2006 Volvo C70 With its complicated-looking retractable hardtop in motion, we weren't sure if the 2006 Volvo C70 was going to turn itself into a convertible or a giant robot. The C70 may not be a Transformer, but it has about as much tech. Its nav system is very capable, but hampered by a poorly placed screen. The premium Dynaudio stereo, although producing spectacular sound, isn't MP3-friendly.
Beyond being the sleekest-looking Volvo ever, with a paint job called Passion Red, we were very impressed by the C70's engine. Its 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine shows its efficiency by producing decent power while getting good mileage.
The C70's retractable top looks pretty amazing in motion.
Although there are many new cars with retractable hardtops being launched this year, it's still a remarkable technology. With the C70, pushing a button near the shifter makes the top unlatch, then lift up, slipping the forward half under the back and dropping the whole thing into the trunk. It is an impressive sight, and we also like that there's a power window button that lowers or raises all of the windows. But don't expect to pack a lot of bags in the trunk; the lowered roof takes up most of it, leaving a space below that might fit a couple of small suitcases on their sides. Volvo thoughtfully provides a button in the trunk that makes the roof apparatus lift up enough to make the small cargo space accessible.
Thin stack stereo
The C70's body looks great, but Volvo didn't neglect the interior, either. Our test car's seats were covered in nice, thick leather, and the center stack looked like it came straight from a concept car. This stack is a curved, aluminum-look thin panel anchored to the dash at the top and the shifter mount at the bottom. The middle floats free, leaving a large space behind, suitable for storing a CD case. Generally we thought it was a nice, futuristic touch, although one of our reviewers didn't see the point in it.
The eight-way power adjustable front seats provide a surprising range of motion, from vertical movement to tipping the seat bottoms up or down. Even the key for the car has an interesting techno touch; its plastic shaft still needs to be inserted into the ignition and turned, but it uses an RFID chip to let the car know it's the correct key, instead of a notched metal shaft, as in older keys. As in most coupes, the rear seats don't provide much legroom, but Volvo offers a unique touch for access. Buttons on the outbound shoulders of the front seats cause them to power forward, but those buttons will take the seats back only as far as they were originally set.
Although it doesn't play MP3 CDs, the Dynaudio stereo system sounds superb.
We were very excited to try out the Dynaudio stereo that was optioned on our test car, a premium system upgraded for the 2006 model year C70. This stereo has 12 speakers planted around the cabin, including two subwoofers. The speakers are powered by a four-channel 130-watt amp, a single-channel 130-watt amp for the center speaker, and dual 130-watt channels for the subwoofers. The system includes Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound, and it sounds spectacular. Audio quality is every bit as good as that of the Mark Levinson audio system in the Lexus IS 350.
Unfortunately, the stereo doesn't have any facility for MP3s, either CDs or through an auxiliary input. It does have a six-disc in-dash changer and the usual FM/AM radio and can be equipped with Sirius satellite radio. The interface for the stereo is fairly minimal but works well. Although it uses a simple monochrome LCD panel for a display, we like its radio tuning function, which simulates a needle moving along a vertical band.
The car includes a keypad below the stereo display, a very good interface element that gets completely wasted, since there is no Bluetooth cell phone integration or need for advanced navigation of an MP3 CD. Neither is the keypad used for the navigation system. We do like the simplicity and usability of the four-way rocker switch with its Enter and Back buttons, which is used to access car and audio settings.
Our test car came equipped with satellite navigation, a system with excellent route guidance but plagued by the worst screen placement we've seen. Initially, we thought the only way to control the navigation was with the included remote control, because none of the buttons on the center stack had anything to do with it. A few days into our review, however, we discovered a four-way rocker switch with two buttons attached to the back of the right spoke of the steering wheel.
Poor placement of the LCD means navigation is washed out by glare.
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 engine offers good low-rpm torque, but this car is more sedate cruiser than corner-carver.
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.