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Volvo C70 Review: Volvo's Coupe and Cabriolet

Volvo sets a trend with the C70s three-piece roof, making it a better as both a coupe as well as a cabriolet
OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
27 Nov 2006

The two-in-one concept of combining a coupe and a cabriolet is not a new one, but making the car look good and perform well as both certainly takes skill, and Volvo does a good job with the new C70.

Firstly, the C70 succeeds looks-wise. Instead of a two-piece folding roof, Volvo and Pininfarina (who build the car in a new joint venture factory in Sweden) have engineered a three-piece roof that looks really good. According to its designers, the C70 was styled firstly as a coupe, and then developed a way to fold the roof into the boot.

Taking this approach means the car looks right as a coupe, which makes all the difference. The proportions of the roof – two parts roof, one part window – is more ‘normal’ looking than that of the other 4-seater coupe-cabriolets on the markets – no names will be named, but the guilty know who they are.

What is also significant is that while the C70 shares its mechanical components with the S40, it has not been branded the C40, but instead is the C70, occupying a more upmarket position in the Volvo hierarchy. The coupe-cabriolet is longer than the S40, and both cars do not share any external body panels. The C70 and S40 even have different ‘hard points’ such as the windscreen – this is because the C70 has a completely different A-pillar structure that has been strengthened to provide roll-over protection even when the roof is down.

The lines of the C70 are also softer and more subtle than those of other Volvo models. Yes, the characteristic Volvo ‘broad shoulder’ that runs from the headlamps to the rear remains, but there is a gentle S-curve where the roof meets the boot. This gives the C70 a touch of glamour that is not found on other Volvos. The C70’s rear lights are huge, but this helps reduce the visual bulk of its high rear end. There is no doubting that the C70 is a handsome car, roof up or roof down.

The transformation from coupe to cabriolet takes just 30 seconds, and for the C70 it is a definite show-stopping event. Like an elaborate ballet, the boot opens, the windows come down and like a ‘transformer’ robot, the roof separates into three pieces and folds itself neatly into the boot. There it is obvious that Volvo and Pininfarina must have agonized long and hard to engineer this incredible folding roof mechanism. Not surprisingly, as a Volvo, safety is of primary importance, and there are separate up and down switches to make sure no one gets confused.

Having a three-piece roof folded up reduces the boots volume from 440-litres to 200-litres, and the shear size of this ‘package’ means there is a hydraulic lift to help raise the roof to gain access to the boot space. Even though the boot volume is reduced by half, 200-litres is about the size of the boot of a small hatchback. Quite clearly, if one is driving up to Club Med Cherating with your friends, you’ll need to drive there with the roof up, unload your stuff when you get there, and then put the roof down to enjoy the sunshine. It makes sense, when one considers the heat and weather conditions. As with the Mercedes-Benz SLK, there is no spare tyre, but a repair kit and electric pump to keep the tyre pumped up.

On the inside, the similarities with the S40 continue, but that’s no bad thing. The S40’s ultra-thin aluminium centre-console still mesmerizes, and is set to become a design icon. Like all good designs, it works well too – the combination of just four knobs and clearly marked buttons makes it both intuitive to use and wonderfully tactile as well. Like an expensive B&O hi-fi system, it’s a classic piece of Scandinavian design.

As with other 4-seater coupe-cabriolets, the C70 takes just four passengers. Those in the rear get individual bucket seats, and there is enough head and legroom for two adults to sit quite comfortably in the back.

Needless to say, Volvo being Volvo, the C70 has a whole host of safety features. Should the car turn turtle, the reinforced A-pillar is there to take the weight, and for additional protection, hoops from the Roll-Over Protection System, or ROPS) will pop out from behind the rear passengers. The C70 is also the first open top car to offer inflatable curtain airbags, even when the roof is down. These are door-mounted and will deploy in the event of a side impact.

The other coupe-like aspect of the C70 is its wonderful T5 engine. For a five-cylinder unit, the engine is smooth, rev-happy and lag-free. It’s the same 220bhp T5 unit that powers the S40 T5 (and Ford Focus ST) it is mated to an equally responsive 5-speed automatic transmission. This engine really suits the C70, making it an absolutely relaxing highway cruiser – in fact the car feels as quick as the S40, and one wouldn’t think that it actually weighs over 200kg more than the sedan.

Is there anything not to like about the C70? Although we weren’t able to detect any change in handling ability, the weight shift from the roof being up to it being stored in the boot must be quite significant. But then, the C70 is more a boulevard cruiser than an out-and-out performance car. The steering is communicative for a front-wheel driven car, but perhaps a car that had rear-wheel drive would have one that was a bit more direct and communicative.

The thing about the C70 is that really does perform well as both a coupe and a cabriolet. With the roof up as a coupe, the car looks great, and beautifully proportioned. As a cabriolet, it is a relaxed cruiser and the car feels more solid than many of its competitors. It is also ahead of the game with regards to competition – the Volkswagen Eos is not due here for at least 6 months, and the BMW 3 Series Cabrio has just been launched in Europe, so it will be at least a year away. Volvo has really thought long and hard about the C70, and it shows. The fact that the Swedes have managed to coax Pininfarina into a JV and factory in Sweden shows just how committed both companies are to the C70.

Credits: Justin Lee

Volvo
Volvo C70
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