Great to drive, difficult to fault, and the most underrated luxury convertible on the market.
- 2009 Volvo C70 T5; 2.5-litre, five-cylinder, petrol; six-speed manual; convertible - $69,950
- Fitted: Heated front seats $325; Bluetooth $450; Blind Spot Information System (BLISS) $1,275
Punch the silk smooth and free revving 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged engine, and the C70 rewards you with an immediate response and a superb exhaust growl.
Volvo, quote 7.6 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint in the manual version and that surprises me, because with 320Nm of torque on call from just 1500-5000 rpm, this convertible feels sports car quick, with no let up in acceleration through all six forward gear ratios.
I’m driving the six-speed manual C70 T5, and if there is a smoother, quicker shifting transmission out there, I haven’t driven it.
Volvo offers a five-speed Geartronic (automatic) transmission as a no cost option but, if you can drive a stick shift, do yourself a favour and enjoy the manual.
While the first generation C70 T5 was only just reasonable when it came to handling, the current model has twice its torsional rigidity and that’s evident from the moment you take the first bend.
There’s not a lot of body roll as I turn in sharply, and I can tell you that I’m hard on the right pedal.
For such a spacious and luxurious convertible, I’m pleasantly surprised by the C70 T5’s 1683 kilograms, as I expected it to weigh a little more, given the standard specifications.
That’s probably why I experienced no brake fade whatsoever, down the steep decent to Kangaroo Valley in the Southern Highlands in NSW, where the smell of cooked discs normally extinguishes the scent of the local wildflowers.
I found the brake pedal feel to be progressive, but never grabby like some.
Oddly enough, in twenty-five years of buying and selling countless vehicles, I’ve only ever owned one convertible, a pristine 1975 Alfa Romeo 2.0 Spider, which had strong a connection to the Sydney underworld.
When I called the telephone number in the paper to make an appointment to view the car, the address was a church in Sydney’s colourful Kings Cross, and the guy selling it, was an Anglican minister.
You see the non-standard Ferrari red Alfa, had been a gift from a mob boss to his mistress, who had unfortunately slammed the car into a pole one week after taking delivery.
As the minister of the cloth carefully unveiled the car, panel-by-panel, I had to stop myself screaming for joy, as it looked like it had just come off the showroom floor, inside and out. It had been completely rebuilt from the ground up, and sprayed in a nicer red than the original.
The asking price was $10,500, I offered $10,000 and I paid $10,500. At least I could say it went to a good cause.
This was 1985, and I had just picked up the bargain of the century. It was also my first prestige car and I’d borrowed the lot from the bank.
Like all Alfas built in the 60’s and 70’s era, they handled well, went hard, and in the spider’s case, were the envy of many.
I must have hit the jackpot too, as this Alfa Romeo didn’t cost me a cent over the two years I owned it, and that included a whopping 400kms on the clock, each week. Moreover, there wasn’t a spec of rust to be found anywhere throughout the car.
The problem was, I was getting married and needed fast cash, so the spider had to go. It was a heartbreaking moment of cold reality, and one of those times when you wish your parents were filthy rich, meaning, I could keep the car and get married too.
More importantly though, we intended on starting a family immediately, so there was absolutely no justification to hold on to my pride and joy, or so I was told.
The point of this digression was that in those days, a proper four-seat convertible with performance to boot, wasn’t even thought of, let alone built.
But this is 2009, and plenty has changed since the good old days.
If you’re still single and driving a drop top, chances are you’ll be able to hold on to your car, regardless of whether you tie the knot and have kids.
But here’s where Volvo’s C70 cabriolet starts to shine a little brighter amongst some very stiff competition from Germany.
For starters, it’s a practical four-seat convertible, meaning room for four large adults who can sit back in relative comfort with plenty of elbowroom between them.
All too often, convertibles are designed with token respect for rear seat passengers, with lanky, long-legged teenagers and arthritic grand parents, suffering the most pain.
Another big plus with the C70, is only realised when the roof is raised in coupe mode, and your 190cm tall friends in the rear seats won’t have to sit with their heads cocked forward in a permanent prayer position, such is the abundance of head and legroom back there.
What’s more, the rear seats are just as comfortable as the front pews. Put that down to Volvo’s anatomically correct seat design, and their choice of super supple leather trim.
That said the C70 actually looks smaller than it really is, which is down to design traits such as the transverse mounted engine (rather than longitudinal), which allows for a short front overhang and excellent crash protection due to an extended crumple zone.
It’s not a beautiful car, but it’s certainly an attractive design, which has definite on-road presence.
Renowned Italian design studio Pininfarina, was a joint venture partner in the C70 project, and were largely responsible for the clever roof design, which although relatively slow to deploy and retract (30 seconds), sets the car apart from other cars in this open air class, with its structural rigidity and complete lack of any movement or shimmy over Sydney’s medium grade potholes.
There are a host of benefits associated with folding metal roofs over the traditional soft top, such as security, structural integrity and the clean, coupe like styling when the roof is raised
The downside is that all that extra metal hardware is considerably heavier than the fabric roof and moreover it has to be stowed somewhere. That somewhere, is usually in the boot where space is seriously compromised whenever you decide to drop the top.
Now while that’s also true of the C70, there’s still plenty of room under the stowed roof for two reasonably sized soft bags. With the roof up though, the boot space increases dramatically to 400 litres.
If you’re looking at the C70 as your daily ride to the office during the peak hour madness, then you’re in for a special treat.
Volvo calls it the “Premium Sound AM/FM radio, 12 Dynaudio speakers” and it's standard kit on the C70 T5, but believe me, it’s much, much, more than the above description would have you believe.
Put simply, you won’t find an audio system of this calibre in a car in this class, regardless of how much you are prepared to spend on the options list. The fact that it’s a standard bit of kit is even more remarkable.
The clarity and power delivered by this 910 W system is staggering; and it doesn’t seem to matter whether the roof is up or down, the sound is just as impressive.
Inside the C70 is a nice place to be, as the materials and finish, are top shelf.
Volvo’s minimalist approach to interior design means that you won’t find any switchgear clutter, but you will need to browse through their options list if you want technology such as Satellite Navigation.
The world over knows that Volvo wrote the book on automotive safety, so as expected, the C70 is fitted with an encyclopaedic inventory of passive and active safety devices including; Side Impact Protection System (SIPS), Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS) and Rollover Protection System (ROPS).
Even with the roof down, the Inflatable Curtain (IC) is designed to inflate and protect the driver in the event of a side impact while the Roll Over Protection System (ROPS) protects passengers in a roll over.
But driver and passenger safety underpins each and every Volvo, and runs a lot deeper than simply installing safety devices in order to collect crash test ratings stars; it’s about the structural integrity they build into their cars from the chassis up.
For example, the Hydro-formed A-pillars in extra high strength steel working with ROPS bars, seat belt pretensioners and door mounted inflatable curtains, provide better roll over protection.
Even the body structure is further developed with reinforced sides to effectively channel the forces backwards in a frontal impact.
You probably haven’t heard of BLISS (Blind Spot Information System), but its on the options list, and I highly recommend you tick that box.
Under each side mirror, there is a small camera facing rearwards, which monitors blind spots caused by the B and C pillars. When an object is detected in that zone, a small orange warning light is activated to warn you. It’s simple enough, yet very effective.
Volvo’s C70 T5 is unquestionably a luxury convertible, which represents a lot of car for $69,950 although, if you don’t need the extra performance of the T5 model, then the C70 S at $59,950, is equally good value.
The 2010 MY C70 will be arriving in Australia in March 2010, but prices are unlikely to remain in the line with the current range.
*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer.
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