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The question’s a classic one from you civilians to us automotive-journalist types. If you had $40,000 to spend on a new car, what would you choose? Well, it depends, we answer faithfully and ambiguously. Do you want a coupe for all-season practicality and good looks? Or does the idea of having a convertible before all your hormones dry up and you start shopping for emergency-alert jewelry have its own logic? How about something with four seats in case you develop unexpected friends?
2000 Ford 021C ConceptEnlarge Photo
Volvo’s C70 answers these questions neatly. You don’t have to choose, because the C70 is a four-passenger convertible with a retractable hard top. Think of it as two cars in one, they ask politely, since the new C70 fills the space of former Coupe, which left the U.S. in 2002, and the Convertible, which went off into the Swedish sunset in 2004.
folding hardtops are nothing new, they’re in new vogue since the Mercedes SLK
was born. Not only will the Volvo join the crowd, but so will BMW and Chrysler
with coming versions of the 3-Series and Sebring.
Spooling it up
Volvo pits the C70 against some stolid competition, including BMW’s 3-Series cabrio, the Audi’s A4 droptop and the Saab 9-3 Convertible. All the others have fabric roofs, Volvo points out.
While they also offer a choice in powertrains, the C70 has one engine, a turbo five-cylinder that spins out a breathy 218 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque with a whizzy, high-energy thrust that drags you to the upper half of the rev range. It’s just as well: that’s where the real power is, and it doesn’t sound half-bad up there, though you’ll never mistake the pitchy whine for anything Temptation-subtle as the Audi’s V-6.
When it comes to shifting, choice re-enters the picture. Do it yourself through a six-speed manual box, or let the electronics handle things through a five-speed automatic. The automatic does have Tiptronic-style shift functionality that lets you select gears manually, with all sorts of overrides to protect the engine from stalling or blipping over redline. Manual cars have sweet linkages, but the automatic clicks off shifts without an ounce of drama.
With either, the C70 moves into a higher performance realm. Outfitted with the stick, Volvo says the C70 will slip by the 60-mph mark from a standstill in 7.6 seconds. The automatic will do the same in 8.0 sec. Top speed is a teeth-baring 150 mph, and Volvo promises fuel economy will check in somewhere in the low 20s combined when the EPA gets its hands on one.
In a supporting role, the C70’s underpinnings are pretty conventional on paper, plain old MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link rear suspension. Electric power steering is probably the most controversial bit, but thankfully it’s from the VW/Audi school of proper tuning (detention is across the hall, in the Saturn Ion wing).
What’s unconventional is the cut-up coupe roof that’s become an elegant piece of convertible engineering. Vetted out by Pininfarina, the three-piece steel top mechanism performs some balletic moves to tuck itself invisibly into the trunk. Put into motion by the push of a console button and a foot on the brake pedal, the top takes a deliberate and precise 30 seconds to open or close the cabin to the elements.
2000 Ferrari F355 SpiderEnlarge Photo
Storing the top in Calder-shaped pieces does the inevitable one-two on trunk space. Top up, the C70 has 12.8 cubes of feet of trunk storage; top down, it still has six cubic feet, enough room for a set of golf clubs. However, getting to that space means thinking ahead. Load it up before you pull down the top, or you’ll have to press a trunk-mounted button that shifts the top up so you can raise a protective lid that, whew, finally! lets you stow something the size of a set of golf clubs.
With the top stored, the Volvo has a smaller trunk than all its competition — but with the Swedish Skydome raised, the C70 has a bigger trunk than all of them, bigger even than the S40 sedan on which it’s loosely based. Hoisting the roof also improves the C70’s body rigidity by 15 percent. It’s no floppy ragtop, but the difference is perceptible, since a mild quiver shivers the windshield frame with un-alarming frequency.
subscribeVolvo wants you to feel safe in
the cabin, hence the six airbags, including inflatable curtain airbags, packaged
into the cabin. Stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes are
standard. And a pair of pop-up bars can blast through the rear glass in case of
a rollover. GEICO may go into defibrillation over the crash bill, but your head
will probably be okay.
