Remember when most consumer products served a singular function or purpose? A cell phone was just a cell phone? A car was just a car, a truck was just a truck, and so on. Today, the lines between cars, trucks, wagons and SUVs have begun to blur. Now the same can be said about coupes and convertibles. Take Volvo's new C70 for example. Designed as a hardtop convertible, it's two distinctive cars in one. Can't decide between a rag and a hardtop? No problem. Buy a C70. Inside 30 seconds, with the push of a button, you can have one or the other. Even better, the car looks absolutely stunning in either configuration. In fact, it's arguably the best-looking modern Volvo to date, top up or down.
A collaborative effort with renowned Italian design firm Pininfarina, the C70 appears more whimsical than its predecessor, with soft, rounded edges, while still managing to look very much like a Volvo. "We designed the car first as a coupe and maintained Volvo's signature architecture, then collaborated with Pininfarina until both parties were satisfied," said C70 designer John Kinsey. "We wanted a unique and stimulating car with overall emotional appeal, and I think we accomplished that."
Indeed, the C70 created quite a stir on its international press launch in Hana, Maui. Wherever we drove, people were compelled to look. Some walked up and asked questions, while others simply pointed and stared. Here we are in this Hawaiian paradise and the car still managed to stand out. It's not like we were driving a bright red Pininfarina Ferrari. We're talking Volvo here. The question becomes: Are Volvo owners the type who want to be noticed? Like it or not, they will now, even while simply activating the top. It's like watching your kids' Transformers figures come to life. When activated, the dual hinged trunk lid opens and the three-piece sectional top retracts and stacks neatly inside. Naturally, this limits the total amount of available storage space in an otherwise sizable compartment. However, all is not lost. By pressing another button located in the truck, the top raises just enough to allow easy transfer of items, and then automatically lowers back into place.
As a result of frequent rain showers we spent an equal amount of time driving with the top up. Aside from three thin sectional rooflines, the perfectly pitched top appears virtually seamless. Inside, it's even more impressive and provides no clear indication of its drop-top status whatsoever. No dangling hooks or levers, just a nice, well-upholstered headliner. And unlike traditional ragtops where interior noise, occasional creaks and other associated issues arise, the C70 cabin is exceptionally quiet and its normal-sized rear glass window provides outstanding outward visibility. Moreover, Volvo went to great lengths to improve overall structural rigidity so the car even handles like a coupe. It also makes it one of the safest convertibles on the road, something Volvo stands by. They don't call it "Volvo for Life" for nothing.
Designed to comfortably accommodate four average-sized adults, the C70 is really quite unique. It is the first true four-passenger vehicle offered in coupe convertible configuration. The interior quality and layout is typically Scandinavian with lots of clean and uncluttered surfaces. Seating is comfortable for both front and rear passengers and covered with weather-friendly Vulcaflex upholstery or the optional leather. Front-seat passengers are afforded an extra inch of legroom over the previous model, which gives it an edge over other premium four-seaters including BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Saab 9-3. Rear-seat passengers also have plenty of room and may enjoy easy in/out access thanks to a secondary power control that moves the front seats forward.
In the driver's seat, I especially appreciated the sporty steering wheel, which is thickly padded and feels good in hand. Also cool is the extremely thin floating center console modeled on the S40 and V50. It is quite functional and serves as a wonderful design feature. Due to its close proximity to the gear lever I did occasionally find my knuckles hitting the console-mounted A/C controls when quickly rowing to third and fifth gears. A bit more space would have been nice. The glovebox is also substantially smaller than it may appear. We noticed it would hold the vehicle manual and perhaps a pair of sunglasses, but little more. On the flip side, there are two additional storage areas on the lower door panels which feature a covered flap to keep papers or other lightweight items from flying out.
While the standard audio system sounds pretty darn good, the optional Dynaudio package is purely state-of-the-art and certainly worth a listen. It features a total of 14 speakers and, with over 900 watts of power, the large dual subwoofers behind the rear seats double as seat massagers.
Driving along the hundreds of hairpin turns along the scenic Hana Highway didn't really allow us to properly test the car's upper-end performance. No matter. The C70 is more of a fun cruiser anyway. Its 2.5-liter, turbocharged T5 engine is good for a very respectable 218 bhp, with 236 lb-ft of torque delivered along a broad rpm band, from 1500 to 4800. While acceleration is good, midrange is where the engine is most happy.
Out of the gate, Volvo expects to sell over 15,000 units globally, 6,000 of which in the U.S. We think these forecasts are highly conservative and that the car will do even better. At $38,000, it's a reasonable price to pay for a car with two very unique and distinctive personalities. And at least for the time being, it's the only game in town.
2006 VOLVO C70
Base price $38,710
Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive
2.5-liter inline five, dohc, four valves per cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled
Six-speed manual, optional five-speed automatic
MacPherson strut front, multilink rear, stabilizer bar
Four-wheel disc brakes, ABS, Electronic Brake Distribution
Length x Width x Height (in.): 181 x 71 x 56
Wheelbase: 104 in.
Curb Weight: 3,630 lb
Peak Power: 218 bhp @ 5000 rpm
Peak Torque: 236 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
0-60 mph: 7.6 sec (manual)
Top Speed: 150 mph (electronically limited)