The Volvo C70 is a handsome luxury hardtop convertible with elegant coupe lines that seats four.
The C70 uses a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine that's good for 227 horsepower on the base T5 model, and 250 hp on the upgraded Inscription variant. The engine, suspension and transmission are proven Volvo components, while the rigid chassis was designed to meet Volvo's industry-leading safety standards.
Styling inside and out is attractive yet understated, with comfortable seats, high-quality interior styling and fabrics, and thoughtful touches such as a clever cubby behind the center dash. The stereo sounds superb, and everything operates as it should.
New for 2012 is the introduction of three trim levels on two models, for a total of six possible configurations. Both the T5 and the Inscription variants are available in base, Premier Plus and Platinum trims. The C70 was launched as a 2006 model. Styling was revised for 2011 and the instrument panel was redesigned.
The C70 is an excellent highway cruiser with a solid feel that strikes a good balance between responsive handling and a smooth, well-controlled ride. The C70 is front-wheel drive. Consequently, it isn't as sporty as the rear-wheel-drive BMW 3 Series convertibles or Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class or the all-wheel-drive Audi A5 cabriolets, nor is its suspension as hard-edged but it rides smoother.
The Volvo C70 roofline, developed in Italy by Pininfarina, 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. 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 structural safety features of the C70 take thousands of words to describe in detail. 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 front bucket seats are ergonomically shaped and very comfortable. The front seats slide forward with the touch of a button to ease the boarding of passengers into the two rear seats.
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.
As with many Volvos, interior storage space is in short supply. There are 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.
The trunk has 12.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the roof up, and about half that when it's retracted. In essence, it's tiny. A pass-through slot between the rear seats that allows long things like skis to be carried in the trunk, extending into the passenger compartment.
The optional Blind Spot Information System, or BLIS, 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 BLIS option adds a power-retractable feature to protect these intelligent outside mirrors.
The Volvo C70 seems to be made for highway cruising. The car is 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, so it would take a while to reach its electronically limited top speed of 149 mph.
The C70 uses front-wheel drive and Volvo's well-proven 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine, rated at 227 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque for the T5 model, and 250 hp and 273 lb-ft. on the Inscription model. The flat torque curve puts the power to the front wheels evenly and makes the car highly responsive. Both come standard with a five speed automatic transmission. Volvo estimates a 0 to 60 mph of 7.4 seconds for the base T5, which is about the slowest in the segment.
Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 18 mpg City and 28 mpg Highway.
We found the 5-speed automatic shifts crisply. It features a satisfying and obedient manual-shift mode for those times when you want a little extra control for shifting or holding a gear.
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.
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, another benefit of the rigid chassis.
The Volvo C70 is fun, convenient and elegant with its Pininfarina styling and Volvo's safety engineering. It might not be the fastest of the bunch, but it's a solid choice.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses filed this report from Maui; with Mitch McCullough reporting from Redondo Beach, California, and Laura Burstein reporting from Santa Monica.