2006 Volvo C70
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The new Volvo C70 T5 has a retractable metal hardtop that lets its buyer have two cars for the price of one.
Thanks to that nicely engineered hardtop, this 4-seater is both a sharp-looking sports coupe and a handsome convertible.
The 3-piece hardtop folds deftly into the trunk in 30 seconds at the push of a console button. Push another button and you're sitting again in a quiet, upscale coupe in the same amount of time.
This Volvo comes in a single trim level called T5 and isn't inexpensive, at $38,710. But it's got lots of comfort, convenience and safety equipment, including an enhanced rollover protection system.
Gone are the excessive noise, wobbly chassis, poor rear visibility, safety concerns and tight back seats that long plagued regular soft-top convertibles.
Mercedes-Benz kicked off the modern retractable hardtop craze in 1998 with its small SLK 2-seater, and other such models are offered by Cadillac and Lexus. Even Pontiac recently introduced its new G6 power retractable hardtop, and another one arrives later this year from Volkswagen.
But retractable metal hardtops seem more suited to the new century, with its greater emphasis on comfort and security. For one thing, thieves can't slash their tops to gain entry. And their hardtops often provide better overall styling because a flat piece of canvas often doesn't go well with metal body curves.
After the Sunliner, "retractables" were considered too costly and unreliable for decades to be mainstream cars.
The previous Volvo 4-seat convertible was equipped with a soft-top and was dropped after 2004. It had mediocre chassis rigidity and thus excessive cowl shake and squeaks for its approximately $40,000 price. There also was too much throttle lag from either of its two available turbocharged engines.
There's only one engine offered—a turbocharged inline 2.5-liter 5-cylinder. It produces 218 horsepower and generally lively acceleration.
Power delivery occasionally is a bit jerky, but the C70 accelerates strongly when the engine tops 3000 rpm, providing fast 65-80 mph passing. However, an extra cylinder in a larger engine would help initial acceleration.
The C70 comes with a slick 6-speed manual gearbox, but most probably will buy the car with the responsive $1,250 5-speed automatic transmission. After all, this Volvo is more of a comfortable cruiser than a car designed to tackle winding roads at high speeds.
The electro-hydraulic steering is accurate, with a big steering wheel providing a hefty feel. Anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution provide short stops despite a pedal that is a little soft. The ride is smooth and handling is above-average, although not as precise as that of the Audi, BMW or Saab convertibles.
Helping keep the C70 on the road under trying conditions is a Dynamic Stability Traction Control system.
Long, Heavy Doors
One problem is that front seatbelts are in your face when entering or leaving the rear. Also, those belts are difficult for front occupants to grasp and buckle.
Decent Rear Seat Room
Thick windshield posts partly block forward visibility when turning corners. But they provide protection in a rollover, along with a rollover protection system that includes rear automatic pop-up rollover bars, front side torso airbags and head-protecting front-seat side airbags.
The steeply raked windshield helps make the C70 look handsome, but takes some of the "open-air" feeling from top-down driving for front-seat occupants.
Gauges should be backlit for better visibility in bright sunlight, but sound system and climate controls are large. And the dual front and rear cupholders have sliding covers to keep the upscale interior looking neat. There's only average cockpit storage space for small items, but doors have pockets with nifty snap-out covers.
Scant Trunk Room
However, trunk space isn't much of an issue for many owners of convertibles, which aren't considered primary cars and are used as second or third family autos. And you can always toss cargo in the back seat.
Trunk room aside, the new Volvo C70 T5 has the versatility to be used as a primary car, offering top-down driving kicks and all-weather versatility.