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New Car/Review

1998 Volvo C70 Convertible

by Nick Hromiak


SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyer's Guide

Mention the name Volvo and you may conjure an image of a safe car, but one that has boxy styling. If this design kept you from considering a Volvo, check out the company's new C70 coupe or latest C70 convertible.

The latter was my tester for a day and I came away very impressed not only by the new smooth, rounded, sculpted look Volvo debuted, but by the fine handling and performance of this sexy rag top.

The C70 soft top, seats four but looks like a two-seat roadster. It's offered with a choice of 190-hp light-pressure turbocharged five cylinder engine, or potent 236-hp turbo five. Either choice moves this heavy car with spirit.

Coupled to a four-speed automatic transmission (a five-speed manual is also available), the 190-hp version I tested had excellent low and top end power with customary turbo lag going unnoticed. Engine noise under full throttle is nicely subdued, but lower the top or windows and you'll hear a nice growl emanating from the exhaust.

For a convertible, this car is tight. No windshield shimmy when encountering railroad tracks or deep, unseen potholes. The amazing part is that the top is secured without manual clamps or latches as on most convertibles.

To lower the power top, simply hold down a button and a precision system takes over the chore. Once down, an interior color matched, molded, motorized boot covers the rear deck. And lest you think your hair will be messed by the wind when going topless, forget it. Wind screens, positioned behind the front seats, cut the breeze and noise considerably. In fact when I drove the car with the top down a light rain began falling. As long as the car was moving, the raindrops never touched my head. I attributed this marvel to the wind screens.

Safely wise, and aside from dual airbags and side impact bags, extra reinforcement is found in the doors and A-pillars. Rollover protection, always a consideration in a convertible, incorporates two steel hoops or roll bars that instantaneously pop-up behind the rear headrests when a rollover is sensed. The wind screens are also reinforced to combine with the hoops and automatic seatbelt tensioners to provide added roll-over protection.

The cabin of this luxury cruiser, has supportive two-tone leather bucket seats that have just the right amount of firmness. The console and dash are trimmed in elegant burled walnut, and if you're a music lover, the C70 is available with a concert-hall sound system. This includes 10 standard-fit loudspeakers, in dash three-disc CD changer, an optional six-disc changer in the trunk, optional Dolby ProLogic surround sound (world's first factory installed system of its kind) featuring 400 watts pumped through 12 Dynaudio speakers spaced throughout the interior.

The C70 rides on 225/45 ZR-17 Michelins, or optional 225/40ZR-18 Pirelli P-Zero tires. Low speed traction is assisted by TRACS, a Volvo exclusive traction control system that limits front wheel spin at less than 25 mph and with low throttle pressure.

Trunk space is a bit on the tight sided due to the top folding into a portion of it. All total, it affords a meager eight cubic feet of luggage space.

Ride quality is excellent on paved roads and fine on rougher stuff. Despite its rag top, the interior is hush quiet. A little tire noise is evident at high-speed runs, and that wouldn't be heard if the car wasn't as quiet as it is.

For all this elegant luxury, the C70 carries a base price of $38,995, or loaded at $42,995. EPA mileage figures come in at 19 city, 26 highway miles per gallon. Quite respectable for a heavy, turbocharged car.