The Volvo C70 was introduced to the market in 1998 as a part of the Volvo ‘70’ range that would be the successor to the aging 900 series. It, however, had little in common with the old Volvos in terms of styling or power.
The C70 started life in coupe and cabriolet variants that were available with a choice of 4-speed automatic and 5-speed manual gearboxes. This changed in 2006 when the option of a coupe or cabriolet was eliminated, with the new model being a sort of hybrid of the two in the form of the coupe-cabriolet with a retractable hardtop roof.
Whereas the first-generation C70 does in some respects resemble the styling for which Volvo was known, with a straight-lined bonnet, the second-generation does away with any of this old styling and would be unrecognisable as a Volvo to any Volvo aficionados of yesteryear.
The C70 does lack the hectares of room for which previous Volvos were known and room is a little tight in the rear seats, but the C70 has all of the safety features synonymous with the brand’s name. Standard kit is very impressive, and the car would be perfect for anyone wishing for a marriage of sporty feel and a safe, relaxed ride.
The most powerful introductory model – the T5 – had a 2.3L turbocharged engine with an output of 176kW and a maximum torque of 330Nm, which facilitated acceleration time of 0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds. The top speed of this model had to be electronically capped to 250km/h – very un-Volvo-like indeed.
As previously stated, the introductory models were available with 4-speed automatic and 5-speed manual gearboxes, with the former the much-preferred model. This model had a combined fuel consumption of 9.93L/100km.
The equivalent model T5 in the second generation had a slightly reduced top speed, at 239km/h, and acceleration time, reaching 0-100km/h in 7.8 seconds, powered by 169kW of output and 320Nm of torque, using approximately 10L/100km of fuel. These second-generation models were now available in 5-speed automatic and 6-speed manual gearboxes.
At speed, early models are very impressive compared to some their contemporaries, yet later models were criticised for having ‘ordinary’ performance in comparison to rivals, of which by 2006 there were many.
Nonetheless, the C70 has earned a reputation as a cruiser due to it being very quiet and a generally smooth ride on the highway. This smoothness is aided by the superbly solid build quality for which Volvo is known as well as the C70’s finely tuned suspension, which helped add a more balanced feel to the ride. The C70 can be noisy on rough road surfaces, however.
In terms of handling, the steering is accurate and responsive but with a little reluctance to turn on corners, with a little torque-steer when pushed hard. Forward and side visibility is very good due to the lack of central roof pillars, yet rear visibility is somewhat hindered by the small rear window.
Standard features on first-generation models included an electric ‘power’ sunroof, a truly hi-fi Dolby Surround Pro-Logic stereo system equipped with 10 speakers, a CD player, power seats, power windows, cruise control, trip computer, air-conditioning, dual front and side curtain airbags, remote central-locking, an immobiliser, leather upholstery, and an anti-lock braking system.
Adding to this already sizeable kit, the second-generation models added electric, heated, powered front seats, climate control, and traction control. Bringing things truly into the 21st century, Volvo also added Bluetooth, auxiliary and USB inputs, and active ‘bi-xenon’ headlights.
Safety features on all C70 models are exemplary, which has been par for the course with all Volvos since the 1970s. Indeed, the C70 hit the headlines upon launch in 1998 for being the first car to include curtain airbags for front passengers.
As well as the aforementioned ABS and immobiliser, all C70 models also include lap-sash seatbelts as well as adjustable headrests and front seats designed for comfort and anti-whiplash characteristics.
The C70 found rivals in the BMW 328i, as well as the Holden Monaro CV6 and Honda Prelude. While not as elegant as the BMW, with a greater depreciation arising from Volvo’s relative lack of prestige, the original C70 is still an attractive convertible with good performance, a decent amount of room (admittedly hampered when the top is down), and a comfortable ride.
While the second-generation model disappointed some, its long list of safety features, gargantuan standard kit, classy style, and solid build quality are factors with which one can confidently recommend the C70 over its competitors, especially for those looking for a nice balance been a sporty feel and solid, safe handling.