The Volvo C70 is a car to be driven under an open sky. The softly purring engine and compliant chassis transform driving into a beautiful, harmonious experience. At the same time, the car has the potential for sporty driving thanks to its powerful, responsive driveline, rigid body and suspension tuning.
A convertible is usually designed as an open car. A roof is then crafted on to it, with a result that is not always pleasing to the eye. At Volvo Cars, the design team did exactly the opposite when working on the new C70. They created a sporty coupe and then converted it into an attractive convertible. Because the secret is to make the car look at its best irrespective of whether the top is up or down.
The first generation Volvo C70 convertible was originally launched in 1997 and featured a design that was very appealing at the time, a design that has stood up well against time. It was discontinued in March 2005 after nearly 50,000 cars had been sold worldwide. In fact, the last year of production was also the best year sales-wise, with 8,000 units, which clearly proves the point of a well executed design.
Another lesson that was learned from the first generation of convertibles was that for a newcomer in the segment like Volvo is, it takes at least one generation of cars to really get yourself established in the premium convertible segment.
A strong profile with an innovative interior
The new C70 convertible is shorter and lower than its predecessor but retains the same width. This in combination with the relatively short front overhang gives the car a powerful stance. A fact that becomes very apparent when the car is viewed from the side.
This is also enhanced by the shoulder line which is drawn up towards the rear of the car and which not only gives an impression of dynamism, but also reinforces the feeling of a protective band that runs behind the rear seat passengers. In true Volvo fashion, all four corners of the car are rounded, further enhancing the "human touch".
The interior of the new C70 is marked by Volvo’s modern, innovative design features, inspired by Scandinavian tradition with clean surfaces, genuine materials and good functionality. Inspiration has been drawn more from Scandinavian product design than pure car design. The super-thin, visually floating centre ‘stack’, known from the Volvo S40 , is also featured in the new Volvo C70 and its panel can now be varied according to the customer’s wishes with three different appearances.
A special optional upholstery has also been developed for the new Volvo C70. Vulcaflex is a synthetic material with an exciting surface structure and a high-tech feeling. Vulcaflex is used both in combination with textile and with soft leather.
The new generation of Volvo C70 convertibles has a retractable steel hardtop rather than a soft hood. The reasons for choosing a steel roof were:
- to give the true impression of two cars in one
- to provide an improved "round-the year-feel"
- to achieve a lower noise level and more comfort
- to improve the profile and hence the overall look
- and to provide a greater feeling of safety and security
Designing and developing a three-piece retractable hardtop, a small mechanical wonder in itself, is no easy task. A durable and reliable technical design with a maximum operation limit of 30 seconds and a perfect fit in place both when up or down had to be matched together into a perfect solution. All features that are taken for granted by the customer who rightly expects comfort and effortless operation.
After a thorough investigation of industry expertise, this complicated work was entrusted to Italian master coachbuilder Pininfarina. Not only did Pininfarina develop a roof mechanism that is a technical masterpiece, the company will also be responsible for the production of the car in the jointly-owned – Pininfarina with 60 percent and Volvo Cars with 40 percent – Pininfarina Sverige AB plant in Uddevalla, Sweden.
After some nine years spent on becoming an established player in the premium segment for open cars and having built up a considerable body of knowledge and consolidating Volvo Cars’ credibility even further, the expectations are to double sales compared with the first generation’s best year.
The annual sales target for the new Volvo C70 is estimated at some 16,000 cars. The US market will account for about half the volume with the UK and Germany sharing some 30 percent between them. The remaining 20 percent will be distributed between a number of other markets. According to Volvo Cars’ research and statistics, every second C70 convertible will be owned by a woman.
In the U.S. the all-new Volvo C70 comes standard with the turbocharged T5 engine. The 2.5-liter light-pressure turbocharged powerplant produces 218 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 236 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,500 to 4,800 rpm. The flat torque curve puts the power to the front wheels evenly and makes the car highly responsive.
The T5 engine is extremely energy efficient. As the manifold and turbo unit are cast together in high-alloy cast steel, which is extremely resistant to heat (emission temperatures are permitted to reach 1,922°F), the need for cooling using gasoline has been minimized.
The engine can therefore run on a leaner mix with lower fuel consumption and reduced emissions, particularly when driving at high speed or with a heavy load. The T5 engine is fitted with a five-speed automatic transmission, or the six-speed manual gearbox that was developed for the Volvo S60 R and V70 R. The six gears are adapted to combine rapid acceleration with a high top speed. The gearbox has triple synchros and a very distinct gear change feel.
The new C70 is about the same size as its predecessor, equally wide and a full four-seater. With the retractable hardtop down, the C70 lets in the sun as a true convertible. Putting the hardtop up creates a car with the styling of a coupe.
