Test driving cars is truly a lot of fun and only over the past couple of years has it become regular content on HighTechDad.com. For me, I believe that cars are an important part of the family dynamic. They can be both utilitarian but also define the family persona. There may be one car that you use to do the food shopping and a different one that you take on vacation. Many times the vehicle’s functionality or style defines how the vehicle will be used.
But then there is the car that, by itself, creates it own aura and feeling when you drive it. Our family found that the 2012 Volvo C70 Convertible made us feel like we were on vacation every time we lowered the top and headed off down the road. We loved the feeling that the C70 gave us so much, that my wife and I got into fights over who would get to drive it for the day. I’ll be you can guess who won! It wasn’t me!
But I did spend enough time behind the wheel to understand why she fell in love with the C70. Driving around with the top down is liberating and invigorating. It makes you feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your head just a bit differently.
Many years ago, my wife and I were looking to get a used Volvo XC70 wagon with the “tailgunner” seat (as I have always called it). But then we had 3 children and realized that it would be more practical to have a mini van. Even well before kids were in the picture, we had a convertible when we honeymooned in Maui. So the combination of safety, style and elegance coupled with the ability to “go topless” was truly appealing.
Can you tell that for us, the Volvo C70 was really a match made in heaven? However, I am going to start with the disadvantages. For starters, the C70 only seats 4 people. There isn’t even an option to have 3 people in the back, only two. This is common for convertibles these days. I believe the only way to get a 5-seater convertible is if you go back about a few decades or even more when you had bench seating and fewer safety requirements.
Let me tell you a bit about safety in the C70, especially since this is what Volvo is known for. The biggest fear of driving a convertible is a rollover. Some convertibles have roll bars that are always up so the “top down” experience is slightly marred by a big roll bar. Others have roll bars that are down until the vehicle starts to roll over and then it pops up. The Volvo C70 has something like this, but it has two smaller roll bars behind the heads of the rear passengers. They call it ROPS (Roll Over Protection System) and these activate if the sensors and gyroscopes sense a roll-over taking place. But these roll bars don’t act alone, there are also a barrage of other safety features that come into play even without rollover scenarios. Things like door-mounted inflatable curtains, dual-stage front airbags, side impact airbags, and a reinforced passenger compartment really make you feel like you are driving in a safe.
Also, as I have mentioned in previous reviews, there is the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) which alerts you of vehicles in the blind spots. BLIS is not as critical when you have the top down though, obviously, but since you sit pretty low in the C70, sometimes it is easier to have the BLIS assist you than to rotate your head like an owl to see all sides around you.
But driving in a safe wouldn’t be that much fun. Volvo has managed to be able to figure out how to inject the fun-factor into the safety requirements. Just slamming the door of the C70 conveys the feeling of a solid, unmoving mass. The doors are very heavy and very thick. They close with authority almost like a steel door vault. But it is also a luxurious slam when it closes. Volvo has clearly refined both the exterior and interior of the C70. The leather of the seats is soft and the controls for the climate and radio are subtle and not overpowering the interior.
The video below represents the highlights of the C70 and includes what I exactly mean by “every drive…a vacation”. Watch for the excitement at the end of two of my girls. This video is also available on YouTube.
[youtube] http://youtu.be/Si90SdrTzj4 [/youtube]
It’s not just about safety and styling, I also look for performance. I have a standard route that I drive every vehicle that I test drive and part of that is to test the acceleration from a stop up a hill. This gives me a chance to stretch the legs of every vehicle that I drive. Some cars are pretty boring or whiny going up the hill, while others have squealing tires and burning rubber, even the front wheel drive vehicles. The Volvo C70 honestly has a great engine. Not only did we average about 20 to 23 MPG, but the C70 had a lot of power and acceleration. So while it is a Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) which typically can reduce the performance of the engine in order to make it a cleaner burning engine, it is a turbo-charge front-wheel drive beast that lets you get off the line with squeal of rubber while being thrown back in the seats.
Yes, the C70 is a front-wheel drive vehicle, but you wouldn’t know it. When you accelerate, you feel like you are being pushed rather than pulled. This is probably due to the turbo kicking in, in conjunction with having the Inscription option upgrade and the Polestar performance tuning engine which boosts the output of the engine from 227 hp to 250 hp (torque increases from 238 to 273 lb/ft). What it translates into is a vehicle that has ample power when you need it.
Let’s talk a bit about going topless a bit. I’ve only driven two convertibles in my life, one of which was about 15 years ago. My how the technology has advanced. For starters, the C70 has a hard top. I often wondered about the engineering behind making a hard roof, complete with glass rear window magically disappear into the trunk. Now I know how it works. For starters, with the Volvo C70, you need to be fully stopped. You can’t be driving when you do the less than 60 seconds process of hiding the roof (or making it reappear). And you have to hold the button the entire time until you are informed that the top is either up or down.
The roof magically folds into the trunk. You need to ensure that you have the brace in the trunk fully positioned to accept the roof and you will be alerted (as I found out) if this “tray,” for lack of a better word, is not out. Once the top is fully loaded into the trunk you still do have some space to stow some gear. On the picture to the left below, you can see the tray folded out of the way, and the photo on the rights shows it ready to have the roof loaded in.
The roof amazingly fits in tight and is held into place via brackets. If you don’t fully lock the roof in, you have some other alarms go off and the speedometer area has written alerts indicated what you have done wrong.
While I didn’t have the guts to try this, my wife was able to fully put down the top while sitting at a red light…it’s that fast. You do need some vertical clearance when you do it though. And when the top is taking up space in the rear, you can still access some areas of the trunk compartment. Simply press this yellow button and the entire folded hood structure rises up slightly so you can access the luggage well.
The top down conversion process was truly an act of tight engineering. But there were other aspects of the C70 that I felt to be equally fine tuned. For example, there were lockable storage compartments throughout the car in the front and rear seats so if you wanted to park with the top down, all of your valuables were also carefully concealed and locked away:
The center console gained lots of comments from passengers as well, including my wife and daughters. They liked how clean and refined the design was – without any obtrusive knobs or buttons cluttering up the display area.
Interestingly, there was no touch-screen display for any of the controls. It was actually done via physical buttons. There are a few reasons I think this design choice was made, for starters, if you have direct sunlight beating down on a large display, it could have potentially been difficult to read. Also, when you have your displays down off of the line of sight of the road, your driving is potentially impacted. And that, I believe is one of the reasons why the GPS Navigation was mounted on the dashboard. It actually took me reading the manual to figure out how the GPS actually worked. You need to use the included remote control to do anything with the GPS (there is a control on the back side of the steering wheel though – another thing that was carefully hidden away). Be sure to watch the video above to see how the GPS actually works.
I probably could go on and on about the subtle features and refinements that were packed into the Volvo C70…from soft and supple leather seats to dual climate controls to a thunderous, multi-speaker sound system (and trust me, you will want to pay the extra to get the Premium Sound – especially when the top is down). The MSRP for the vehicle I test drove with all of the options topped out at $51,570. While pricy by my standards, you are definitely paying for what you get…a vacation on wheels!
Disclosure Text: Apart from the 7-day loan of the 2012 Volvo C70, I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein. More information can be found in my About page as well as here.
HTD says: Give yourself a mini vacation – test drive a Volvo C70 and enjoy the luxury and safety that makes this car a real winner!