Ah, a convertible. One for the hairdressers or a car that’s hair-raising to drive?
The jelly-like first generation C70 convertible was a Nicky Clarke special: it looked good and had a decent stereo but wobbled like a dinghy in a typhoon. The new C70 is a very different beast to its predecessor, which was sold as both a fixed-head coupe and soft-top cabrio. This time, the C70 has a folding steel roof, giving buyers both cars – coupe and convertible – for the price of one. Handling should be in a different league, too, because the new C70 shares its underpinnings and engines with the S40 saloon.
How would it fare on the Kings Road?
With the roof down on a sunny day, pretty well. We drove the flagship T5 model, with a growling 2.5-litre turbocharged engine. It’s the punchy 220bhp unit fitted to the awesome Focus ST. The body is suspended by MacPherson struts up front, multi-link suspension at the rear, which makes for a comfy ride around town.
… and on the open road?
That’s the snag. The C70 T5 weighs 1725kg, or 333kg more than the S40 T5. Almost 100kg of that bulk is the roof, and when it’s up, it raises the car’s centre of gravity. If you’re going for it, the car’s handling goes to pieces. The suspension tries valiantly to cope but it simply can’t keep up with all that mass. Act the hooligan and the C70 will roll around and resort to scrabbling understeer and torque steer. But with smoother inputs it rides well, and the Volvo is superbly refined at motorway speeds with the roof up or down. As with the S40 the steering is vague on the straightahead but weights up through corners.
Convertibles stand or fall on account of their looks, roofs and rigidity. How does this fare?
A smorgasbord of companies have a hand in the stiff C70. The look comes from Volvo’s Swedish design studio, German firm Oasys engineers the roof, while the car is assembled in Italy by Pininfarina, the legendary coachbuilders responsible for all those gorgeous Ferraris. No doubt, the C70 is the most handsome four-seat CC on the market. The three-piece roof, folds away compactly in 30 seconds, which enabled the designers to avoid the usual fat arse needed to swallow bulkier roofs.
Inside, what’s the deal for people and luggage?
Fold away the roof and it’ll squash your golf clubs, with the boot shrinking from 404 to 200 litres. There are two adult-size rear seats to boost practicality but you’re still faced with the choice of posing or carrying luggage. Not both.
Being a Volvo it’s also extremely safe. Pioneering side airbags specifically designed for the convertible C70 are backed up by active rollover hoops and a beefed up chassis which matches the tin top S40 for structural rigidity. It should be reasonably rare, too. Volvo estimates 3000 sales in a full year, which betters the old car’s annual record by over 800 but still makes it more exclusive than the Saab 9-3 and Audi A4 soft tops.
The C70 is refined and handsome. With warm but not blistering performance and so-so handling, it’s no sports car. Neither as brutal as a grade one or funky and spikey, the C70 is as conservative as a short back and sides. And to many, that will hit the spot nicely.