front visibility is compromised by the thick A-pillars needed for rollover strength, an annoyance on a winding road. But with the top up, slender C-pillars dont get in the way. Theres no B-pillar, so cruising with the top up/windows down is almost as cool as dropping the top.
"Speed" reading The T5 engine in the Volvo C70 is fun. With the six-speed manual in second, it pulled hard across the rev range with an ever present turbo whistle and five cylinder whoop during acceleration. All the stuff that makes the hardtop convertible work bulks the C70 up to 3,772 pounds but Volvos generous torque and lack of torque steer make speed no stranger. (Speed Is No Stranger would make a good book title, actually).
The six-speed manual we drove had light but accurate gear changes, but the clutch takeup was too quick for initial comfort. Practice makes perfect, however. The automatic, which we also drove, was remarkable only for being unobtrusive, and the majority of owners will pick it and not be disappointed.
On the highway to Hana Our test drive (somebody has to do it) was limited primarily to Mauis famous Hana Highway and the winding road up Haleakala volcano. The C70 proved surefooted if happily biased towards understeer, communicative through a fat and comfortable steering wheel. Precise steering and a quick steering ratio made the Volvo C70 easy to place on the narrow Hana Highway, with its blind curves and one-lane bridges.
The C70s biggest limitation is the limited size of its trunk with the top down. Its a sports car small 6.0 cubic feet, with ten inches of vertical clearance. Theres a more reasonable 12.8 cubic feet with the top up. Touring with the top down means traveling light.
Wine list, please Sports car intenders should steer clear of the Volvo C70 T5. It lacks the raw edge and unwillingness to compromise handling for comfort. A sports car is sandwiches, chips and drinking from the can, while the Volvo C70 T5 is dinner at a nice restaurant (wine list, no bathroom attendant). The C70 is all about compromise in the best sense of the word, compromise without compromise: Theres simply no reason not to own a convertible anymore.
Philbert J Thrombockle comments: The Volvo C70 isnt the first mass produced hardtop convertible. In addition to the currently growing coterie, the legitimate claim to the original goes to the1957-1959 Ford Skyliner, with its folding metal top that unfortunately ahead of the technology needed to make it perform. More recently, Mercedes 1998 SLK sports car was the first, followed by a spate of imitators. The Volvo C70 takes what was learned from the earlier attempts for a top thats efficient, equally attractive as a coupe or convertible.
The U.S. edition of the 2007 Volvo C70 T5 comes with good stuff and it shows in the price. The $39,090 base price (plus $695 destination) includes a 6-disc in-dash CD changer, power driver and front passenger seat, trip computer and auto-dimming rear view mirror. Options include a Premium package including leather and homelink ($1,395), Dynaudio premium audio ($1,550), and a Climate package including heated front seats, headlamp washers and rainsensor wipers ($675). An automatic transmission is $1,250, Bi-Xenon headlamps $700 and rear park assist $400, plus paint and wheel options.
EPA mileage estimates: Automatic transmission city/highway mpg: 21/29 Manual transmission city/highway mpg: 20/29 That's not a typo. The automatic gets slightly better mileage. The C70 T5 drinks from the premium tap.
The 2007 Volvo C70 will be made in Uddevalla, Sweden, which isnt really important but it is fun to say: Uddevalla, Uddevalla, rah, rah, rah!