10.30.2008

Volvo C70 Review



They say the third time's a charm. Well, Volvo got it right in just two tries.

One of the first press events I attended as a professional TireKicker was 10 years ago and it was the launch of the first-generation Volvo C70 convertible. I was prepared to be impressed. A premium convertible with Volvo's legendary safety and structural integrity.

During the half-day drive through Central Arizona, I thought I must have gotten a bad one that slipped through. When we met for lunch at The Royal Palms Resort in Phoenix, 25 journalists compared notes on 25 identical test cars. Six words summed it up:

"It shakes like a wet dog."

Cowl shake is the common enemy of convertibles. Cut off the top of a car, and you give up a bunch of structural rigidity. It shows up in the cowl...the area where the windshield and the hood meet...and it telegraphs into the steering column. And the '99 C70, otherwise a very desirable car, had it bad.

Flash forward a decade and slide behind the wheel of the '09 C70. A lot of changes here. First of all, it's now a retractable hardtop, not a ragtop. Strong and shake-free. But the remarkable thing is how solid it is with the top down. Volvo knew what needed to be done and did it.

There's also ten years worth of tech improvements in this car, which goes faster, gets better mileage (18 city, 26 highway), possesses better-than-average handling and benefits from Volvo's huge leaps in interior design. Fine leather and real wood...Nordic Oak, no less.

The $39,240 base price gets you an exceptionally well-equipped vehicle, with a turbocharged 2.5 liter 5-cylinder engine good for 227 horsepower mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The test vehicle I drove stepped up the content with metallic paint ($475), the Dynaudio Package ($1,550 for 130 watts per channel of surround sound Dolby ProLogic II with subwoofer), an automatic transmission ($1,250, and given how good the manual was in the C30, I'd be temped to pass and shift it myself), and $750 worth of 18-inch alloy wheels.

Bottom line: $44,010. Not cheap, but in line for a premium convertible with style, substance and...solidity.

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