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The Volvo C70 is a four-seat coupe that turns into a convertible with the press of a button. Its retractable hardtop help started a trend of coupe/convertibles. The sleek steel top retracts into the trunk in 30 seconds.
The C70 is based on the S40 sedan, but has a wider track and more luscious lines. The engine, suspension and transmission are proven Volvo components, while the chassis has been fortified and re-figured to increase rigidity over the previous generation C70, and meet Volvo's industry-leading safety standards.
We found the C70 to be an excellent highway cruiser, smooth and steady at high speeds, quiet with the steel top up. Its stereo sounds superb. The C70 feels like a sports car. It has a solid feel and strikes an appropriate balance of responsive handling with a smooth, well-controlled ride quality and fade-resistant brakes. We liked it best with the six-speed manual, but the five-speed automatic is crisp and responsive.
The styling is brilliant, with elegant coupe lines, and the retractable hardtop is an engineering masterpiece. The cabin features comfortable seats, the latest in Volvo interior styling and fabrics, and a clever cubby behind the center dash.
Everything operates as it should, and it's a beautiful piece of work. Nothing else on the market offers what the C70 does, priced under $40,000.
Volvo completely redesigned its C70 in 2006, and it remains relatively unchanged for 2007 save for a few audio additions.
New for the 2007 C70 are a few key audio features, including a standard auxiliary audio input plus MP3 playback capability from the in-dash CD changer, and optional Sirius satellite radio.
The styling of the C70 revolves around the roof, developed in Italy by Pininfarina. Its roofline is that of a coupe, and it is the most handsome of coupes, with a solid upward sweeping A-pillar and delicately thin and downward sweeping C-pillar. Stand close enough, and you can spot the two seams that enable the roof to stack into thirds and drop into the trunk, but otherwise there's not a hint of compromise in the graceful roofline.
The roof lands on the rear deck at a point higher than it takes off from the hood, because of the rear wedge and elevated rear sills for safety. A soft ridge at the beltline carries all the way from headlight to taillight, accentuating the wedge, which is conspicuous but not bulky; the C70 was not given a fat butt in order to fit the roof under its skirt.
The trunk (its lid is aluminum) contains 12.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the roof up, and 6 cubic feet when it's retracted: enough room for two sets of golf clubs, says Volvo.
When viewed from the front three-quarter angle, it's clear how short and smooth the hood and nose are, and how aerodynamic the package truly is. When you pay attention to the lines, the brilliant job by John Kinsey hits home. Five full inches have been removed from the nose of the previous generation C70, and the edges have been softened, resulting in a two-inch narrowing of the front shoulders, despite an increased overall width.
Unlike Audi, which seems to be following the Dodge Ram in-your-face school of design, the grille of the C70 is smaller and quieter. The headlamps gently lean inward toward the grille, as the foglamps under the headlamps surround the opening in the smooth fascia/bumper. The hoodline tapers elegantly down to the bottom of the fascia, inches above the road. The effect of the lower three openings is like a reflection of the headlamps and grille, in a pond. Surprisingly, or maybe not, the shape of the C70 was dictated more by aerodynamics than styling.
It's rare for a designer of a car to also do the wheels (a sore point with designers), but Kinsey did these as well, and the symmetry and standard shows. They look like what they are: made for the car. The optional 18-inch "Mirzam" alloy wheels are stunning. We would say they're worth it for the way they cap the gorgeous styling, but the standard 17-inch "Sadira" alloy wheels are beautiful too. They look like premium wheels.
As the roof retracts, it first elevates, and then slides back and stacks itself in its three sections before quietly submerging into the rear deck. Presto: with one button on the console, it's gone in 30 seconds. Up or down, it takes the same time, and the same index finger.
Many C70s were crashed at the high-tech Volvo Cars Safety Centre in Sweden, to determine the optimum deformation structure in both the nose and tail. Volvo even T-boned the driver's door with one of its own XC90 SUVs: Double the data.
The structural safety features of the C70 take thousands of words to describe in detail. From top to bottom, front to rear, side to side, the chassis has been strengthened, tweaked, and made crushable where possible to dissipate energy in a crash. The C70 more than compensates for the loss of rigidity with a fixed roof; it's stiffer and safer than the previous C70 coupe. The reinforced B pillars, normally connected by a roof, are connected on the C70 by one of five transverse frame members. This dissipates crash forces. The door sills are laser welded, and raised behind the B pillars. The doors have diagonal steel beams. The A-pillars use extra high strength steel, and extend all the way down to the frame rails.
