Pros: Tasteful exterior styling; cool cabin; retractable hardtop peace of mind; world-class front seats
Cons: Low on power; 5-speed automatic transmission and navigation system are past their prime
What's New: No major changes
The 2013 Volvo C70 is not the latest and greatest product on the market, but it is quite appealing thanks to its timeless virtues. Indeed, when it appeared for 2006 with its sleek design and spacious interior, it was very likable and had the security of its then-novel 3-piece hardtop. Seven years later, we still 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. This is especially true in Inscription form, which features certain upscale touches inside and out.
That said, the C70 model's weaknesses are clear and entirely age related. Its optional navigation system looks like it's from, well, 2006 and the mandatory 5-speed automatic is a slow mover. Also, while 227 turbocharged horsepower is entirely adequate, it is hardly soul-stirring these days and makes the C70 close to the back of the retractable hardtop pack.
But our appreciation for the C70 remains intact. Convertibles are all about enjoying the drive, and we have always enjoyed ourselves in a C70.
Comfort & Utility
The 2013 Volvo C70 is offered in base, Premier Plus and Premier Platinum versions; a dressy Inscription package introduced last year also continues into 2013.
The base C70 T5 ($41,200) comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels (18-in are optional), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, a tilting/telescoping steering column, cruise control, a trip computer, dual-zone automatic climate control and an 8-speaker audio system with iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity. Next up the ladder is the T5 Premier Plus ($42,400) which adds keyless entry/ignition, rear parking sensors and a compass for the rearview mirror. The T5 Platinum ($45,000) tacks on a 650-watt Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound audio system and a navigation system. The Inscription package ($3,900) brings a slight power boost, xenon headlamps (optional on all C70 models), special 18-in wheels, a leather-covered dashboard and some exclusive styling cues.
From the driver's seat, the C70 model'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 gorgeous optional light-toned wood inlay. We even like Volvo's trademark lettering that the company has used for years on its gauges and buttons. With interiors increasingly being built around iPad-sized 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 pictogram-style climate control but demerits for the horrid navigation system, which we'll get to shortly. Also, no manufacturer does seats quite as well as Volvo. You have to sit in them to believe them.
Trunk capacity in the C70 is incredible -- at least with the top up, when a useful 12.8 cu ft swallow suitcases of all sizes. With the 3-piece top stacked like a club sandwich in the trunk however, available space drops to just 6 cu ft, so plan accordingly if you're going on a trip. You can always put your suitcases in the huge backseats when your friends -- even 6-foot tall friends -- aren't sunning themselves back there.
As we now expect at this price point, the C70 comes standard with iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and it has automatic climate control as well. The question is, should you ante up for the top-of-the-line Premier Platinum model just to get the optional navigation system? We say no, since the flip-up navigation screen lives on top of the dash and not within arms reach, touchscreen-style, like most other systems on the market. 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 enjoy the money you save. That said, the Platinum comes with an awesome 650-watt sound system, so if tunes are important to you, the upgrade may be worth it.
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 Inscription edition, which bumps up the boost to 250 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. A 5-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 whooping in a drag race. Fuel economy is adequate at 18 miles per gallon city/28 mpg highway.
The 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 (IIHS) awarded the C70 its top rating of Good in every category except roof strength, which was not tested in the C70 model's case.
The C70 is well nigh perfect for those warm, sunny days when you just want to put the top down and cruise. While it can handle corners, it can't necessarily carve them. The C70's light steering, supple ride and deliberate transmission conspire to make a relaxed drive seem more appealing. It also feels heavy (because it is heavy, thanks to that complicated retractable roof structure), so you'll be working the turbo engine pretty hard if you need to hustle. 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: The IS hardtop convertible from Lexus is based on that company's venerable IS sedan. The convertible is available in two strengths, 204-hp IS250C ($42,610) and 306-hp IS350C ($46,890). We like the Volvo's styling better, but the IS350C has a fantastic V6.
Infiniti G37 Convertible: Trunk space is virtually nil in Infiniti's hastily engineered G37 hardtop convertible ($47,900), but once you feel (and hear) all 325 hp from the 3.7-liter V6, you might not care. It is also available with a delightful 6-speed manual transmission, in case you like to do the shifting yourself.
Volkswagen Eos: Whereas the Lexus and Infiniti have rear-wheel drive, the VW Eos ($34,350) has front-wheel drive, just like the Volvo. Its turbocharged inline-4 makes less power than the C70's inline-5. The Eos is also the only one with a glass-paneled retractable hardtop.
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-in wheels and a sportier steering wheel. Convertibles are often reward purchases, and if that describes you, the Insignia package offers a sense of occasion that may justify the extra $3,900.
What do you think of the new C70? Let us know in the comments below.