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2006 Volvo C70 Mid-Size Convertible Coupe

New Car Review of the 2006 Volvo C70 Mid-Size Convertible Coupe

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Base MSRP Range: $38,710

Base Invoice Range: $36,340

MSRP As Tested: $40,400

Versions: T5.

Vehicle Category: Mid-Size Convertible Coupe

Engine Location: Front Engine

Drive Wheels: Front-Wheel Drive.

Standard Engine: 2.5-liter, Dual Overhead Cam, 20-valves, Turbocharged, I-5, 218 – horsepower at 5000 rpm and 236 lb-ft torque at 1500 rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed manual, Five-speed automatic.

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 20/29, 21/29.

Standard Safety Features: Dual front airbags, Front side airbags, Automatic roll bar, ">Antilock 4-wheel disc brakes, Brake Assist, Antiskid system, Daytime running lights.

Competition: Acura TSX, Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G35, Saab 9-3.

I pulled into my driveway in a sleek, red, two-door car when I came home for lunch last Monday.

My wife, who watched through the front window, immediately asked, "What kind of car is that?"

A Volvo, I told her.

"No way! Volvos aren't supposed to look that good!"

And she was right. Volvos are known for being safe and practical, but they usually aren't the slightest bit sexy. Until recently, they were boxy, slab-sided, ugly machines that looked like they were designed by the same people who build toasters and microwaves for a living. They were anything but sensual.

But this Volvo, the all-new C70 convertible, shrugs off its nasty-looking roots and actually has a pretty body. You can still tell it's a Volvo by its angular, pointy front end and distinctive grille, but the rest of the car would look at home on any high-end European sports coupe. Its curved roofline has a Mercedes-like character, and I even detected a tad bit of Ferrari influence on the back. When taken as a whole, though, this car is unmistakably Swedish.

The beautiful styling isn't the only surprise. For serious gasps, you have to press a button on the dash to make the hard roof fold away into the trunk, revealing a gorgeous topless profile and allowing the kind of wind-in-your-hair fun that Volvos have never been famous for.

And that's a conundrum.

To be honest, I used to think people who drove Volvo convertibles had mental problems. Not only was their car shaped like a cardboard box and never looked good with the top down, but they ignored the whole idea behind owning a Volvo -- the fact that it's safe and sensible. A convertible is neither because it has less structural rigidity than a hard-top car and a tendency to turn your head into hamburger meat if it should ever flip over.

The C70 solves this crazy contradiction in a couple of ways. For one, the retractable top is made of steel and feels so solid that it shakes the whole car when you put it up or down. For even greater protection, a pop-up rollbar is deployed when the car senses it's about to flip. It uses a pyrotechnic charge to send the rollbar smashing through the back window in an instant to keep your head from hitting the pavement.

Another safety feature is an inflatable curtain, which is like a giant pillow that protects your body in side-impact crashes. What's unique about this curtain is that it's designed for protection even when the window is open, and it deflates slowly to help in rollover crashes.

In keeping with its funky Swedish heritage, the C70 offers only one engine: a turbocharged, 5-cylinder, 2.5-liter motor that makes 215 horsepower. It's a good engine with an extremely flat power band. It's also extremely quiet.

Inside, the C70 is comfortable and luxurious. It's easy to get in and out of the roomy back seats because of how quickly the front seats slide forward and how wide the big, long doors can open. The front seats are comfortable and easily adjustable, if a little on the stiff side.

I was especially impressed with how well engineered this car's controls are. The dash is simple and easy to understand, if a little disconcerting at first because of its unusual layout. The switches and buttons could be accessed in an instant, letting you keep your eyes on the road as long as possible.

There's only one C70 model available, and it's well equipped. It comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, power front seats, leather a terrific six-disc CD stereo system and a long, long list of safety features, all for $38,710.

But the good-looking body is the best standard feature of all.

Pros: It has the best attributes of a Volvo -- safety, sensibility and sophistication -- with a body that looks great. The power-operated top makes the cabin quiet while still allowing the fun of a top-down drive.

Cons: There are a lot of good cars for $38,000. This one mainly stands out for the fact that it's a Volvo.

Ratings (1-10)

  • Style: 9
  • Performance: 7
  • Price: 6
  • Handling: 7
  • Ride: 6
  • Comfort: 9
  • Quality: 7
  • Overall: 7

More Data

Where Built: Sweden

Major Options: Premium Package, Climate Package. Navigation system, Bi-xenon headlights, Bright alloy wheels.

Seating: 4.

Number of Rows: 2.

Length in Inches: 180.4

Warranties: 4 years/50,000 miles Bumper to bumper, 7 years/unlimited miles Corrosion protection, 4 years/ unlimited miles Roadside assistance.

Weight in Pounds: 3772 lbs.

Cargo Capacity in Pounds: Not available.

Gross Maximum Vehicle Weight in Pounds: Not available.

Towing Capacity in Pounds: Not Available.

Gas Tank Capacity in Gallons: 15.9

Destination Charge: $695