The C70 is built on the S40 platform, and uses the same wheelbase but the S60's wider track, for more stable cornering. But it needs that width between the wheels, to carry the extra weight. Because of the strengthening of the chassis, and the retractable hood mechanism, the C70 weighs 3,772 pounds, which is
Top up or top down, life is good inside the Volvo C70. The front bucket seats are ergonomically shaped and very comfortable. The Flextech upholstery that comes standard is a stylish synthetic material with a wetsuit-like feel. Its quality is way beyond cloth, and it feels as nice as leather against the skin.
The front seats slide forward with the touch of a button to ease the boarding of passengers into the two rear seats. There are a number of storage compartments in the cabin, some of which are lockable, useful when the car is parked with the roof down. Other compartments can be locked with a separate key, when leaving the car with a parking attendant, for example.
Volvo's flat-panel center stack fits in a world of flat panel computer monitors and television screens. It features a horizontal information screen over a column of buttons for radio and climate controls. Four big knobs dot each corner, all swathed in sleek aluminum trim. A clever storage bin behind the panel offers a place for a purse. The panel is unique to Volvo. Overall, though, storage space is in short supply.
The trunk gets crowded with the top down, also. Golf club bags have to slide under the roof, so there's an electric mechanism called Load-Aid, which lifts the roof sections and window glass eight inches. There's also a hatch between the rear seats that allows long things like skis to be carried in the trunk, extending into the passenger compartment. There's no room for a full-size spare tire, but buyers can choose between a temporary spare or a compressor bottle with sealant touted to plug a quarter-inch hole sufficiently well to last 120 miles at 50 mph.
In the rear seats, the C70 has more legroom than the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series (1.5 and 1.9 inches more, respectively).
We found the Dynaudio system vivid and all there. With the top down, as the speed of the car climbs, the volume automatically increases. It doesn't forget to back off when you do.
New for 2007 is a standard auxiliary audio input for iPods and other MP3 players, plus MP3 playback capability from the in-dash CD changer. Sirius satellite radio is also available.
The Volvo C70 seems to be made for high-speed cruising. The acceleration isn't neck-snapping, but the top speed is a mind-boggling 150 mph, and electronically limited at that. The car is very smooth and steady at freeway-plus speeds. And with the steel top, there's no ragtop racket at high speed.
The C70 is front-wheel drive and Volvo's well-proven turbocharged five-cylinder engine. It's 2.4 liters with dual overhead cams and variable camshaft timing, tuned to the same 218 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque as the S40; that's 10 horsepower more than the base S60, so the acceleration is about the same as the S60 sedan. Volvo estimates 0 to 60 at 7.6 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox, and 8.0 seconds with the five-speed automatic. It's respectable performance, but certainly not scintillating. (We consider eight-second 0-60s to be roughly the dividing line between quick and average performance.)
The C70 requires premium fuel, and is EPA-rated 20/29 mpg City/Highway.
The standard six-speed manual best complements the C70's sports car feel, and also allows snappier acceleration. It's such a good gearbox, smooth and tight, and we've praised it in other Volvo models. If it's good enough for the high-performance S60R, it's great for the C70.
We found the five-speed automatic to be a fine, crisp transmission. And for those who want a little extra control at times, the automatic features a satisfying and obedient Auto-stick mode.
The brakes work well and we found them to be resistant to fade on a winding road that overheated the brakes on some lesser cars.
The C70 doesn't feel heavy when you flick it around in the curves. The rack-and-pinion steering is power-assisted and electro-hydraulic, and provides a solid feel. We wouldn't call it light or nimble, but turning the C70 doesn't require a lot of effort. It simply gives good feedback through the healthy leather-wrapped steering wheel. Solid as a Swede.
The same could be said of the ride. The chassis is stiff, a key to crisp handling and a smooth ride. The current C70 doesn't shake like many convertibles, including the previous-generation C70.
The Volvo C70 is gorgeous. Its safety is unbeatable. The engine, transmission and suspension are proven to be smooth and reliable. The price for this four-seat hardtop convertible is a bargain. It's fun and convenient.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses filed this report from Maui.
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