Pros: Tasteful exterior styling; cool cabin; retractable-hardtop security; character-rich turbocharged inline-5 engine; world-class front seats
Cons: Down on power; five-speed automatic transmission and navigation system are past their primes
The 2012 Volvo C70 is one of those cars that we're supposed to criticize because it's not the latest and greatest product on the market. That's right, the C70 hasn't been redesigned lately. In fact, it dates back to-gasp-2006! But never mind what we're supposed to do, because we genuinely like this car. There's a sense of simplicity and honesty about it that really appeals. If you don't care about the latest gee-whiz technology and just want a sleek convertible with a retractable hard top and an interior that offers equal parts comfort and beauty, the C70 remains a lovely option after all these years.
We tipped our hand there, of course. The C70's weaknesses are clear and entirely age related. Its optional navigation system looks like it's from, well, 2006, and the mandatory five-speed automatic shifts like it's from at least that long ago. Also, while 227 turbocharged horsepower may have sounded pretty good in 2006 (it was actually 218 horsepower back then), these days it puts the C70 toward the back of the retractable-hardtop pack.
But our appreciation for the C70 remains intact. Convertibles are all about enjoying the drive, and we would always enjoy ourselves in the 2012 Volvo C70.
Comfort & Utility
The 2012 Volvo C70 is offered in base, Premier Plus and Premier Platinum versions. For a limited time, there's also an Inscription trim level. The base model comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels (18s are optional), an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, leather upholstery, a tilt-telescopic steering column, cruise control, a trip computer, dual-zone automatic climate control, and an eight-speaker audio system with iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity. The Premier Plus adds keyless entry/ignition, rear parking sensors, and a compass for the rear-view mirror, while the Platinum tacks on a 650-watt Dolby Pro Logic II surround-sound audio system and a navigation system. The limited-edition Inscription offers extra power, xenon headlamps (optional on other C70s), special 18-inch wheels, a leather dashboard and some exclusive styling cues.
From the driver's seat, the C70's cockpit honestly hasn't aged a day. You could make an Ikea display out of it back in 2006, and the same is true six years later. The signature "floating" center control panel continues to please our eyes, especially with the optional light-toned wood inlay, and we even like the unusual font that Volvo has used for years on its gauges and buttons. With interiors increasingly being built around iPad-size display screens and other high-tech bits, it's refreshing to sit down in a cabin that's designed in minimalist fashion. Ergonomics are excellent for the most part-extra-credit points for the climate control system's humanoid air-flow controls-although the navigation system has issues, which we'll get to shortly.
Trunk capacity in the C70 is a tale of two states. In the top-up state, there's a useful 12.8-cubic-foot trunk; in the top-down state, however, the available space drops to just 6.0 cubic feet, so plan accordingly if you're going on a trip.
As we now expect at this price point, the C70 comes standard with iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and it's got automatic climate control as well. The question is, should you ante up for the top-of-the-line Premier Platinum model in order to get the optional navigation system? Our answer would be a firm "No." The flip-up navigation screen lives on top of the dash, for one thing, so it's already reminiscent of a portable navigation unit as opposed to being integrated into the center panel. Also, the system is controlled by buttons that are placed out of sight behind the steering wheel spokes, so you have to operate by feel. Furthermore, the graphics are basic-even a Garmin looks better these days. We'd recommend sticking with your smartphone for navigation duties and enjoying the money you save.
Performance & Fuel Economy
Every C70 is equipped with front-wheel drive and a turbocharged inline-5 engine rated at 227 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque-unless you get the limited-run Inscription edition, which bumps up the boost to 250 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard across the board. The automatic is rather sluggish by current standards, and luxury cars typically have at least six speeds these days. But we like the inline-5's distinctive sound and healthy turbocharged passing punch, even if rival engines from BMW, Infiniti and Lexus would give it a good whupping in a drag race. Fuel economy is adequate at 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway.
The 2012 Volvo C70 comes with standard stability control and six airbags. The government has not crash-tested a C70 lately, but the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the S60 its top rating of Good in every category except roof strength, which was not tested in the C70's case.
The C70 is well nigh perfect for those warm, sunny days when you just want to put the top down and cruise. That's not to say that it can't handle a corner, but the C70's light steering, supple ride and deliberate transmission conspire to make a relaxed drive seem more appealing. Put the top up, and the C70 rewards you with coupe-like isolation from the elements, as well as coupe-like security when you're away from the car. It's a well-engineered car, and you'll appreciate that anew every time you go for a spin.
Other Cars to Consider
Lexus IS250C / IS350C - Lexus's newest hardtop convertible is a two-door version of the venerable IS sedan, which has been around about as long as the C70. We like the Volvo's styling better, but the IS350C has a fantastic V6.
Infiniti G37 Convertible - Trunk space is virtually nil in this hastily engineered hardtop convertible, but once you feel all 325 horsepower from the 3.7-liter V6, you might not care.
Volkswagen Eos - Whereas the Lexus and Infiniti has rear-wheel drive, the VW has front wheel drive, just like the Volvo. Its turbocharged inline-4 makes less power than the C70's inline-5. Pricing is the VW's strongest suit in this company.
Volvos are quite well equipped these days in standard form, and the C70 is no exception. We'd opt for a regular C70 with the Dynamic Package, which adds xenon headlamps, sexy 18-inch wheels and a sportier steering wheel.