At first we thought these controls were too minimal, but in practice they worked just fine. We quickly learned how to set destinations and scan the map. The points-of-interest database had the usual categories, such as restaurants and gas stations, but lacked retail store information. The system really stood out under route guidance, where it offered a good graphics of upcoming turns on the left side of the map, and good voice prompting. But most of the time we couldn't see it, because the screen pops up from the center of the dash, with no protection from glare. Unless we were driving at night or in a tunnel, the sun completely washed out the screen.
The C70 looks pretty sharp, but it's not much of a car for sport driving. We were impressed by the engine, which delivers power and decent fuel economy. In fact, our review staff found that even moderate pressure on the gas pedal would chirp the front tires from a stop. This behavior is due to the 2.5-liter, turbocharged five-cylinder engine putting out its full 236 lb.-ft. of torque all the way from 1,500 to 4,800rpm. Horsepower goes up to 218 at 5,000rpm.
The five-speed automatic includes a manual mode but is a little behind the times by today's standards. A sixth gear would improve mileage for freeway driving. As in many Volvos, a W button near the shifter activates winter mode, which keeps the transmission in lower gears for longer amounts of time.
The steering wheel in the C70 feels great, nice and thick with very comfortable material around it that helps grip. But handling on the front-wheel drive C70 suffers from notable understeer. With the top down, we felt like it was going fast around corners, but a look at the speedometer showed we often weren't above the recommended speed for the turn.
The EPA rates the 2006 Volvo C70 with five-speed automatic at 20mpg in the city and 29mpg on the highway. We observed 24mpg in our test car in over 300 miles of mixed city and freeway driving, which is not bad. The car also gets a ULEV II rating on California's emissions standards, another very positive mark for this engine.
The C70 includes an impressive number of airbags for a convertible coupe. The driver and front passenger get side and front airbags, while door-mounted side curtain airbags offer additional head protection. Also, because it's a convertible, it gets roll bars that pop up over the rear seats if a rollover is detected. The A-pillars are also strengthened to support the weight of the car in case of a rollover.
Of course, the car has a complement of systems to prevent accidents. Along with antilock brakes, it has electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency braking assistance, which adds braking power when it senses the driver putting hard and fast force to the brake pedal. The C70 also has traction and stability control. The C70 hasn't been rated by the NHTSA for crash protection. Volvo offers 48 months or 50,000 miles on its warranty.
Our test car, a 2006 Volvo C70, had a base price of $38,710. Its automatic transmission cost an additional $1,250, and it came with the Climate ($1,112), Premium ($1,395), navigation ($2,120), and Dynaudio ($1,550) packages. With the destination charge of $695, the total came to $46,832.
The C70 isn't much of a performance car, but it is a very comfortable cruiser. The top notch stereo adds significantly to the cruising experience in this car. The poor placement of the nav screen and the lack of trunk space with the top down hurts the everyday practicality of the C70. Even without the expensive options loaded up on our test car, the base price is on the high side. Still, the only cars we've seen with an audio system that compares are the Lexus IS 350 and the Lincoln Zephyr, but neither of these have retractable hardtops.