July 4, 2011

Volvo C70


Happy ‘Merica Day! (Thank you, Nerdist Chris Hardwick.)  We are back in the land of good wireless Interwebs and less hybrids.  At least we don’t live in LA where hybrids come with a California driver’s license.  Anyway, happy 4th!  Be safe and don’t blow any body parts off!  To the good stuff.

            Who knew that Volvo made a sporty hard top convertible? 

We didn’t. 

In fact we had to Google: Volvo convertible, just to see which model we needed to ask the dealership to test.  Volvo is known for vehicle safety and the dealership presented this mantra at every chance.  The salesman’s cubicle was sealed with a glass door and locked.  They informed us that they would not give away our information when they took our license and insurance information.  They even had us sign a form saying we had been notified that they wouldn’t sell our info.  As always we asked to take the car out by ourselves and that didn’t happen this time.  We loved that we drove the car harder with the salesman in the vehicle, encouraging us to “push it.”  The C70 T5 with its five cylinder turbo-charged safety-conscious aluminum engine responded very well.

                The Interior of this particular Volvo was sparse.  All of the switches, buttons, climate control, etc. are located on a floating center console.  To show off, Volvo has compressed all the wiring in the middle portion of the vehicle to create a slim casing for the climate control and media center.  It didn’t bother us that much compared to the frustration we felt from the tiny buttons located there.  The interior felt very utilitarian.  There isn’t any elaborate stitching on the seats and steering wheel like the BMW and Mercedes, but at the same time, which Swede isn’t practical and to the point.
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                The media center was straight forward as long as you wanted the station that was already on. We pretty much ignored it, but thought it looked like something that Fisher Price could market to parents as mobile media for toddlers; durable over-engineered plastic. 
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                One thing that we noticed is the width of legroom for the driver.  We’ve got long legs and when we can’t move the seat back any more then our legs tend to bow out.  In this car though, every place we went to rest our knees was surrounded by hard plastic.  Normally in most cars there is some soft type material there, but this Volvo feels like it was designed by short people who don’t understand this leg issue (First world problems!)
                The seats were comfortable for the front passengers and the non-leg owning occupants in the back.  If you’ve got legs, you won’t be comfortable in the back (Is anyone else sensing a theme?). 

                The C70 has a retractable hard top roof that stows away quickly (around 20 seconds), but Volvo demands that the car is stopped in park and that the sun be in the right position.  It took the salesman a couple of tries before we could get the top down.  The radio antenna is found on the trunk hood, instead of on top of the windscreen like the IS250C.  There are a number of color options and the color we drove is hideous, like metallic baby blue, just not easy to look at. 
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                The sound of the C70 was nothing that we noticed.  We didn’t notice an absence of sound either, but it was one of those weird in between areas where you think you can hear something, but it keeps escaping you.
                The front of the C70 looks pretty tough, while the back has the offset taillight configuration that is a Volvo standard.  None of it made us nauseous, but we weren’t thrilled with the overall look.  We did like the wheels.  It had nice wheels (Pulitzer here we come…).

                The performance of the C70 was great compared to the Lexus and Jeep.  It was about the same as the Mini, but wasn’t as powerful as the Mercedes.  The ride of the Volvo and its five-cylinder 227hp turbo-charged engine made it a fun and comfortable ride.  The Lexus has a great ride, but the power of the Volvo moves it ahead of the Lexus in our rankings. 
                We did notice a considerable amount of wheel spin and the traction control having to activate just leaving regular traffic lights.  We fully embrace wheel spin, but the traction control was really working hard when we were not driving the car very hard.  In fact the salesman kept telling us on the push it harder and even had us turn some tight corners in a church parking lot (Yes, we know, Jesus is always watching.  Peer Pressure sucks.).  The five speed automatic transmission that has manual shift control had a lot to do with this.  Even though it’s an automatic, when you start using the manual shift control, it starts to feel rough and jerky like a true manual transmission driven by an inept teenager.
                There was some torque steering too.  Since this is a front wheel drive car, the front wheels are supplying the power to move the vehicle.  If you take your hands off the steering wheel and hit the gas, the force of the acceleration will pull the car one way.  It wasn’t so bad that we had to fight it, but we did notice that it was there.  Torque steering is almost always an issue on powerful front wheel drive cars.  Most people don’t tend to drive hard enough (or with their hands off the wheel) to experience it.

                The C70 was a breath of fresh air after the Lexus.  We drove them both on the same day and were grateful for the Volvo.  The Lexus had a great ride, but the Volvo had a pretty good ride too.  The Volvo moved ahead in performance and exterior appeal (mainly because the Lexus was so hard to look at), while the Lexus dominated with the plush interior.  The C70 was priced around $44,000, or overpriced as we saw it.

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