Thumbs Up: Exterior styling, front seats and Dynaudio sound system are world class.
Thumbs Down: Nav system not up to contemporary standards.
Buy This Car If: You’re a Volvo fan in the market for a luxury convertible.
At first glance, the Volvo C70 T5 is one sexy car. Nothing about the car’s exterior says, “boxy but good”, the conservative design norm that sold Volvo automobiles for years. In fact, the C70 looks far more German than it does Swedish, and the 18” five spoke wheels only add to the car’s sporty appearance. Inside, you’re treated to Volvo’s sinfully comfortable leather seats and the superb Dynaudio stereo system. In fact, buyers may find themselves wandering out to the garage, just to sit behind the wheel and crank up the tunes. Put a twisty road graphic on the inside of the garage door, and the Volvo C70 may be all you need to get through a harsh Minnesota winter.
That’s not to say that the C70 is a perfect car; like aquavit, your appreciation of the C70 is likely to be cultural and based entirely on your expectations. If you get behind the wheel expecting a sports car, you may be disappointed. The turbocharged motor puts out enough horsepower to chirp the front wheels when you mash the gas pedal, but not enough to provide the kind of thrust associated with a sports car. Likewise, the steering is tuned for comfort and not for feedback, which makes the C70 a better companion for highway cruising than for back road apex strafing. The all season Pirelli P6 radials supplied on the C70 don’t help with grip in corners, but they’re quiet and comfortable for soaking up the interstate miles.
But none of that matters to Volvo buyers, who’ve made the C70 a sales success since its introduction in 2006. If you expect a high performance sports car, the C70 won’t be to your liking. On the other hand, if you expect Volvo safety, comfort and innovation in a retractible hard top convertible, the C70 is exactly what you’ve been looking for.
Steel roof in place, the Volvo C70 is a stunning coupe that stands on it’s own design-wise. Unlike many cloth roofed convertibles, the C70 doesn’t look ungainly with the top up. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the C70 is the only convertible I’ve ever driven that looks as good top up as it does top down. Volvo worked with Pininfarina on the exterior design, and the end result looks good from any angle and in any weather.
The interior is a great place to spend time, but only in the front seats. I’ve got a a 32” inseam, and with the driver’s seat in a comfortable position, there’s only three inches of space between the front and rear seat. The rear seat may work for pets and small children, but you won’t fit an adult back there for any length of time. Regardless, the driver and front seat passenger get treated to high quality, power adjustable leather seats with lumbar support. The trademark waterfall center stack is typical of Scandinavian design, and keeps controls for the HVAC, phone, audio and nav in one central location. It looks good, but larger buttons would be helpful, at least until you learned the layout of the C70’s controls. Volvo’s icon based HVAC controls are simple to understand and operate, and it’s easy to see why this design receives so much praise. I’m not a fan of the optional nav system, which is simply not up to modern standards. It’s difficult to operate, not particularly intuitive and features a display that borders on too small to be useful. Unfortunately, the only way to get the premium Dynaudio sound system is with the nav, and you definitely want to check the option box for the Multimedia Package (which includes the Dynaudio stereo and nav).
I loved the instrumentation, which adds to the C70’s stylistic flair. The analog speedometer and tachometer are black face trimmed in aluminum, and the gauges integrate a fuel gauge and coolant temperature gauge. The odometer and trip odometer sit below the speedo and tach, and the vehicle information display sits above. Volvo uses a stalk mounted scroll wheel for the information display, and it’s among the best I’ve ever seen. The dash uses a soft, textured material for the top surface and instrument binnacle, and it’s very pleasant to both the eye and to the touch. I wish more manufacturers would use similar materials instead of the bland hard plastic that corporate bean counters seem to demand. Rounding out the interior, Volvo provides numerous interior storage compartments, all tied to the cars central locking system. This is a huge benefit to those of us who don’t like leaving sunglasses and garage door openers in an unsecured, top down convertible.
Volvo uses an inline five cylinder turbo in the C70, rated at 227 horsepower and 236 foot pounds of torque. As previously mentioned, that’s enough to provide reasonable acceleration, and my guess on a zero to sixty time is somewhere around 7 seconds. It’s a smooth enough motor to soak up the highway miles without any annoying vibration or droning, but it’s not particularly fuel efficient: the C70 T5 is rated at 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, and I saw 21 mpg in mixed driving. Chalk it up to summertime driving in Florida and too much time spent idling at traffic lights. If you spend the bulk of your time on the highway, I’d expect the C70 to return fuel mileage on par with EPA estimates. My tester came with Volvo’s five speed Geartronic automatic, which can be manually shifted if the driver prefers to select his own gears. If you prefer a manual transmission, Volvo allows buyers to opt for a six speed manual gearbox.
The C70’s folding top is trick, and handles all the manual labor involved in raising or lowering the top automatically. With the car in park, the ignition on and your foot on the brake, dropping the top is as simple as pressing a button. The windows descend about an inch, the rear decklid opens and the segmented top folds in on itself. A boot cover deploys, the decklid closes and the windows are returned to the full up position. The whole process takes about 30 seconds, and the driver is given a message on the vehicle information display when the top is fully up or fully retracted. Luggage space with the top up is very good, although a protective structure (which prohibits trunk overloading with the top down) does take away from usable trunk space. With the top folded in place, trunk room is sufficient for a pair of overnight bags, but longer trips will require you to use the back seat for storage. A trunk pass-through allows the C70 to swallow up longer items such as skis. With the top down, the cockpit of the C70 is a remarkably calm and quiet place to be. I know I’m flogging a dead horse here, since I’ve already praised it on several other occasions, but the Dynaudio sound system is the best I’ve ever experienced in a convertible and can be tailored to any kind of music you choose. Personally, I can tell you that the blues sound really good, even though driving a Volvo drop-top excludes you from the whole blues experience.
My tester had a base price of $40,800, including the destination charge of $850. Options included the $2,600 Multimedia Package (12 speaker Dynaudio sound system with dual subwoofers and 7 amps, Nav system with real time traffic and remote control, 2 complimentary map upgrades), the $1,900 Dynamic & Climate Package (18” wheels, HID Active Bending Lights, sport steering wheel with aluminum inlay, heated front seats, headlamp washers, humidity sensor / rain sensor, Interior Air Quality System) and the $550 metallic paint option. Total sticker was $45,850, which brings it in below both the Infiniti G37 Convertible and the BMW 328i Convertible. Of course both the Infiniti and the BMW are more sport oriented than the Volvo, but neither looks quite as good in my opinion. If you like Volvo and want a convertible that’s heavy on style, comfort and safety, then the C70 may be the ride you’ve been looking for.