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Tested: Volvo's lithe C70

2007-04-19 08:12

Hailey Philander

Volvos are safe, yes, but traditionally also rather boring. Few cars are able to turn heads as effortlessly as the seductively stylish C70 convertible, though.

Cruising down Cape Town's bustling streets on a Saturday night with a babbling best friend beside me is something I've grown accustomed to over the years. But when a certain Miss G interrupts to yelp "Oh my God, your car must be hot since all the gay guys are checking it out!", that speaks volumes.

Thing is, there's very little able to stop a rampant Miss G once her mouth gets going. Also, she had just confirmed what I'd already realised about the C70. Its design is sublime and Volvo's signature style works wonderfully with the coupe's curves and lines.

What's it about?

C70 forms part of something that could probably be described as a Volvo-lution, along with the S40 and new C30 continually driving the brand towards a younger audience. (Whether a younger audience can easily afford this car is another matter - prices start at a startling R450 000.)

Features

Of course, if you're buying this car don't expect to be left with too much space for carting the goods required for your latest DIY project. Boot space is at a premium, though the individual leather-clad rear seats could hold a parcel or two.

A neat feature (with the roof down) is the bright yellow button on the bootlip that moves the roof stack upwards and allows you to slot a few things through the letter-sized opening. A quick toss into the back seat wins my vote, though. With its closed confines, it's unlikely you'll often have the chance to accommodate too many passengers anyway.

Other than that, features are more than adequate for a vehicle of this class with all the luxury equipment you would need - including heated seats and a powerful heating system for those unbelievable autumn mornings when a hardtop is a terrible waste.

Of course, Volvo's legendary minimalist interior with its slimline console is ideal in the C70, where is does not detract too much from the car's aesthetic qualities. Offset by stark black surrounds, this aluminium look is especially stylish though it was left somewhat scarred after the cabin was pelted by sand particles carried along on a particularly strong gust of wind. Not so cool...

Also, a big irritation was that the car needs to be completely stationery before attempting to operate the roof. The function itself is fairly easy - just choose one of the clearly marked buttons on the centre console and hold down until the information screen in the instrument panel proclaims the roof up or down. Simple!

Under the bonnet

There are other things about this car that are very cool. Apart from the dramatically folding roof, which is the obvious one, and all the attention it commands, there is also the awesome turbo-charged five-cylinder currently doing duty in a host PAG products.

The 2.5-litre kicks out power of 162 kW at 5 000 r/min and peak torque of 320 Nm at 4 800 r/min. This is more than enough power in this compact car, which at times even feels overpowered, particularly when hearing those front wheels protest on take-off.

Volvo claims an acceleration time to 100 km/h of 8 seconds, while top speed through the six-speed manual shifter is 240 km/h. Based on time spent with this car, I'm more than inclined to believe that.

Driving it

The Volvo we received for testing was not equipped with a wind deflector, so driving at speeds around the national limit became a bit of a battle between the machine and the elements. However, when travelling at speeds required for urban commuting, the wind play within the cabin was more than acceptable.

The amount of body flex at low speed was rather disconcerting at the start too, though the C70 does tend to tighten up the faster you go over those uneven road surfaces.

Another bonus of rapid travel is that, while going at full tilt with the sound of that T5 engine filling the air, it's easy to dismiss the resultant noise and otherwise irritating rattles from the panels as a necessary evil.

Pluses

Instant street appeal
Typical Volvo lines suit this car perfectly

Minuses

Keeping still while operating the roof

Verdict

Volvo SA has never had any intention of selling this car in large volumes (the pricing indicates this too), but if the C70 has been handed the job of brand ambassador, it does so admirably well.

Being required to operate without a roof poses a serious set of problems for the design and engineering team from any car manufacturer, but the C70 manages to scale these with a fair amount of charm and good looks. And of course, there's nothing wrong with that.

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