2011 Volvo C70 T5 Road Test Review

John Birchard - CAP staff
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If you have an interest in the global nature of today's auto industry, look no further than this headline: "Li Shufu to Become Chairman of the Board at Volvo Car Corporation." One of the two Swedish carmakers (Saab being the other) has been absorbed by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., Ltd., described as "one of the fastest-growing car manufacturers in China." Mr. Li's chairmanship is now effective with the completion of the acquisition of Volvo from Ford Motor Company in a 1.56 billion dollar (CAD) deal.
The press release announcing the new Chairman included the following: "Under the change of ownership, Volvo Cars will remain headquartered in Gothenburg, Sweden, with management autonomy to execute its business plan."

Maybe. Maybe not.

Things have a way of changing when the dust settles. In the meantime, Volvo continues to produce cars and I've just spent a week with one of them, the 2011 C70 retractable hard-top convertible.

The C70 is a car I want to like. It has a sort of understated beauty in its lines. The look is modern, yet timeless. The update borrowed from the S60 Concept, primarily the longer headlight enclosures and revised grille and hood, add to its beauty. Long gone are the days of the square-edged box. But by removing the roof, Volvo had to add weight to stiffen the chassis to avoid the infamous cowl shake. Those extra pounds (500 pounds or 227 kilos heavier than the S40 it's based on) also reduce the car's agility and don't help in the fuel economy department. But the car looks good with the retractable hard-top up or down. When the top is up, the cabin is quiet. When it's down, you will need the dealer-installed wind deflector. Without it, you will personify the wind-blown look.

Also, when the top is down, don't expect much luggage space. The folding top disappears into the trunk in 30 seconds. Since the rear seats of the C70 are a tight squeeze in the best of circumstances, you might as well use them for luggage.

The C70 is configured as a front-wheel drive vehicle with a transverse-mounted, 2.5-litre, five-cylinder turbocharged engine making 227 horsepower at 5,000 rpm. The inline engine is hooked to a five-speed automatic transmission. Performance cannot be described as "blazing" -- perhaps "adequate" is more like it. The EPA says the C70 is good for a metric equivalent of 12.3 L/100km in city traffic and a solid 8.4 on the highway (11.4 and 7.6 respectively on the always more optimistic Canadian cycle). Premium gas is recommended.

Swedish cars have long been admired for their supportive, comfortable seats and their attention to matters of safety. The Volvo C70 maintains the tradition. The front seats are well-padded and head and leg room are adequate for tall folks. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes. Fit and finish is very good and most controls are self explanatory. Direct sunlight washes out the radio display. Visibility could be better, due to thick "A" pillars, a low back window and tall head restraints.

The lengthy list of safety features includes dynamic stability control, curtain side impact head protection, as well as the usual airbag array. Whiplash protection for driver and front-seat passenger is standard and twin steel rollbars pop up for protection in a rollover.

A $750 option is the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS). Two small, rear-facing cameras are located beneath the side mirrors. When one or both detect a vehicle in the blind areas up to ten feet from the side of your car and up to approximately 9.4 meters (31 feet) behind the side mirror, an indicator light on the door panel illuminates. The light will glow continuously to alert the driver to the vehicle in the blind area until it passes or drops back. You can turn the device on or off with a button on the centre console.

Past versions of the C70 have done well in government and insurance industry crash tests and there's no expectation that this one will come up short.

Operation of the three-piece hard-top takes just one easy step. Press a button on the centre console. That's it. Half a minute later, the electric motors stop whirring and all components are in place and buttoned up. Getting into and out of the back seat in the C70 is something of a struggle when the top is down. I didn't have the courage to try it with the top erected.

Despite its slick looks, the C70 is not light on its feet. A curb weight topping out at over two tons will do that. Handling is stable but stolid. The optional sport steering wheel is leather-covered with an aluminum inlay. It's thick and pleasing to the touch -- except when the car has been sitting in the summer sun. The aluminum gets so hot it can burn your fingers. The ride is rather stiff. With the top up, the cabin is reasonably quiet. The test car, which came in an attractive Flamenco Red metallic, featured a leather-accented interior.

Despite the visual impact of the striking paint job, the handsome alloy wheels and the aggressive grille, the C70 turned very few heads during my week of motoring. It's almost as if the car were invisible, although raising and lowering the top did cause a few folks to stop and stare.

The base price of a Volvo C70 T5 is $54,495. Tack on the options found on the test vehicle – the Audio Package which includes a Dynaudio premium sound system with a 6-disc CD changer and a dozen speakers ($2,000); the Luxury Package that includes dual xenon gas discharge headlights, rain sensor, an auto dimming rearview mirror, retractable side-view mirrors with puddle lights, and proximity sensing keyless entry with push-button start ($2,700); and standalone options such as the 18-inch "Mirzam" alloy wheels ($1,250), navigation system ($2,500); and then add to that the Blind Spot Information System previously mentioned ($750), metallic paint ($790) and destination charge ($1,715) and the bottom line swells to $65,410.

If you are shelling out over $65,000 for a car, you no doubt want value for your money. For a similar price, you can choose from a couple of excellent hard-top convertibles, both sportier than the Swede. A similarly-equipped BMW 328i hardtop convertible goes for roughly the same price. A Mercedes-Benz SLK has an MSRP of $59,900.

But if "sporty" is not your primary focus, the Volvo is a comfortable cruiser with numerous safety features. It looks good. It's comfortable for two. Gas mileage is not bad. It's well put together and the interior has that clean Scandinavian design. It's not the obvious choice in this class, but it's a reasonable choice.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Convertible, Volvo, 2011, C70, $50,000 - $74,999,

Organizations: Volvo

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