"We’ve succeeded in creating an attractive convertible which, at the mere touch of a button, converts into an equally elegant coupe. The customer gets two cars in one. Both with space for four adults," said Volvo Cars President and CEO Hans-Olov Olsson.
"Putting together harmonious lines both with and without a roof is no easy job," said Fedde Talsma, design manager for the all-new Volvo C70. "We decided to start with the bold shape of a sports coupe. When we were satisfied with the result, we made the necessary adjustments to create a convertible."
As with all Volvos, the C70 was designed with both style and safety in mind. The car has an advanced body structure and several solutions that make it unique among open-top cars. The lack of a fixed roof has been compensated for by reinforcements and sophisticated technology like a door-mounted Inflatable Curtain (IC) — a new feature that is part of the enhanced protection system for side impacts.
Since the IC cannot be fitted in the roof like other Volvos, it is fitted in the door and inflates upwards when it is deployed.
Volvo’s safety engineers have fine-tuned the IC to be extra stiff. As a result, the IC remains upright for a longer period of time to better protect the head in the event of a side impact. In addition, the curtain deflates slowly to help provide additional protection if the car rolls over. This is a unique solution in the automotive world.
The body structure, in a carefully designed network of beams, not only contributes to the car’s high safety standards, but also gives the body extremely high torsional (twisting) rigidity — twice as high as that of the previous C70 model. With the roof up, torsional rigidity increases by a further 10 to 15 percent.
The first-generation C70 convertible had its best year in 2004 with more than 8,000 cars sold. "A torsionally rigid body is important to the car’s driving behavior," said C70 project manager Patrik Widerstrand. "It makes the car more stable and easier to control. It also makes the car more dynamic and fun to drive."
In the United States, the C70 will be powered by a 2.5-liter in-line five cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 218 hp and offers 236 lb.-ft. of torque. Elsewhere, the C70 will feature two normally aspirated 2.4-liter engines producing 170 hp and 140 hp and a turbocharged 2.5-litre T5 that delivers 220 hp.
Later on in 2006, a 2.4 litre, 5-cylinder diesel engine, producing 180 hp (132 kW), will be available. The development and manufacture of the all-new Volvo C70 is the result of a joint venture with renowned Italian company Pininfarina. Like its predecessor, the car will be built in Uddevalla in Sweden.
"Pininfarina is an excellent partner with long experience of developing and building convertibles," said Olsson. "Our all-new C70 is one of the first open-top cars in the premium segment with both a steel roof and space for four adults. We believe this is a highly sought-after combination. That’s why we expect to more than double our sales compared with the first-generation C70," said Olsson.
The Volvo C70, a four-seater, is the first of more coupe/convertibles that will come from other manufacturers. The sleek steel top retracts into the trunk in 30 seconds. The C70 is based on the S40 sedan, but has a wider track and more luscious lines.
The engine, suspension and transmission are proven Volvo components, while the chassis has been fortified and re-figured to increase rigidity over the former C70, and meet Volvo’s industry-leading safety standards.
The styling is brilliant, with elegant coupe lines, and the retractable hardtop is an engineering masterpiece. The cabin features comfortable seats, the latest in Volvo interior styling and fabrics, and a clever cubby behind the center dash.
Everything works as it should, and it’s a beautiful piece of work. Nothing else on the market offers what the C70 does, priced under $40,000.
There is only one model, the coupe and the convertible. It’s called simply the C70 ($38,710). The C changes its meaning with the weather. Coupertible? The retractable hardtop is standard, and the only choice.
Standard equipment includes the six-speed manual transmission. The five-speed automatic transmission is optional ($1250). Standard features include power front seats, leather steering wheel with controls, and a six-disc CD changer with eight speakers and four amplifiers.
The designer of the new C70, American John Kinsey, spent four years on the project. Although Mercedes, Lexus and Cadillac use retractable steel tops for their two-seat sports cars, those designs were ignored because, says Kinsey, "The tops on those cars are so small that none of their mechanical aspects even apply to the challenges we had in designing ours."
Everything revolves around the roof, developed in Italy by Pininfarina, under Kinsey. It had to clearly be a coupe roofline, and it is the most handsome of coupes, with a solid upward sweeping A-pillar and delicately thin and downward sweeping C-pillar. Stand close enough, and you can spot the two seams that enable the roof to stack into thirds and drop into the trunk, but otherwise there’s not a hint of compromise in the graceful roofline.
The roof lands on the rear deck at a point higher than it takes off from the hood, because of the rear wedge and elevated rear sills for safety. A soft ridge at the beltline carries all the way from headlight to taillight, accentuating the wedge, which is conspicuous but not bulky; the C70 was not given a fat butt in order to fit the roof under its skirt.