Swedish living room
Contrary to how Volvo’s sister brand Jaguar approached its new XK convertible and coupe, the Volvo began life as a coupe study and then it was sliced into convertible pieces. The shape is a dynamic one, and Volvo points to the V-wedge on the hood and the shoulders around the car’s beltline as hallmarks. The C70 surely looks better in the flesh than it did last fall in
1999 Dodge Viper RT/10Enlarge Photo
Roughly equal in interior room to the last C70, but five inches shorter overall, the C70’s dimensions confirm that this is a Euro-slim convertible that would point at Chrysler’s Sebring in the gym and snicker about its slack belly. In raw numbers, the C70’s new wheelbase is an inch shorter than before (103.9 vs. 104.9 in), but the front legroom has gone up nearly an inch (42.3 vs. 41.4 in) while the rear seat has lost less than an inch of room (33.9 vs. 34.6 in).
We’re not convinced any adult will want to spend more than a crosstown trip in the back two seats. There’s just not enough legroom for American-sized males who probably will also complain about the lack of HEMI power and fire shooting out of the C70’s ass. But the front passengers will be happy in either firm leather or synthetic FlexTech-upholstered seats, with roomy footwells at their disposal.
The clean but not austere surroundings carry over to the interior. The slim center console from the S40 still looks like a piece of high-end audio equipment — and backed up by the available 910-watt, 14-speaker audiophile sound system, it behaves like one, too. Sirius is available as an accessory this year, and in ’07 as a factory-installed feature.
Some open-air touches are beautifully applied to the interior. Locking bins in the door panels up front and outboard of the rear seats provide secure storage when you run into the store for some SPF-Infinity (good for heavy global-warming days). The doors also have deadbolt locks that prevent doors from being opened when the locks are set.
Though it’s hard to get a sense of
a car on Maui’s wiggly, low-speed Hana Highway, the C70 offers up plenty to
appreciate at low speeds, mostly its unabashedly Euro roots. With the turbo
whine, light touch to the controls and tight steering, the C70 doesn’t feel at
all like a grand tourer. That turbo feel does need to be coddled a bit for
smooth delivery, and the automatic gearbox is up to the task, masking what it
can of the relative dearth of torque where there’s no
The C70 certainly feels much firmer and tighter than the first edition ever did. Still ours were pre-production cars, and after one particularly heavy deluge, the top on one test car dribbled a rail’s worth of water on my cargo shorts. But now that electronics and build quality are up to the task, the concept of hardtop convertible really makes sense. So does the notion of a windblocker, a C70 accessory that should be standard equipment for any driving over 40 mph.
Beyond its $39,405 base price, the C70 can be dolled up ever more with the usual trim and content. The leather package runs $1395; the fabulous DynAudio setup with 14 speakers and subwoofer is $1550; a climate package with rain-sensing wipers and heated seats costs $675; a DVD navigation system is $2120; 18-inch wheels cost $995; the automatic transmission is $1250; and gas-discharge headlamps are priced at $700.
For now, the C70 sits in a category of its own. And even when the BMW 3-Series hardtop convertible arrives, its rear-drive, Germanic attitude will still be nicely balanced by the well-mannered C70.
2007 Volvo C70
Base price: $39,405
Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged in-line five, 218 hp/236 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual or five-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 180.4 x 71.7 x 55.1 in
Wheelbase: 103.9 in
Curb weight: 3803 lb
EPA (city/hwy) mpg: N/A
Safety equipment: Anti-lock brakes and stability control; dual front, side and curtain airbags
Major standard equipment: Power front seats; AM/FM/in-dash six-CD changer with eight speakers and steering-wheel controls; auto-dimming rearview mirror; 17-inch wheels
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles