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New models - Volvo - C70 - Hardtop Convertible range

First drive: Volvo C70 retracts to attract

Cool cabrio: New C70 features a class-first three-piece folding roof.

Volvo presents two all-new C70s in one with the redesigned C70 Hardtop Convertible

8 Dec 2006

THE WORLD’S first modern four-seater hardtop convertible is here. This is Volvo’s take on its all-new, second-generation, Y281 series C70, launched in Australia last week from $69,950 for the LE and $79,950 for the T5.

Similar non-fabric roofed convertibles, Volvo insists, are 2+2 seaters with limited back seat space due to their folding roof systems, a situation the C70 side-steps with a class-first three-piece design.

This is despite the fact that the latest C70 is built off Volvo’s P1 small-car platform, the Ford Focus-derived C1 base underpinning the S40, V50 and Mazda3.

In contrast, the previous C70 – sold in Australia from 1998 to 2004 in separate coupe and convertible guises – was spun off the mid-sized 850/S70 series of the 1990s.

For the record, today’s version starts at $29,000 less than its predecessor in 2004, and $19,000 under what the Coupe cost when it finished here in early 2003.

So Volvo’s second modern convertible is smaller than before. Was calling it ‘C50’ ever a consideration, particularly as there is virtually no commonality with the S60 and V70 range? "We chose not to call it C50 because C70 is an established name worldwide," a Volvo spokesman explained.

The fact that only the drivetrain, dashboard, bonnet, door handles and exterior mirrors are shared with the S40 and V50 is another reason why Volvo is sticking with the C70 nomenclature.

Furthermore, new almost matches old, dimensionally speaking, with length/width/height/wheelbase readings of 4580/1820/1400/2640mm showing disparities of -136/0/–29/–4mm respectively.

Driving the front wheels (no all-wheel drive models have been announced – but it is a possibility) is the choice of two five-cylinder powerplants that would be very familiar to owners of recent Volvos. Mounted transversely, each offers twin cams, 20 valves and variable-valve timing.

In the base LE, a 2435cc 2.4-litre unit produces 125kW of power at 6000rpm and 230Nm of torque at 4400rpm, and is matched to either a five-speed manual or – at no extra cost – a five-speed automatic gearbox with a sequential shift function Volvo dubs Geartronic.

If you prefer the former, expect a 220km/h top speed (auto: 215km/h), a 0-100km/h-sprint time of 9.1 seconds (a: 10 sec), a 9L/100km city-cycle fuel consumption result (a: 13.8L/100km), 9L/100km on the highway (a: 7L/100km), an average economy figure of 9.6L/100km (same as the auto), and an emissions figure of 215g/km (a: 229g/km).

An extra $10,000 buys you the 2521cc 2.5-litre turbo-charged T5 five-cylinder engine, delivering 162kW at 6000rpm and 320Nm at 4800rpm. The Geartronic auto is also a no-cost alternative, but this time to a six-speed manual gearbox.

The latter’s main stats are, manual versus auto: 240km/h v 235km/h V-max, 7.6 sec v 8.0 sec 0-100km/h, 13.1-city/6.7-highway/9.1-average L/100km fuel use v 14.7/7.0/9.8 L/100km, and 217g/km v 234g/km.

Diesel power – a 132kW/350Nm 2.4-litre D5 turbo unit averaging 7.3L/100km secures up to 70 per cent of C70 sales in some Western European countries – is under consideration for Australia, although – officially – Volvo says it will not introduce it here… unless the public demands it enough, and others (read: BMW) take the plunge first.

On the subject of Bavarian carmakers, Volvo benchmarked the BMW E46 3 Series, along with the Audi A4 Cabriolet and Saab 9-3, when devising the C70, even though all lack a folding hardtop.

The company says it designed the C70 (at its Californian studio) as a coupe first, sticking with the old car’s basic silhouette (the work of Jaguar designer Ian Callum) before starting work on the folding roof mechanism.

Retaining the old look was desirable since, globally speaking, the previous model’s best sales year was its last (2005), suggesting that the design still has plenty of legs, and that Volvo is on a good thing with it. In Australia, 2000 was the old C70’s best year, with 191 sales.

18 center imageFurthermore, the Swedes are keen to consolidate the C70’s hard-won position in the premium convertible segment, by using visual cues to connect new with old.

Inside, thanks to a pronounced cab-forward body, the latest C70 actually offers more front headroom, legroom and rear shoulder room, as well as a greater couple distance, although rear headroom and front shoulder room are slightly down compared to before.

The most obvious visible connection to the S40 and V50 is in the C70’s dashboard and nose areas, but the headlights, bumpers and guards are actually new, to accommodate the hardtop convertible’s widened tracks (front: 1550mm, +15mm rear: 1560mm, +29mm).

The rack and pinion steering is powered by an electro-hydraulic system, brakes are discs all around, while the suspension is similar to S40/V50, so it’s a variation of the MacPherson strut front and independent multi-link set-up favoured by the P1/C1 platform users However, provisions have been made to compensate for the extra width and larger wheels, along with the greater mass (over 300kg) brought on by the stiffened new body and hefty roof mechanism, which together add in excess of 200kg and 90kg to an equivalently equipped S40.

Making the car as strong and safe as possible is a Volvo given, so the C70 introduces a world-first door-mounted side-inflatable airbag curtain that expands upwards for total head protection, and is aided by extra rigid walls and a delayed deflation process.

Front seat-mounted side airbags are also part of the side-impact protection package, while anti-whiplash headrests and seatbelt pretensioners are fitted.

Volvo has beefed up the body with extra reinforcements into the B-pillars, which are linked via a transverse floor member, strengthened and raised side sills, extra bracing in doors that are designed to stay shut on impact, and Extra Hight Strength Steel A-pillars that are boosted to individually withstand twice the weight of the entire car in the event of a rollover.

Further rollover protection is provided via Volvo’s ROPS Roll Over Protection System, which now uses pyrotechnic, rather than spring-fired as with the old C70. When triggered, the hoops will smash through the glass if the hardtop is erect.

Up to 15km/h in a rear-end shunt, the body is protected, while – in more severe impacts – the ROPS system rises to protect occupants from flying debris.

Active safety comes in the form of stability and traction controls, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake-force assist, while Volvo’s IDIS Intelligent Driver Information System monitors wheel movement, accelerator pedal movement, indicators and braking to prioritise safety over secondary situations that might distract a driver, such as an incoming telephone call.

The upshot of all this is a Volvo convertible with S40 levels of rigidity, which is twice the amount of the old previous model.

However, the flipside is considerable weight for a car of this size – coming in from 1692kg and 1725kg for the LE and T5 respectively, according to European-specification data. This is despite the use of aluminium for the bonnet and boot lid.

Found beyond the latter is a 130-litre luggage area with the roof in situ (down 30 litres on overseas C70s due to our temporary spare wheel fitment), rising to 330 litres when the 30-second roof mechanism creates the ‘coupe’ aspect of this split-personality Swede. Volvo expects to sell around 450 to 500 C70s each month, split 50/50 male/female demographically, with just over half being made up of the T5.

The C70 is a joint venture with Pininfarina, although it did not have a hand in the design of the Volvo. The production facility, located in Uddevalla Sweden, is 60 per cent owned by the Italian firm.

2007 Volvo C70 pricing:
LE $69,950
T5 $79,950
Automatic is a no-cost option.

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