The 1999 Volvo C70 Convertible is now available with a 236 horsepower 2.3 litre five cylinder engine with twin ‘high-pressure’ turbochargers, in addition to the standard 2.4 litre ‘low-pressure’ turbocharged engine. Prices for this upscale ragtop start at $58,995.
Stylish drop-top gets more power for ’99
The Volvo C70 Convertible is Volvo’s first open-air automobile since the 1956 Volvo Sport. Volvo chose not to build convertibles for safety reasons, but improved technical and safety standards “made it possible to enjoy safer open air motoring..”, says Volvo.
The C70 Convertible was introduced in the middle of 1998, and is one of four upscale, four-passenger convertibles available in Canada. The others are the Mercedes-Benz CLK 320 Cabriolet, the BMW 318ic/323ic/328ic Cabriolet, and the Saab 9-3 Convertible.
The C70 Convertible is based on the C70 Coupe introduced a year earlier. Both the Coupe and Convertible share the same front-wheel-drive platform as the S70 sedan, the successor to the enormously successful 850 sedan first introduced in 1993.
In its first year, the Volvo C70 Convertible was offered with a 190 horsepower 2.4 litre five cylinder engine with a ‘low pressure’ turbocharger and continuously variable valve timing. This year, it’s also available with a 236 horsepower 2.3 litre five cylinder powerplant with twin ‘high pressure’ turbochargers, the same high-performance engine offered in the C70 Coupe, S70 T5 sedan, V70 T5 sedan and V70 AWD R wagon.
The base ‘low-pressure turbo’ C70 Convertible comes with a standard 4-speed automatic transmission, but for 1999, the ‘high-pressure turbo’ model comes with a standard 5-speed manual transmission and optional 4-speed automatic transmission.
For this road test, I drove the base model with the 190 horsepower engine. Despite being a ‘base’ model, the 2.4 litre five cylinder engine has plenty of horsepower for this size of car. Its turbocharged 2.4 litre five cylinder motor has a continuous power curve which launches you back in your seat, and lets out a mild growl under hard acceleration. But at highway cruising speeds, it’s a smooth, quiet powertrain – it has so much low-end torque that it doesn’t have to rev very high and therefore never gets very noisy. At 100 km/h in top gear, the engine is doing just 2000 rpm.
In my test-drive, the four-speed automatic transmission performed seamlessly and features a Winter Mode (starts in 3rd gear) for accelerating in icy Winter conditions. Stability and Traction Control is also available as an option on both base and high-performance models.
Handling is excellent for a mid-size, front-wheel-drive car. Volvo has done an excellent job of countering the inherent front weight bias of the C70 – the C70 Convertible corners with poise and stability and has very high limits. However, at the limit, its front-drive nature becomes apparent, and that’s when you might appreciate the balanced handling of rear-drivers like the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz CLK 320. Still, it’s unlikely very many Volvo drivers will ever drive the C70 at its limits.
The only fault I noticed was some lateral shake in the steering column when travelling over rough roads or potholes. This is a problem with many convertibles.
The Volvo C70 convertible is, in my opinion, the most attractive upscale 2+2 convertible on the market today. Though it has almost the same front-end styling as the Volvo S70, the overall harmony of its design from just about any angle, particularly the rear three-quarter angle, is extremely well-executed.
It’s interesting to note that all the luxury 2+2 convertibles in this segment are built by European manufacturers. C70 Coupes and Convertibles are built in Udevalla, Sweden in conjunction with a British specialty firm, Tom Walkinshaw Racing.
The C70’s well-equipped leather interior has room for four passengers, rather than five. Front passengers have plenty of legroom and headroom, and surprisingly, rear passengers have adequate legroom and headroom too. In addition, rear passengers have their own rear power windows and power window switches – unuusal for this type of car. All four seats have three-point seatbelts with emergency pretensioners, and height-adjustable head restraints.
As you might expect in a convertible, the trunk is small because of the need to store the top in a well behind the rear seats. Still, there’s enough room for five or six grocery bags.
The C70’s power top is almost fully automatic. With the transmission in Park, the handbrake engaged, and the push of a button, the C70’s fully-lined convertible top unlatches itself, lowers, and stores under a hard vinyl boot in about 30 seconds. When lowered, the top is hidden under an attractive, plastic boot which lies flush with the surface of the trunk.
An optional wind deflector can be positioned behind the front seats to reduce wind buffeting. It works extremely well, reducing both wind buffeting and wind noise. I was able to carry on a normal conversation with my passenger at speeds of over 100 km/h. However, there’s no room for rear passengers with the deflector in place.
When the fully-lined top is up, the C70 is almost as quiet as the Coupe. But, as is typical in convertibles, rear three-quarter visibility is restricted because of a comparatively small, rear glass window.
Behind the rear seats are two, pop-up bars that automatically extend in the event of a rollover. In addition, the front windscreen frame has been strengthened for rollover protection. Other standard safety features on C70 Convertibles include dual front airbags, SIPS (side impact protection system), and four head restraints. C70’s do not have side airbags or Volvo’s new Whiplash Protection System in the front seats.
1999 C70 Convertibles start at $58,995 for the 2.4 litre model and $63,995 for the 2.3 litre model. Standard equipment on all C70 Convertibles includes alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock brakes, leather upholstery, dual zone climate control, power heated driver and passenger seats, AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo, remote keyless entry and anti-theft system. All Volvos are covered by a 4 yr/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty.
As well as being a very handsome automobile, the C70 Convertible is wider than the Mercedes-Benz CLK 320, BMW 3-Series, and Saab 9-3, and the interior is roomier. While the CLK 320 and 328ic have smoother six cylinder engines, the five cylinder C70 doesn’t lack for power, particularly the ‘high-pressure turbo’ model. Price-wise, the C70 Convertible is cheaper than the CLK 320 and about the same as the 328ic and 9-3.
If you’re going to spend this kind of money on a luxury convertible, I recommend you drive them all. Each has its own particular character and appeal.