Volvo C70

Debut: 2006
Maker: Volvo
Predecessor: C70 (1996)
Exactly 10 years ago, Volvo introduced its first real coupe for 30 years, C70. The C70 was developed by TWR based on Volvo 850 / S70 saloon. It looked quite handsome and, in turbocharged T5 form, ran quite fast. However, what made it unique was a cabin truly capable of sitting 4 adults. Two forms were available - coupe and convertible. Both of them were produced at the Uddevalla plant in Sweden which was a 50-50 joint-venture between TWR and Volvo. Throughout the years, the sales was quite good and enduring. When TWR was struck by financial problem in 2000 (which eventually led to its death), Volvo not only did not give up the car, but acquired the remaining share of the plant. When C70 ceased production in early 2005, over 70,000 cars had been produced.

In late 2004, one thing caught my attention: Volvo sold 60% of the Uddevalla plant to Pininfarina. Now we understand why: Pininfarina had been chosen as the new partner to develop and produce the second generation C70. Why did it choose Pininfarina ? because Pininfarina has expertise in retractable roof systems through its link with German supplier Webasto, which made the retractable roof for Daihatsu Copen. Readers of AutoZine might remember I reported Webasto and Pininfarina set up a joint-venture called "Oasis" to make roof systems. It is this company that develops and builds the retractable roof for Volvo C70, as well as the forthcoming Pontiac G6 and Volkswagen Eos.

So, the first thing you notice on the new C70 is the roof. It is quite a sophisticated piece of mechatronics. Being the world's first retractable roof for a 4-seater, it splits into 3 pieces - two pieces for the horizontal roof panel and one for the C-pillars and rear window. In this way, the roof can be longer than those 2-piece systems adopted by Peugeot 307CC and Renault Megane CC yet easily fit into a regular-size trunk. Look at the cramped rear headroom and odd-looking long tail of the French cars and you will see the benefits of Volvo's 3-piece system.

Press a button, the roof opens and stores into the trunk in about 30 seconds. Now one car serves the two roles previously played by C70 coupe and C70 convertible. No matter in Californian sunshine or Swedish snow winter, the new C70 is equally enjoyable.

From the S40-like appearance, you can see the new C70 is built on the S40 platform instead of the mid-size Volvo platform (Theoretically, it should be renamed to C40, shouldn't it?). Basically, from A-pillars forward it is almost identical to the S40, although tape measure will find it got 50mm wider, 110mm longer and 52mm lower. Its windscreen angle got noticeably faster to deliver a sportier image. Despite of the open roof, Volvo strengthened its windscreen pillars and side sills to achieve the same chassis rigidity as the sedan, or doubled from the old C70 Convertible. But the reinforcement and the sophisticated roof are by no means lightweight - they brought an extra 200 kg to the kerb weight. At 1600kg-plus, the C70 is a lot heavier than its compact size suggested.

Inside, the cabin shares exactly the same dashboard and "floating console" with S40, which is tasteful but probably a little unexciting for a coupe. The front seats have plenty of space but the rear legroom is a little shorter than the old C70, though it is slightly better than BMW 3-series Cabriolet and Audi A4 Cabriolet. Overall, average size adults still fit the rear seats with reasonable comfort.

Volvo offers four of the S40 engines to the C70: 140hp 2.4 straight-5 10V, 170hp 2.4 straight-5 20V, 220hp 2.5 straight-5 turbo for the T5 model and 180hp 2.4 straight-5 turbo diesel for the D5 model. The heavy weight means even the flagship T5 is not as quick as we hoped for. It does 0-60 in 7.2 seconds, about half a second slower than the old C70 T5 and the equivalent S40 T5. Nevertheless, the VVT-equipped low-pressure turbocharged engine produces a flat torque curve which matches the relaxed driving manner of C70.

On the road, the T5 rides comfortably on most surfaces, thanks to a stiff chassis and civilized suspension setup. The steering is well isolated from road irregularities, once again promote the relaxed driving manner. However, the C70 also is rather dull to drive. There is not much feedback from the steering and from the chassis response. Instead, there is a mild understeer at the limit and a touch torque steer at tight corners. While its dynamics is no worse than Audi A4 Cabriolet, Saab 9-3 Convertible and Mercedes CLK convertible, it does not match BMW 3-Series convertible.

However, neither cars provide the same level of safety as C70. Like all other Volvos, the C70 is designed to achieve 5-star Euro NCAP crash protection rating, thanks to a thin engine which enables a larger than usual crumple zone. Behind the seats there are two metal hoops which pop up to protect the passengers from rollover. Besides, it has the world's first side curtain airbags for an open-top car, which inflate upwards to protect the passenger's heads in case of lateral collision. Of course, Volvo's trademark anti-whiplash seats are installed as standard. It is safety that really mark out the C70 from its competitors.
The above report was last updated on 17 Feb 2006. All Rights Reserved.


General remarks

C70 2.4
C70 T5

Front-engined, FWD
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
Mainly steel
Length / width / height 4580 / 1820 / 1400 mm 4580 / 1820 / 1400 mm
Wheelbase 2640 mm 2640 mm
2435 cc
2521 cc
Valve gears
DOHC 20 valves
DOHC 20 valves, VVT

Other engine features

Max power
170 hp 220 hp
Max torque
170 lbft 236 lbft
5-speed manual
6-speed manual
Suspension layout
F: strut
R: multi-link
F: strut
R: multi-link

Suspension features
Tyres front/rear

Kerb weight
1617 kg
1636 kg

Top speed
137 mph (c)
149 mph (c)

0-60 mph (sec)
8.6 (c)
7.2 (c) / 7.5* / 7.3**

0-100 mph (sec)
18.9* / 18.9**

Performance tested by: *R&T, **C&D

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