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'99 Volvo C70 Convertible

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SAN FRANCISCO:  Summertime, and the livin' is easy..." Yeah, right. I remember when the living was easy, back when I didn't have to work. You know, way back when I was a kid and summertime was vacation time. But summer's just another bunch of workdays now. So anything that comes along and makes life just a little bit more fun, anything that makes me feel even a day younger, is more than welcome.

Enter the Volvo C70 Convertible. You might remember the C70, that drop dead gorgeous coupe that the Saint (Val Kilmer) drove. The Convertible is everything the coupe was, plus it's topless. What more could a middle-aged kid want in the summer than a gorgeous, topless . . . car.

I remember when I first saw the C70. I thought that it was just about the best looking coupe I'd seen in a long time. The Convertible is just as pretty. Sometimes when the top comes off the looks go away but not here. The C70 has all the right lines with just a touch of that Volvo sensibility showing through (mostly in the grille).

Under the skin, the C70 Convertible has all of Volvo's safety stuff. Stuff like "Unit Body Construction w/Integral Passenger Safety Cage/High Strength Steel (HSS) Components and Energy Absorbing Impact Structures," "Volvo Side-Impact Protection System (SIPS) Including Driver and Front Passenger Side-Impact Airbags," driver and front passenger front air bags, and "Rollover Protection System (ROPS)." I hope you never need any of that stuff.

Inside were creamy soft, leather faced seats and all the luxury appointments you would expect, including a dust and pollen filter system which won't do you much good with the top down but there just might be times when you put the top up.

Speaking of the top - I can remember when something that was outwardly this complicated would scare the heck out of just about everybody. One button. That's all it takes to lower or raise the top, one button. Push the button when the top is up and first the side windows, all four, go down. Then the back of the top rises up and folds forward so that the cover behind the rear seat can open. Then the top rises from the windshield header and proceeds to fold itself into its compartment where it is neatly hidden by the hard cover.

Think of the servos, the micro switches! Think of how well (NOT!) something like this would have worked twenty years ago. But there it was, going up or down at the touch of a button. I was like a little kid, mesmerized by the mechanical wizardry of it all. Up, down, and then repeat. How is it possible to coordinate all those functions? It's better not to ask.

Under the hood of the C70 is a 2.4-liter, DOHC, turbocharged, five-cylinder engine that makes 190 hp. Volvo calls this a "Light-Pressure" turbo as opposed to their "High-Pressure" turbo that makes 236 hp. The transmission is a four speed automatic. Forget everything you've ever learned about turbocharged engines. I didn't feel any turbo lag (the time between when you put your foot into it and when the power finally comes on) or any big push in the back when the turbo finally does come in. I'm sure the C70 was quicker than it felt but the acceleration never felt hurried. Maybe it was the 3,600 lb. it had to pull around.

The weight didn't seem to affect the fuel economy, which is rated at a respectable 20 mpg in the city and 27 highway.

But the C70 Convertible isn't really about brute power. Really, what convertible is any more? The C70 is a luxury convertible meant for comfortable cruising. The suspension is tuned for comfort, not canyon racing. Not that it's overly soft, it just isn't a tightly sprung, nervous car. I call it control float. No serious lean around corners but very supple over the bumps.

The C70 Convertible is not a cheap car. At $45,320 out the door it competes favorably with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLK Cabriolet which is about $4,000 more. The C70 Convertible is a very well appointed car. The test car had just under two grand in options that in my humble opinion should have been standard. I mean why make heated front seats, stability and traction control, and burled walnut trim optional on a luxury vehicle? Throw it all in on every car and be done with it. Who's going to notice an extra two thou on a car in this price range?

You might ask yourself why would a car company that has a reputation for building reliable if boring sedans and station wagons, based in a country that sees a whole lot of snow, build a convertible? It's kind of funny because Volvo has been building some interesting, fun, fast cars for the last ten or fifteen years yet we all still think of them as the staid Swedes. Maybe that's why they're building cars like the C70 Convertible. By Bruce Hotchkiss AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  By Bruce Hotchkiss AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Column Name:  '99 Volvo C70 Convertible
Topic:  '99 Volvo C70 Convertible
Word Count:   850
Photo Caption:  '99 Volvo C70 Convertible
Photo Credits:  Volvo PR
Series #:   1999 - 44

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