The rest of the styling changes are subtle but striking. When viewed from the front three-quarter angle, it’s clear how short and smooth the hood and nose are, and how aerodynamic the package. When you pay attention to the lines, the brilliant job by John Kinsey hits home. Five full inches have been removed from the nose, and the edges have been softened, resulting in a two-inch narrowing of the front shoulders, despite an increased overall width.
Many C70s were crashed at the high-tech Volvo Cars Safety Centre in Sweden, to determine the optimum deformation structure in both the nose and tail. Volvo even T-boned the driver’s door with one of its own XC90 SUVs: Double the data.
The structural safety features of the C70 take thousands of words to describe in detail. From top to bottom, front to rear, side to side, the chassis has been strengthened, tweaked, and made crushable where possible to disspate energy in a crash. The C70 more than compensates for the loss of rigidity with a fixed roof; it’s stiffer and safer than the previous C70 coupe. The reinforced B pillars, normally connected by a roof, are connected on the C70 by one of five new transverse frame members. This dissipates crash forces. The door sills are laser welded, and raised behind the B pillars. The doors have diagonal steel beams. The A-pillars use extra high strength steel, and extend all the way down to the frame rails.
The two-door coupe features rounded corners and headlamps and rides slightly lower than the first-generation C70. The retractable hardtop is supported by a large rear windshield, which provides improved visibility over the original. Overall length is 180.3 inches, while the wheelbase extends 103.9 inches. The hardtop stows away seamlessly into the trunk at the touch of a button. Seventeen-inch aluminum wheels are standard, and 18-inch versions are optional.
The C70 seats four adults and features ergonomically shaped front seats. Pushing a button on the backrest of each front seat moves them forward to allow access to the rear seats. Power operation is standard on the driver’s seat and optional on the front passenger seat. Storage areas accompany each seat, and a private locking system allows certain compartments to be locked with the key from the glove compartment. Long objects can be stored in the trunk by opening the ski hatch in the rear seat.
Audiophiles can choose a premium sound package that provides 910 watts of power and includes Dynaudio speakers. The standard sound system comes with eight speakers.
Test Drives Impressions
The second-generation Volvo C70 features a three-piece retractable hardtop that transforms the car from coupe to convertible in just 30 seconds. While the new C70 is 5 inches shorter than its predecessor, it still offers seating for four adults. Sales of the new C70 begin in the U.S. in spring 2006. The previous soft-top version disappeared after the 2004 model year.
Like the S40, the C70 seems to be made for high-speed cruising. The acceleration isn’t neck-snapping, but the top speed is a mind-boggling 150 mph, and electronically limited at that. The car is very smooth and steady at freeway-plus speeds. And with the steel top, there’s no ragtop racket at high speed.
The C70 is front-wheel drive, and not yet available with Volvo’s superb all-wheel-drive system. The dream-machine C70 would have the 300-horsepower engine and AWD of the S60R. Volvo has no immediate plans for production of such a vehicle, but it’s still early.
Naturally this weight adversely affects the acceleration, handling and braking, although not the ride. The C70 uses the same well-proven turbocharged five-cylinder engine that’s been powering Volvos for some time. It’s 2.4 liters with dual overhead cams and variable camshaft timing, tuned to the same 218 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque as the S40; that’s 10 horsepower more than the base S60, so the acceleration is about the same as the S60 sedan. Volvo estimates 0 to 60 at 7.6 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox, and 8.0 seconds with the five-speed automatic. Eight seconds is considered by some to be roughly the dividing line between quick and average performance.
With so much low-end torque, the C70 pulls away from a stop quickly, yet torque steer is minimal. The C70 won’t put you back in your seat at highway speeds, but it won’t leave you out to dry when you’re passing either. Other than a stiffer-than-normal sport shift gate, the five-speed automatic transmission works well. Stick with the standard six-speed manual and you’ll save yourself $1,250.
The C70 comes standard with aluminum trim and a six-disc CD changer. A 12-speaker Dynaudio stereo system ($1,550) and a DVD navigation system ($2,120) are both stand-alone options. Our car didn’t have the optional navigation system but the Dynaudio audio system could make the seats vibrate with the top up or down. After six hours of seat time all we would ask for is a little extra seat bolstering.
Despite its shorter wheelbase, the 2006 C70 adds nearly an inch of front legroom. Rear legroom is down half an inch, but both measurements are still the most you’ll find in an entry-level luxury convertible. A more relaxed seat angle and improved shoulder room make the rear seats bearable for average-sized adults.
Stability and traction control systems are standard, as are new door-mounted side-curtain airbags that inflate upward in the event of an accident. Rollover bars, part of Volvo ’s Rollover Protection System (ROPS), behind the rear seats rise up during a rollover or rear impact. The three-panel roof system is constructed of steel, and active front headrests are standard.