By Kevin Miller
As somebody who has owned Saab and Volvo cars for over a decade, I have become accustomed to both marques’ accommodating dealers who make service loaner vehicles available for all-day (and longer) service appointments. I’ve driven countless entry-level 9-3 and S60 sedans during service appointments. That being said, I was surprised to get a Volvo C70 hard-top convertible as a service loaner this week when I took my five-year-old V70 wagon in for some attention. When the V70 ended up staying overnight, I had the opportunity to spend some quality time behind the wheel of the C70.
All C70s in the US are equipped with a turbocharged five-cylinder engine making 227 HP, and this service loaner was predictably equipped with an automatic transmission, in this case Volvo’s Geartronic with five forward ratios and a manual shifting gate (but no steering wheel mounted paddles nor a sport mode). Setting away from the dealership in work attire, my size 13 dress shoes became repeatedly trapped under the brake pedal when I attempted to lift off of the accelerator. I have experienced the closely-spaced pedals before in Volvo’s related S40 and V50, I just find the pedals to be too close together.
Other than the too-close pedals, the interior is functionally laid out, though the dash-mounted key can be a bit clumsy to use. The C70 I drove had matte-finished wood on its signature “floating” center stack and center console, which I found very attractive. The driver’s seat was very comfortable, though adjusting it for my six-foot four-inch frame left so little room behind me that I couldn’t squeeze my fist between my seatback and the bottom cushion of the back seat.
The car’s retractable hardtop roof is finished inside with a nice gray fabric headliner, which very closely matches the gray interior upholstery and carpet, and the silver exterior of the loaner car. While the overall effect was a bit too gray for my taste, most materials were nice. I did find the armrest in the driver’s door to have very little padding- while it was upholstered in nice-looking leatherette, the surface was very hard.
Driving with the roof up, the C70 handled predictably and was pretty well balanced, though understeer was noticeable, and it was easy to spin the inside front tire when setting off around a corner. Visibility with the top up is quite good. The C70’s cabin was plenty quiet, though driving slowly over transitions such as into parking lots or over speed bumps caused noticeable creaking from the roof structure. Additionally, rattles were noticeable in the plastic dashboard and console trim around town and on the freeway. While some of this could be attributable to the fact that the service loaner may have had a hard life in its 14,500 miles, most owners will keep their cars for at least that long, and would be disappointed at both the creaking top structure and the rattling dash trim.
With the top up, trunk space is incredibly large. I was able to fit my two large equipment cases in the trunk with room for my computer bag, and there was plenty of space left over. The fact that the trunklid is quite long was a definite benefit for getting those large cases loaded; the Saab 9-3 convertible I reviewed last year wouldn’t take either of those cases, mostly because the trunk opening wasn’t big enough. The Jeep Compass SUV I reviewed earlier this month didn’t have enough room left for my computer bag after the two cases were in place, which really speaks to how much cargo capacity the C70 has.
Dropping the top, there is about enough room left in the trunk only for my computer bag, and it is accessed after raising the stowed top. All of that metal of the top being stowed in the trunk, though, has a negative effect on the C70’s handling. The weight of the top mechanism changes the demeanor of the car from a reasonably-fun coupe to flat-footed boulevardier. You know the sensation you get when the rear of a softly-sprung car “squats” as you accelerate from a stop? That senation is accentuated in driving with the C70′s top lowered. It’s still fun to drive, it just feels like there is a lot of junk in the trunk.
Additionally, dropping the top causes rigidity to decrease, causing that convertible bugaboo known as cowl shake to rear its head. It isn’t terrible by any means, but it is more noticeable than in the Saab 9-3. I remember reading in the C70’s press launch kit that rigidity is increased by some double-digit percentage when the top is raised; that fact is very noticeable when lowering the top after having driven with it closed.
With the top down and the windows open, the rear seatbelts flapped noisily in the wind; it probably would have been fixed easily enough by plugging them into their buckles. On an early morning drive with temperatures in the mid 40s (and the windows raised), the C70’s heater had a tough time keeping me warm at freeway speeds; the fan just didn’t’ blow hard enough to allow the warm air to reach me.
Since the C70′s launch, I’ve been a fan of its styling, whether the top is raised or lowered. the styling of the car’s top prevents it from suffering the long-tailed look that is common among cars with folding metal roofs, and the look with the top up is quite sleek and sporty. Because of the body lines (and their dark gaskets) associated with the top mechanism, the car looks best in dark colors. That said, the loaner car’s silver color really shows off the body’s split lines; darker colors of both exterior and interior help the C70 look much richer.
While I don’t see how it could make financial sense for a dealership to have the marque’s flagship convertible model in their service loaner fleet, I appreciated and enjoyed spending a couple of days driving the C70. It is a stylish coupe with a usable trunk, and it is a convertible when the weather is nice. While Saab’s 9-3 feels to me like a better pure convertible, drivers who park outside and endure real winter will appreciate the C70′s secure hardtop and sleek coupe looks when the top is up.
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