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The Volvo C70 converts from coupe to roadster with the press of a button. Its folding steel roof deploys from the trunk and converts from open car to hard top in just 30 seconds. The top is made of steel, so when the top up is up, it's quiet and feels like a coupe, and it offers the security of a coupe. Press the button, and the joy of top-down motoring is yours.
The sporty C70 is based on the S40 sedan, but it has more luscious lines. The engine, suspension and transmission are proven Volvo components, while the rigid chassis was designed to meet Volvo's industry-leading safety standards.
We found the C70 to be an excellent highway cruiser, smooth and steady at high speeds. The C70 drives 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. The stereo sounds superb. Everything operates as it should, and it's a beautiful piece of work.
The C70 helped launch a trend toward true hard-top convertibles when it debuted as a 2006 model, and it was an immediate sales success. Changes for 2009 are minor. There is a new rear spoiler, available as an accessory, an auto-fold function for the power retractable mirrors, a new color, a few conveniences, and the exterior rear emblem has increased spaces between the letters, to enhance its visibility.
The Volvo C70 is a unique car at its price point.
The 2009 Volvo C70 T5 ($39,800) is the only trim level. The retractable hardtop is standard. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard; a five-speed automatic is optional ($1,250).
Standard features include fabric upholstery, power front seats, leather steering wheel with controls, and a deluxe stereo featuring an in-dash six-disc CD changer, MP3 playback capability, eight speakers and four amplifiers. Seventeen-inch Sadira alloy wheels come standard, while 18-inch Mirzam alloy wheels are optional ($750).
The Convenience Package ($895) includes keyless drive, the Interior Air Quality System (IAQS), and rear park assist. The Premium Package ($1,570) combines leather seating with auto-dimming rearview mirror, compass, and HomeLink; Premium Package buyers may add Sovereign Hide leather ($995) in a choice of three colors. The Climate Package ($675) comprises heated front seats, headlamp washers and rain-sensing wipers. The Dynaudio sound system ($1,550) features 12 speakers and five main amplifiers, plus two separate subwoofer/amplifiers blasting 910 total watts via Dolby ProLogic II Surround Sound. Stand-alone options include bi-xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps with washers ($700), DVD navigation ($2,205), Sirius Satellite Radio ($395), metallic paint ($525), and Vanilla Pearl Metallic paint ($675).
Safety features include electronic stability control with traction control, and anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake Assistance (EBA). In addition to front airbags, there are side airbags in front, and air curtains which activate upwards from the doors, even with the windows rolled down. The Rollover Protection System activates a pop-up roll bar in a roll-over situation.
The styling of the Volvo C70 revolves around the roof, developed in Italy by Pininfarina. Its roofline is that of a coupe, and it's a very handsome coupe, with solid upward sweeping A-pillars and delicately thin and downward sweeping C-pillars. 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.
Because of the C70's strong wedge profile, the roof lands on the rear deck at a point higher than it takes off from the hood. A soft ridge at the beltline sweeps all the way from headlight to taillight, accentuating the wedge, which is conspicuous but not bulky. In short, the C70 was not given a bulbous rear end in order to fit the convertible steel roof under its cover. The trunk lid is aluminum for reduced weight.
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. Unlike most Audi models, which seem to be following the Dodge Ram in-your-face school of design, the grille of the C70 is small and quiet. 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.
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.
The optional 18-inch alloy wheels, called Mirzam, 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.
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 convertible more than compensates for the loss of the rigidity of a fixed roof; it's stiffer 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.
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. Genuine leather is included in the Premium Package; and for an additional investment you can choose premium Sovereign Hide in Off-Black, Calcite, or Cacao.
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.
Overall, interior storage space is in somewhat short supply. The trunk gets crowded with the top down, also. The trunk has 12.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the roof up, and about half that when it's retracted: enough room for two sets of golf clubs, says Volvo. 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.
In the rear seats, however, the C70 has more legroom than the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series.
The Dynaudio system delivers vivid sound, so we recommend this option. A nice feature: With the top down, as the speed of the car climbs, the volume automatically increases, then decreases when you slow down. The standard system includes an auxiliary audio input for iPods and other MP3 players, plus MP3 playback capability from the in-dash CD changer. Sirius satellite radio is available.
The optional Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) ($675) includes cameras mounted in the side mirrors that detect vehicles approaching from behind, in daylight or darkness. When an approaching vehicle closes from behind and to either the left or right of the C70, the system activates one of two small amber lights mounted just inboard of the mirrors, calling the driver's attention to the situation.
The Volvo C70 seems to be made for high-speed cruising. 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 doesn't accelerate that quickly, but its top speed is a mind-boggling 149 mph, and electronically limited at that.
The C70 uses front-wheel drive and Volvo's well-proven 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine, rated at 227 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 236 pound-feet of torque from 1,500 to 5,000 rpm. The flat torque curve puts the power to the front wheels evenly and makes the car highly responsive. Volvo estimates zero to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox and 7.4 seconds with the five-speed automatic. That's not the performance of a hot rod, but it is certainly more than respectable.
Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated City/Highway 18/27 mpg with the manual transmission, 18/26 mpg with the automatic.
We found the six-speed manual best complements the C70's sports car feel, as well as allowing snappier acceleration and slightly better highway economy. It's a very good gearbox, smooth and tight, and we've praised it in other Volvo models.
On the other hand, we also 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 manual-shift mode.
The brakes work very well. 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 do.
The Volvo C70 is gorgeous. It's fun and convenient, and its safety is unbeatable. The engine, transmission and suspension are proven to be smooth and reliable, and the price for this four-seat hardtop convertible is a bargain.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses filed this report from Maui.