Volvo's C70 Convertible: Dynamic from the Top Down

Physician's Money Digest, May 2006, Volume 13, Issue 5

The new Volvo C70 convertible is vigorouslyat the edge of the human-machine interface.This Swedish-built product is aclear challenge to the best of Germany,England, and Japan. The styling inside and out isuniquely Scandinavian from the fabrics to theshapes. There are many brilliant and special featuresthat incorporate safety and firmness to the body ofthe new C70 convertible. When the beautiful threepiecesteel hardtop roof is up, there is a 15% increasein structural rigidity. If you love handmadeSwiss watches, you'll love watching this top godown. It is the most sophisticated and intricatemechanism we have ever seen, ready with a push ofa switch. Oddly, there are no federal roof crash standardsfor convertible cars.

Active Safety

Volvo used a number of forward-thinking passive safety featuresto make owning a convertibleless of a compromise. For thefirst time ever, Volvo has a sideimpactairbag that rises from thedoor to protect your head. In realworldtesting, we think it willprove itself a valuable feature inaddition to a seat-mounted airbag. It is designed to be mosteffective in side-impact androllover protection. Additionalside-impact protection comesfrom special structures in the doorand transverse members directlyunder the seats proven to minimizeintrusion into the passengercompartment. A rollover protection system residesbehind the head rest of the rear passengers. Theyconsist of two sets of bars directly attached to thechassis that use a pyrotechnic charge to push upwardin a rollover or rear-end collision. The bars havesmall metal spikes to slam through the rear glass tomake a space to protect the four passengers.

Active safety starts with thoroughlyresponsive and consistent controls.The accelerator pedal on the C70 givesa quick response from the turbochargedengine. The braking feels firmand solid with the antilock brake systemincorporating stability control.The steering is light, fast, and accurate,but not so light as to encouragesloppy behavior. The independent suspensiongives a surprisingly comfortableyet very controlled on-track feel.The gears of the standard 6-speedmanual transmission are well chosenwith a very crisp shift pattern. Theoptional 5-speed Geartronic automaticis our favorite to mate with the standard2.5-liter, 5-cylinder engine. Thisis not a harsh-riding sports car, this isa very sporty, nimble luxury convertible.Put the top up and the C70 is agenuine sport coupe—you might say ithas a dual personality.

Interior Bliss

When the top is up your guests willnot think they're riding in a convertible.Also, the top-down aerodynamicsare superb for the passengers' comfortand conversation. Be sure to order theoptional wind break that fits behindthe front two seats for the best windproofall-weather motoring. Volvo'sfront two seats with whiplash protectionare offered in a standard materialyou might enjoy more than the leather.If you like leather, order the premiumpackage, which includes a HomeLinksystem for your garage door and acompass rearview mirror. Althoughthe trunk is small with the top down, itis a minor annoyance unless you travellarge. There is good storage room allaround with pockets aplenty.

The metallic center console floats infront of the earth-tone instrumentpanel, which houses the entertainmentsystem and climate controls. It's a specialthin panel that actually has openspace and a pocket behind it. If youenjoy quality music, treat yourself tothe premium audio with 910 watts ofpower going to 14 speakers, includingtwo 9-inch subwoofers mounted to theback of the rear seats. The navigationsystem sits on top of the instrumentpanel and employs a simple handheldremote control so any passenger can bea good copilot.

Volvo has taken open-air motoringfor four people to a new level of safetyand fun at a reasonable price. WhileVolvo is for life, according to its slogan,we think it's for fun too. Even ifyou are not considering a convertible,this is a must-drive against any fourseateryou are considering.

Jean Swenson and Ashly Knapp are independent research

reporters and the founders of AutoAdvisor.com.