By Grant Davis
Women love the 2011 Volvo C70 T5 convertible. I even had one smile broadly at me and tell me that “It’s impossible to feel crappy in a convertible,” as the 2.5–liter, 5-cylinder, turbocharged coupe sped down the local boulevard. For $46,550, as tested, that’s not a bad reaction. Except for this, women don’t necessarily love the guy driving this Volvo. No, women want to be the ones driving this tight speedster with the retractable hardtop roof. Women love the simple elegance of the climate, audio, and Bluetooth controls all stacked in the middle of dash and surrounded by brushed steel. Women love how the retractable hardtop makes them feel safer in sticky driving situations—or neighborhoods. Women love how they and three of their friends can easily fit in the four-seats, but guys are really limited to the two front seats. And women love how the smallish car can zip in and out of traffic with ease.
Guys – okay, maybe just me – like the aggressive styling of the C70 with the roof up, but can’t help feeling like a wedding planner on his way to an appointment when the roof is down. And that’s a shame since this convertible is a pleasant enough ride. The 227-horsepower engine is capable, but not extraordinary. The 236 pound-feet of torque isn’t going to slam you back into your seat when you mash the gas. But it’s enough to make 20 miles of twisting roads over a 10,000-foot mountain pass in the Rockies fun.
Volvo, it’s Swedish for ‘Safe’
The 18-inch wheels that come spec’d with the Dynamic Package certainly hold this import from the great white north in place and the usual Volvo overkill on safety features is a comfort. Check this list of Volvo acronyms:
DSTC – Dynamic Stability Traction Control
ROPS – Rollover Protection System
HSS – Integral Passenger Safety Cage/Hish Strenth Steel
IC – Inflatible Curtain (side impact head protection)
SIPS – Side-Impact Protection System
WHIPS – Whiplash Protection System
BLIS – Blind Spot Information System (This was so annoying that I turned it off immediately after two blocks)
And again don’t forget the use of a hardtop, not a softtop, for this baby.
Great Balls of – Hey, Where’d Those Balls Go?
The retractable hardtop is the true engineering marvel on this Volvo – I had people stop and watch it open and close, and I could swear some even clapped. The engineers in Sweden must have been inspired by The Transformers movies. How else to explain the five-part symphony that is the roof opening and closing?
The problem for me is that when I put the roof back in the trunk, I could feel the weight balance of the car shift rearward, and I could instantly notice a sharp fall off in handling. For a front-wheel drive car, you want the weight over the front wheels for improved traction, but stowing the C70’s roof in the trunk pulled a perceptible amount of weight off the front end and made me very aware of the heft swinging around behind my seat. That extra heft sucks gas, too. While the sticker says 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway, I barely cracked 23 mpg on average and that’s with a 150-mile round-trip weekend in the mountains. That’s not great mileage when you realize that today’s minivans can do the same on the highway.
Putting the roof back also slashed the amount of trunk space available to roughly two pieces of carry-on luggage that you had to stow before you dropped the roof. And to get those pieces out? Yeah, you got to close the roof. It kills a lot of spontaneity; you can’t just leave the roof open and lock your valuables in the trunk while you grab some lunch or take a bathroom break after filling up with gas. Yes, I’m being picky here, but for $46k, I would’ve expected a more convenient engineering solution to this.
Volvo as a Chick Magnet
Lest I forget, women love this car, just not the guy driving it, mind you, and you know what? I honestly think women are who Volvo had in mind when they designed and built this vehicle. Maybe it’s a chick thing, and that’s all right.
To up the testosterone quotient, Volvo could just nix the convertible hardtop and all that extra weight, shave more pounds off the beefed up cage and pop-up rollbar mechanisms, it’d end up with a smoking ride that’d should give the 230-horsepower BMW 328i a run for its money for roughly the same amount of dough. But then, Volvo would be left with a coupe that wouldn’t cause gorgeous women to suddenly break out in a smile and make them forget how you screwed up for the umpteenth time. As with everything in life, compromises are everywhere.