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MOTORNET: Best Of Both Worlds - Volvo C70

Best Of Both Worlds

SCOOP MOTORNET with Karl Ferguson
Images by Neil Mackenzie -

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It’s easy to feel smug in a convertible. It’s also easy to feel a bit of a git. On the one hand you’re confident that people are looking at you enviously as you cruise with the top down, the sunlight reflecting stylishly on your sunglasses. But there’s also a sneaking suspicion that everyone’s secretly laughing at you. After all, you’re putting yourself out there as if to say, ‘this is cool, don’t you want to be like me?’ And that has its price as I was to discover.

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I was feeling happily smug one warm summer’s evening as I arrived home in Volvo’s latest, the C70. I had the roof down and was quietly minding my own business, vaguely thinking of dinner, as I parked her up. I had no idea my neighbour was about to spoil my good mood. As it turns out, I heard him before I saw him. The fire-engine red Maserati Spyder he pulled up in looked like sex on wheels, but it sounded even better, the bellow of the V8 echoing off surrounding houses as he negotiated on to his car deck. The Volvo – and me included – barely got a second glance.

Don’t ask me how he can afford the Maserati, (the mind boggles, though I do know he is in real estate which probably explains it) but it did get me thinking. The problem with playing the ‘convertible game’ is that someone is bound to come along eventually in something even hotter. And that can be deflating.

Which is why the Volvo is so great, because it’s actually not a convertible, it’s a coupe. At least, at first glance, it’s hard to tell the C70 has a removable roof at all. That’s because unlike the Maserati, it has a folding hard top and it makes for a genuinely good looking coupe. There’s a bit of an unsightly bulge around the C-pillar but the average punter will see it is as both stylish and attractive, which is great.

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The large steering wheel, with its slightly numb feel doesn’t immediately inspire confidence that the C70 will prove to be a driver’s delight. But initial impressions can be wrong. The C70 handles well, with understeer kept to a minimum despite the front wheel drive set-up and relative bulk (1690kg). Punt it through some fast, tight corners and the 18” wheels do an excellent job of gripping the tar seal while the driver’s aids remain at bay unless things start to get really untidy – something which I suspect will be a rare event for most C70 drivers. The car definitely feels tauter with the hard-top roof in place, though even then there’s an occasional creak, but even without it, the C70 is composed and comfortable to pilot.

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It’s also no slug. Admittedly, Volvos inline five cylinder, 2.5 litre turbocharged engine has to work quite hard, but a decent poke of the right pedal will see the C70 surge into life. The powerplant develops a healthy 162kW of power and 320Nm of torque with most of the power available from an accessible 1500rpm. The 0-100km/h time of 8.5 seconds isn’t going to set hearts afire but the all important 80-120km/h time (or overtaking time) is 5.76 seconds which isn’t half bad. Just as importantly, there is little evidence of turbo lag or torque steer – both good signs.

So, it drives well, looks good, and doesn’t suffer from some of the traits lesser convertibles are plagued by. What else does it do? For a start, the ride is well composed. Given that the first thing that goes once you chop the roof is body rigidity this is again testament to the integrity of the Volvo designers. Low speed ride can be a bit choppy, and there is some scuttle shake, but generally the C70 is smooth and cosseting.

Take it as read too that the C70 is well equipped. Apart from the fully lined and automatic roof, included on the standard equipment list is leather upholstery, heated seats (for those winter nights when a blast with the roof off is too tempting to resist), climate air conditioning, electric everything, safety aids as long as your arm, and a seriously butt-kicking stereo. In fact, the stereo alone is almost reason enough to put the C70 in your garage. Interior space isn’t generous but there’s room enough for front passengers and plenty of storage bins. Rear passengers (there’s only room for two) don’t fare so well, but you can carry full-sized adults as long as front seat passengers don’t mind the seat well forward.

There’s very little I dislike about the C70, but top of the list is the ‘chimes’ that ring when you don’t have your seatbelt engaged. In case the initial ding dong hasn’t driven you to distraction, it is immediately replaced by a noise reminiscent of Second World War air raid sirens. I am the first to concede that safety is important but from my perspective, this might be a case of taking a good thing too far.

At a smidgen under $100k, the C70 is no light weight in the pricing stakes either. Arguably, you’re getting a lot for your money especially when you consider that a similar sized BMW 650i convertible is an eye-watering $225,990. Admittedly, for the same money, punters can opt for a Mercedes Benz SLK also with trick folding metal roof, but it’s strictly a two-seater which has its limitations. Of course, if a coupe is what you’re after, the C70 makes for a strong argument. Being a Volvo, the C70 reduces the likelihood you’ll be accused of ‘flash Harry’ aspirations and it’s also likely to be a reasonably rare beast which adds to the exclusivity. But best of all, if your sensibilities allow, you can take the roof off safe in the knowledge that you’ve got the best of both worlds, and you didn’t even have to try too hard. If only the Volvo had an engine note like the Maserati though…

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