From the desk of Mike (The Hammer) Garvin

2007 Volvo C70 T5 Road Test
A pleasure that’s like two for the price of one

By Daniel Lafrance
Auto123.com

A convertible is so much fun. With the top neatly stowed, wind in your hair and the sun setting down, you can strut your stuff while cruising on crowded streets on a warm summer evening.

The thing is, summer only lasts three months -- maybe four if Mother Nature is in a good mood. The rest of the year, the roof goes up and the cockpit is darker. In addition, if your car has a soft top, road and wind noises will still have an easy time penetrating inside. That's why, when weighing pros and cons, many people scratch the idea of buying a convertible.

However, over the last three years, we've seen more and more automakers offer retractable hardtops, which solves more than a few problems.

Beautiful with the top down or up

Volvo created an interesting design for the C70. Some convertibles are gorgeous with the top down, but when it's time to put in on, the overall look of the car is compromised. With other models, it's the other way around. Well, I'm happy to report that the C70 is beautiful either way.

With the top up, the car sports a sleek, flowing roofline. The greenhouse is large and, despite a few rear blind spots, visibility is great all around. Incidentally, with a dark paint color, the separation between roof and bodywork is almost invisible. In fact, when you take just a quick glance, the C70 looks like a regular coupe.

On the other hand, with a light paint color, the interior feels much cooler when you step inside on a scorching summer day. Since white reflects sunrays and black absorbs them, the temperature difference inside is significant.

When the roof goes down, the C70 is just as superb. The 3-panel hardtop folds away at the push of a button and completely disappears under a hard tonneau cover. The whole process is quite entertaining to watch: said cover opens rearward, the three panels retract in a Z-shaped pattern and drop into the trunk after which the cover closes upon them. In terms of overall styling, the C70 is impeccable.

The exterior styling is both modern and classic.

 

I'm not saying that everything's perfect, though. For instance, the driver-side rocker panel seemed loose. I know this was a press vehicle, but Volvo should perform an inspection on other C70s to make sure it's not a full-scale issue. What's more, the sideview mirrors are pretty small, which makes passing and parking maneuvers a bit harder.

This engine is a good performer and a good match for the C70.

Spirited engine

With 218 horsepower, the Volvo C70 is fairly quick. Even more impressive, the 5-cylinder turbocharged engine delivers 236 lb-ft of torque from 1,500 to 4,800 rpm -- or almost across the entire powerband. Equipped with a slick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission, the C70 T5 accelerates from 0 to 100 kph in about 7 seconds.

As for fuel economy, I averaged 11.5 L/100 km over my test week, which is good.

The C70 is not a sports car, but with the Sport Package ($5,000), the improved handling and braking power allow you to crank it up a few notches and have more fun behind the wheel. And despite the 18-inch wheels and 235/40ZR18 low-profile tires, the car still offers a reasonable ride quality.

Comfortable and luxurious

Both front seats include multiple power adjustments with memory for optimum comfort and convenience. The rear seats, meanwhile, are better suited for children, although adults can benefit from decent legroom if the front occupants sacrifice a bit of space by sliding their seats forward.

With the roof up, the interior is quiet and completely sealed. In fact, the hardtop is so tight and cleverly designed that you don't feel like you're sitting inside a convertible.

The optional premium audio system offers a breathtakingly rich sound thanks to 15 speakers and a 650-watt amplifier. Mind you, its price ($2,250) is also breathtaking.

Fit and finish is good and quality materials are aplenty.

This Volvo comes with a comprehensive list of features. Interior color schemes are nice and the cupholders are very convenient: they even include tiny doors to hide them when left unused. The center stack is user-friendly and, overall, the ergonomics are excellent. However, trunk space is disappointingly limited; don't expect to load anything more than a compact suitcase.

The versatility of the retractable hardtop gives the C70 a clear advantage over competitors.

Competition

The 2007 C70 T5 carries a base sticker price of $56,495. With the aforementioned options, my tester cost $63,745.

This Volvo battles for consumer dollars with the Audi A4, BMW 328i, Mercedes-Benz CLK350 and Saab 9-3. One could also consider Volkswagen's Eos 2.0T which, despite a lower price range, still features a power-retractable hardtop.

Conclusion

Of course, at over $60,000, this Swedish sensation is far from affordable. Yet, it offers a solid and luxurious feel. It can rival any domestic or German convertible any day of the week. The highly sophisticated roof mechanism alone might be worth several grand. The end result is year-round usability. Now that's something few competitors can truly offer.

Consider this Volvo as a stylish premium coupe without the drawbacks of traditional soft-top convertibles. It's almost like buying two cars for the price of one.
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