Hardtop convertibles have been around periodically in the United States for about 50 years. And from the early years of Ford Fairliner to the current offerings of several manufacturers, the same question always arises: How mechanically sound is the retracting hardtop mechanism?
The success rate has greatly fluctuated, but that hasn’t stopped several high-end manufacturers — BMW and Lexus, for example — from returning to the niche model in recent years. And now Volvo has joined the fun with a newly designed, attention-grabbing sedan.
As a 2006 mid-year addition, the Volvo C70 T5 is a four-door, four-passenger hardtop convertible that showcases the Swedish manufacturer’s innovation and reputation at its best. The car drives so nicely and offers such well-planned features, it’s hard not to like.
My weekly test drive was the 2.5-liter, 218-horsepower turbocharged, 5-cylinder C70 with 5-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift gate. A six-speed manual transmission is also available.
The handsome C70 offers no indication that it’s a convertible without the hardtop deployed. Instead, it looks like a stylish sedan. But when hardtop deployed while pushing and holding a button near the transmission, its three-step process works admirably.
As a new vehicle, the mechanism’s durability is unknown. But in either direction, the convertible feature works well, with one small caveat. When the metal hardtop and rear glass window are deployed, they’ll only properly lock into place in the trunk if the plastic platform they rest on is also securely in place.
Among the numerous smart features Volvo has included is a small, illuminated button positioned just inside the trunk. When the top is down, it fills most of the trunk. But push the trunk button and the top and platform en masse rise about six inches, providing easy access to a still usable storage area.
Volvo’s savvy ways are continued throughout the vehicle. Two other push buttons, one on the top outside of each front seat, adjusts the entire seat forward and backward. And the with pull of an adjacent lever on each seat, rear-seat passengers have surprisingly easy access into the adequately spacious cabin.
Two other standard features include a wealth of deep side storage bins and well-designed, front-seat “kangaroo” pouches. And at the top of each rear headrest are sequestered rollover bars designed to deploy if sensors detects and pending tip.
Perhaps the car’s most innovative feature is its a Volvo-named ultra-thin center console panel. The AM/FM radio 6-disk in-dash CD Changer and heating/air conditioner controls are slickly packaged in the curved, thin console. The innovative design leaves open passage between the two front seats.
Driving the C70 is an uncompromised joy. While not exceeding quick, the vehicle accelerates well and its steering and handling and ride quality all add up to what’s expected of the Swedish manufacturer — a tight, controlled persona that embraces the road regardless of conditions.
The C70 has a wealth of thoughtful standard features — turn signal indicators in outside rearview mirrors to ABS brakes with traction/anti-skid control. My vehicle also include nearly $5,000 of options and add-ons, including the $1,395 Premium Package (leather seats and a compass in the rear view mirror) and the $1,550 Dynaudio Package, which comprises the impressive sound system.
The C70 has only been on the roads for a few months and its retracting hardtop may foster plenty of detractors, just as other convertible hardtops have in the past 50 years.
But the new Volvo makes a good first impression, with a long-term verdict still down the road.
Safety Features — Dual front, front side airbags, rollover bar (sensor deployment)
Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 21 mpg (city), 29 mpg (highway).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Corrosion, 8 years/unlimited miles; Free scheduled maintenance, 3 years/30,000 miles.
Base Price — $38,710.00.