Some cars kind of smack you between the eyes, rocking you back on your heels with their brilliance and desirability.
The Aston Martin Vantage V8 fell into that category for us (it’s a real reason to buy a Big Wednesday Lotto ticket), as did the Ford Typhoon, Holden’s Monaro and Jaguar’s new XK.
Others’ impact is more subtle, growing day-by-day. Jaguar’s soon to be obsolete S-Type R fits into that category, as does the subject of this brief test, Volvo’s sublime C70 hardtop convertible.
Hardtop convertibles seem often to be at the poseur end of the automotive spectrum, among the “look-at-me, ain’t I cute? Just like my owner” products.
Jaded motoring hacks tend to approach coupe convertibles with a sense of “yeah, right,” a level of expectation that borders on the negative.
That’s why some rather good cars suffer bad press – Peugeot’s 307 CC is a case in point, a car better than some road tests would have you believe. So I wasn’t expecting a great deal from the C70, Volvo’s mid-sized, folding-roof convertible.
It turned out to be much better than I’d been expecting, with an impressive and appealing level of quality, clever design and total lack of pretension.
It’s quick enough without being a tar-melter: the five-cylinder 2.5-litre engine produces 162kW and 320Nm of torque which propels the car to 100km/h in around eight seconds and on to a 235km/h top speed.
That’s not bad for a car weighing 1726kg; nor is the average fuel consumption of 9.8 litres/100km on the combined cycle (Volvo’s figures; we achieved 10.4 in mixed running).
The engine drives the front wheels through an ultra-smooth five-speed automatic gearbox which has a manual shift function.
The C70 is a perfect boulevard cruiser, with the hood raised or lowered, the suspension firm enough to ensure crisp handling yet also delivering a comfortable ride.
Fine, you say: boulevard cruiser, just what we’d expect. But it was on the open road that the C70 really impressed us: the well-weighted steering offered good feel and the car turned into corners with precision and enthusiasm.
The level of grip, offered by the 235/40 R18 Y Pirelli tyres (on stylish 18-inch alloy wheels) was excellent, and the car pulled high g-forces and offered confidence-inspiring roadholding.
Though the acceleration doesn’t look that flash on paper, the car is quick enough in real world conditions, covering demanding roads at a good clip.
The seats offer excellent support during vigorous cornering: particularly welcome is the level of shoulder support which helps keep you firmly in place when the driving becomes enthusiastic.
It’s a Volvo, so safety kit is extensive – dynamic stability and traction control, ABS with EBD and emergency braking assistance on the active front. On the passive side are front airbags, door-mounted side curtain airbags, a side impact protection system that is much more than door beams, a whiplash protection system and rollover bars.
Add in features like leather upholstery, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, climate control air-conditioning with dial-up dual zones, and a six-disc CD player with 12 speakers and you’ve got a pretty comprehensive blend of practical and luxury features.
Perfection is elusive and – at its essence – illusory, depending as much on subjective response as on objective analysis.
There are things that aren’t perfect about the C70, but after a week with it, it came very close to achieving that elusive quality.
We’d be happy to have one in our garage which is the best compliment you can pay a car: if there’s a quiblle, it’s that maybe the $99,990 starting price seems on the high side.
– Mike Stock.