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The Volvo to fall in love with

By Marc J. Rauch, Exec. Vice President/Co-Founder

According to Volvo, the new C70 Convertible is a car that stimulates all 6 senses. That's right, all 6 senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, and the one most of us didn't know we had, common.

During a recent factory sponsored ride and drive in Arizona, I had the opportunity to test the C70 and put my sensory receptors to work. The cool, clear air of the El Nino altered desert provided the perfect environment: my palate was clean, and I was ready to fully absorb the experience. Our circuitous roundtrip journey began in Phoenix with a mid-point lunch stop in magical Sedona, about 170 miles and a few climate zones away.

Visually, the C70 is quite beautiful. It's a four seat, full sized car that can actually accommodate four people. The body has a stylish, contemporary design, without any of the boxy-ness that we've all come to associate with Volvo. With the top down the C70 has a big, wide-open appearance - sort of reminiscent of a sixties Impala or GTO convertible. That's not to say that the C70 looks like them, only that like those great "California-style" cars, the muscular mien of the C70 invites you to vault over the door into the driver's seat and tear off into the horizon.

The aural pleasing aspects of the C70 are derived from its fabulous sound system. My vehicle had the optional, factory installed, Dolby ProLogic surround sound package that features 400 watts of power and 12 speakers. I listened to classical, rock, pop, country, a little Howard Stern talk radio, and could have sworn that all the musicians and Stern were in the car with me. As I drove to higher altitudes, encountering both rain and snow, it became necessary to put the convertible top up. The sound system automatically registered the structural adaptation and changed its output to fit the more confined space. But with the top up or down, the sound quality is top drawer.

I found my tactile senses being tickled in a variety of ways. The long, supple leather seats oozed comfort (I find that seats that extend from my tail to my knee joint provide the most relaxation); the gear shifter and steering wheel seemed to perfectly fit the shape of my hand; and the responsive thrust of the powerful, turbocharged engine made easy work of climbing every hill. Usually, journalists are paired up for these drives. However, due to an abundant number of test vehicles I had a C70 to myself. Now with a several hour, 300+ mile drive ahead of you, this can be either a blessing or a curse. In the C70, it was total bliss. Piloting this car is a delightful motoring experience.

As with all new cars, the C70 smelled delicious. Did this Volvo really smell better than most, or was it just infatuation with the vehicle that made it seem like it? I'm not sure, but I came very close to biting the leather seats. Of course, one of the great features of a convertible is that you are able to experience all the natural aromas emanating from the local flora (provided that you are in a location where this is possible). Since I was in the midst of a full bloom desert (owing to the aforementioned El Nino weather conditions), and not the cement and steel canyons of a big city, it was like riding through the Elysian Fields.

As I said, I came very close to wanting to eat the seats, but this isn't the "taste" sensation that Volvo had in mind regarding the C70. Instead, their reference has more to do with a "taste for life" and "good taste" - like Charlie the Tuna (of Star-Kist Tuna fame). The C70 is indeed designed in good taste. Everything looks like it belongs with everything else. Although this may sound strange, there are a number of vehicles on the market that look like there was no communication between the dashboard designer and the seat designer, let alone the interior and exterior designers. In fact, Volvo credits one person as being responsible for bringing the C70 together: Jose Diaz de la Vega, Chief Designer for Interior, and Colour & Trim at Volvo Car Corporation. Jose in turn credits his very talented team and points to the deserts of his native Mexico and American Southwest as the inspiration for the C70 design. Frankly, I thought it was pretty cool to have a Mexican design a car for a Swedish manufacturer. In any event, the design works. The C70 is elegant, classy, and tastefully color coordinated. Jose says, "This isn't the Volvo you need, it's the Volvo you want." I can vouch for this, I want one.

The C70's "common sense" appeal is based upon Volvo's distinction for building safe vehicles. Thanks to a variety of innovative features and solutions, Volvo believes the C70 is one of the world's safest convertibles and that it sets a new standard for safety in an open car. Primary among these features are the automatic seatbelt pretensioners for all four seats, which, in the event of a roll-over, eliminate the slack in the seatbelts at lightning speed. This is part of the overall system that Volvo calls ROPS (Roll Over Protection System). The system also includes a special steel reinforced windscreen pillars; and pop-up, roll-over hoops that are concealed behind the rear passenger seats. A horseshoe like structure around the passenger compartment absorbs and dissipates collision energy, and side airbags capable of inflating in one hundredth of a second are fitted in the front seat backrests. Stephan Ryrberg, one of Volvo's safety engineers, stated "If Volvo is going to build an open car, it has to be safe." It certainly appears that the C70 will do its part to uphold Volvo's outstanding reputation for safety.

The Volvo C70 is an absolutely splendid car. It's fun to drive, comfortable, prestigious looking, and Volvo's safety record provides some good peace-of-mind. Considering the available competition, its ample size, and pedigree, the C70's price tag in the low 40's is a good buy. It's for these reasons that nearly everyone here at The Auto Channel selected the C70 for our first-ever Convertible Car of the Year Award.