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2007 Volvo C70 Test Drive

It's two, two, two cars in one!

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By Liz Kim

2007 Volvo C70 top down

2007 Volvo C70 top down

Photo © Liz Kim
Bargain hunters, rejoice! Volvo is offering a 2-for-1 blowout. OK, maybe that’s an overstatement. With its $39,785 base price, the 2007 Volvo C70 Convertible is hardly something to be picked up on a whim. But it does give you both the topless thrills of a convertible and the sleek hardtop of a coupe, all in one likable package. The EPA says that you’ll get 21 mpg city and 29 mpg highway; I averaged 21.4 mpg in mixed conditions in the Volvo C70.

First Glance: Familiar face, trick top

The current lineup of Volvos is fluent in the same design language. Whether you opt for the baby Volvo, the S40, or its big brother the S80, you know when a Volvo is coming toward you, thanks to handsome rectangular headlamps, an egg-crate grille and superhero-sized shoulder lines. The C70 doesn’t stray too far from its brethren, or from the previous-generation (pre-2006) coupe and convertible. Its appearance has evolved to embrace a sophisticated silhouette, possessing a slightly more aggressive stance without screaming "fast" or "ostentatious" as other European retractable hardtop convertibles might. The C70 is more about casual elegance and refined comfort.

On to its most distinctive aspect, the hardtop. Put the C70 in park, press a button, and voila! In a tick under 30 seconds, the trunk lid raises and the roof separates in three pieces then slides backward and stacks inside the cargo area (link goes to photo), all in an impressive display of mechanics and whirrs. Reversing the procedure achieves the security of a coupe, complete with a premium fabric headliner that makes it easy to forget that one is driving a convertible. Try that trick with most soft tops, no matter how well they’re constructed.

Continued below…

In The Driver’s Seat: Comfortable, attractive and safe

2007 Volvo C70 interior

2007 Volvo C70 interior

Photo © Volvo
Larger interior photo

It’s easy to achieve a sense of serenity in the C70 thanks to typical Volvo attention to comfort. With well-padded cushions, great lumbar support, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and 8-way power seats, the front chairs invite lounging. Rear seaters don’t fare badly, either; with 33.9 inches of legroom, it’s not a bad place to spend a bit of time.

The C70 makes use of the S40’s floating dash, a slick design composed of brushed aluminum that resembles the slim elegance of a Razr phone. You can even secure small items behind the center panel. My test vehicle was equipped with the pricey Dynaudio sound system that pumped out multi-layered sound even at freeway speeds with the top down. I'm also fond of the quirky climate system pictogram that depicts where you’d prefer airflow, but overall ergonomics aren’t as intuitive and simple as you’d find in other vehicles.

Volvo pioneered the side curtain airbags that expand upward from the windowsills to help avoid head and shoulder injuries, even when the windows are down. True to Volvo heritage, the C70 is chock-full of active and passive safety gear too numerous to list here. Suffice it to say that Volvo takes the responsibility for your well-being very seriously.

On The Road: Long on sun, short on sport

“Smelly buggers, aren’t they?” mentions my sweetie as we’re passing by the elephant seals of Piedras Blancas. Unsavory aromas are part and parcel of the convertible experience, but it’s worth it when you’re blasting up California's fabled Highway 1 on a warm summer day. Top down, windows up, the C70 provides the perfect amount of breeze to ruffle your hair. With the azure Pacific and the rugged beauty of the mountains around you, you’d be remiss to hermetically seal yourself up in a sedan or SUV.

But the C70 is no performance vehicle. With little communication from the steering wheel and plenty of lean in corners, this is not the car to be running hard and fast along the tempting curves toward Big Sur. Rather, it’s a GT of the traditional kind, soaking up bumps and ruts and keeping jostles to a minimum. Notably missing are those hobgoblins of convertibles, cowl shake and chassis flex; the engineers have done an admirable job of providing a stable driving experience. Powering the C70 is a turbocharged 5-cylinder engine making 218 horsepower. Low-end power is lackluster, but you can keep the revs high by rowing the Geartronic automatic or opting for the 6-speed manual.

Journey’s End: Good, but the competition is stiff

2007 Volvo C70 top up

2007 Volvo C70 top up

Photo © Liz Kim
Hardtop convertibles have become much more common since 1998, when Mercedes-Benz unleashed the SLK 230. It may not have been the first hardtop convertible, but it was the most successfully executed. For 2007, we’ll see more affordable, fun cars with dual personalities – the Mazda Miata, Pontiac G6 and the Volkswagen Eos, all slated to be priced under $30,000. While a little more spendy than those, the Volvo C70 still represents a reasonable value compared to other four-seat European convertibles – the Audi A4 Cabriolet, Mercedes CLK and the Saab 9-3 – none of which can be equipped with a hardtop at any price. The upcoming 2008 BMW 3-Series convertible will be a hardtop, but is most likely to be much more expensive.

During my test drive, the C70 proved to be a talented jack-of-many-trades, transforming from a comfortable, attractive coupe to an invigorating convertible with a mere press of a button. You can buy any vehicle, but the experience of driving up the coast, chasing the amber sunset with the wind in your hair, your favorite person beside you, and not a care in the world, may just be priceless. -- Liz Kim

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