Is there such a thing as a responsible good time? Road trips to Vegas and bachelor parties aside, Volvo's C70 convertible proves you can have some fun without risking your neck, your fortune — or your marriage.
Unlike the $51,400 (to start) Mercedes-Benz CLK320, the $39,880 C70 is not a 4000-lb albatross of debt that'll put your kids back in public school and you and the wife back to eating at Red Lobster on "nights out" to make those $700-per-month payments.
And with 242 hp on tap in the high-pressure turbo model (still just $41,880), the C70 also has substantially more horsepower than the 215-hp Mercedes. BMW's 3-Series convertible is closer in price — $37,300 for the 184-hp 325Ci; $43,600 for the 225-hp 330Ci — but once again the Volvo still offers more power for less money. Too, Audi's A4 is a very nice car — but it's significantly smaller (about five inches shorter overall), has less rear-seat legroom (32.4-inches vs. the Volvo's 34.6-inches) and comes standard with a much less powerful four-cylinder engine (170 hp vs. the C70's standard 196-hp engine). So much for German value.
Okay, so it's front-wheel-drive. So what? The rear-drive Benz and Bimmer may be better on a race track, under racing conditions, but out here in the real world, front-drive cars are better all-around cars that handle wet and snow-slicked roads much better. More to the point: If the C70 were aiming to be a serious sports car, then maybe the issue would be different. But the C70 and its competitors — large, four-seater convertibles — are designed to be sport- tourers, the emphasis on touring. That's sort of the whole point of having a convertible, especially one with four seats. You drive for the enjoyment of the trip, you and your friends, not with the focused aim of getting to where you're headed faster than everyone else, and all by yourself.
How many race cars have soft tops, after all? Or four seats?
2004 Volvo C70 ConvertibleEnlarge Photo
Both versions of the '04 C70 come with turbocharged and intercooled, in-line five-cylinder engines: the $39,880 base model's slightly larger 2.4 liter engine has a turbo that produces less boost for 197 hp, and comes with a five-speed automatic. Standard features include heated front seats, dual zone climate control, traction control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel and power for nearly everything including for the activation of the soft top, which can be ordered in one of three colors: blue, black, or sand. It folds quickly and quietly at the touch of a single button and tucks itself underneath a drop-down tonneau cover. Volvo's pop-up rollbar/ROPS active safety protection system is included at no extra charge.
Two grand more ($41,880) gets you the more aggressive 2.3-liter engine, a high-pressure turbo with 242 hp, and a five speed manual gearbox. This model also comes standard with everything in the base model plus an in-dash, multi-disc CD changer, trip computer/Info Center, and real wood trim. Both models can be ordered with 17-inch rims.
As noted above, both engines are stout performers that equal or surpass competitors; the only downside is a bit of lag on really hard acceleration off the line as the turbo tries to build up boost. But it's kind of fun to feel the thing spool up and then lash out like a vicious jab from Sugar Ray Leonard. The lag issue is more pronounced in the low-pressure turbo/automatic car — and may have something to do with the automatic transmission rather than the turbo. A looser torque converter and more aggressive gears would probably help, but Volvo has to worry about fuel economy like everyone else, so don't count on that happening.
Best bet? Stick with the high-pressure turbo and the manual transmission if you want to get the drop on BMW-driving Yuppies. The turbo lag goes away if you bring the revs up a tick before you sidestep the clutch. Plus, you also get a 4.0:1 final drive ratio instead of the automatic's economy-oriented 2.4:1 ratio.
Oh, and you’ll want to select Volcano Red leather and matching aluminum interior dash/trim facings — new for 2004 — to maximize the attention-getter effect. (Birchwood with Linen White is another new-for-2004 option).
The bottom line: If you're in the market for a good-looking, upscale convertible with four real seats that has enough power to deal with any annoying 17-year-olds in the next lane driving some over-amped rice-rocket blaring thug rap music into the next county, this one's a player.
Base Price: $39,880-$41,880
Engine: turbocharged 2.4-liter in-line five, 197 hp; turbocharged 2.3-liter in-line five, 242 hp
Transmission: Five-speed manual (2.3-liter) or five-speed automatic (2.5-liter), front-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 185.7 x 71.5 x 56.3 in
Wheelbase: 104.9 in
Curb weight: 3450 lb
EPA City/Hwy: 20/26 mpg
Safety equipment: Front airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, traction control, ROPS pop-up rollbar
Major standard equipment: A/C, power windows, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles