2006 Volvo C70
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Volvo's convertible—the C70—was extensively revamped as a second-generation model starting in 2006, and it's a stylish, open-air car that doesn't skimp on safety and security.
Drivers should notice quickly that the emphasis is on safety. Brakes work strongly in this car, beginning to grab when the brake pedal is just starting to be depressed.
And, at its introduction in early 2006, the new C70 was the first convertible with curtain airbags. Typical convertibles don't have curtain airbags for head protection in side and rollover crashes, because the bags usually deploy downward from a fixed car roof. In the C70, Volvo officials became the first to install curtain airbags in the insides of the doors and engineered the bags to deploy upward, so they work regardless of whether the hardtop is on the car or folded away.
There also are four usable seats that can accommodate adults in the C70, and the three-piece, power-operated steel hardtop roof attracts attention as it folds and retracts into the back of the car. Note that the previous C70 that debuted in 1998 had a fabric roof.
But, unfortunately, the new, near-$40,000 C70 could use more ride and noise refinement. And it appears that there's little, if any, rainwater channeling to keep water from dripping inside the vehicle in certain circumstances.
New look and price
Besides making the C70 appear as a sleek coupe, the three-piece hardtop provides the kind of security against break-ins and vandalism that no fabric-topped convertible can offer.
Better yet, the new C70 became the lowest-priced, premium-branded, hardtop convertible in the U.S. when it arrived in the States months after its debut in Europe.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price is near $39,000 for a base model with six-speed manual transmission. A C70 with the more typical tranny preferred by American drivers—an automatic with five speeds—starts around $40,000.
Either version of C70 undercuts the previous lowest-priced, premium-branded, hardtop convertible car—the Mercedes-Benz SLK280, which starts around $43,000 and has only two seats.
It's a more modern, more rigid foundation than what was in the earlier C70 and helps give this weighty car, which tops out at nearly 3,800 pounds, a stable base.
The front suspension uses a MacPherson strut design, while an independent, multi-link configuration works at the rear. Standard tires are 17 inches in diameter compared with 16-inchers in the previous C70.
But I expected a more sophisticated, smooth ride in this convertible. As it was, the suspension in the test car didn't seem to be able to mute a lot of the road bumps, and I felt every manhole cover and highway expansion crack quite intimately. It can be fatiguing.
There also was occasional windshield shudder when the test car's top was down, and a good amount of road noise from the tires with the roof up or down.
The C70 does, however, handle curves and twisty roads tenaciously and doesn't feel off-balance or unwieldy. Indeed, its ground-hugging personality can delight driving enthusiasts.
One engine now
This is up from the 197 horses from the base 5-cylinder engine in the previous C70. But it's not as powerful as the 242-horsepower 5-cylinder high-pressure turbo that was the uplevel engine in the predecessor C70.
Still, with a healthy 236 lb-ft of torque starting as low as 1500 rpm, drivers feel the power coming on easily in the new C70. Certainly, the test car didn't feel sluggish.
There was just a bit of turbo lag, and the power delivery was accompanied by a turbo whine in the test car as I zipped into traffic and made passing maneuvers.
Don't look for terrific fuel economy.
Remember that for a four-seater, the C70 is heavy because of all the reinforcements needed for structural rigidity of the convertible. It also weighs more than its predecessor because it has the steel hardtop, rather than the previous fabric top.
Thus, the test C70 with automatic was rated at just 21 miles a gallon in city driving and 29 mpg on the highway, but in my test driving, I averaged just 22.5 mpg in combined city and highway travel.
This means that with a 15.9-gallon gas tank and premium fuel recommended for peak performance, the C70 would cost nearly $50 to fill up (at a $3-plus-per-gallon price).
Other standard safety items include stability control, traction control and anti-whiplash seats that also keep front passengers from submarining under the dashboard during a crash.
Deployable roll bars behind the C70's rear seats are engineered to work even if a crash occurs when the car's hardtop is on.
Odds and ends
It takes just a push of a button for the hardtop to dissect into three parts and stack itself neatly into the trunk. Note, though, that this takes 30 seconds, which is considerably more time than some other convertible tops that are fabric and less complex.
There really is room for two adults in the back seat of the C70. Obviously, it's more comfortable back there— not to mention getting in and out—when the roof is down.
Maximum rear legroom is 33.9 inches, which is better than some third-row seats in sport-utility vehicles.
With a carload of riders, front-seat passengers tend to move their seats up some on their tracks to help distribute the legroom equitably between front and rear passengers.
Watch when opening the C70 doors in parking lots. These are long, heavy doors and they can swing out and dent adjacent cars before you know it.
Trunk space is a decent 12.8 cubic feet when the roof is on the car. It shrinks to 6 cubic feet when the top is down and stored.
About that roof …
If I was already in the C70 test car when the rain came and, say, needed to open a window to pay a toll, I sometimes wound up with rain water dripping down on the interior door armrest and quite close to the electric window buttons.
I even got water drops on my skirt when I opened and closed the hardtop after a rain shower because the front piece of the three-piece hardtop shook as it came forward to meet the windshield edge.