There are cars that stick in your mind as great rides, and one of them is the latest Volvo C70 retractable hardtop convertible. I drove the car in the waning days of last fall, during a mostly rainy week to boot. But now that seasonal warmth has arrived here in New England, signaling convertible weather, now is the time for a short review.
What's most impressive about the car is its handling. C70 soft-top convertibles from years ago were noted for lack of body stiffness and shaking. This version has none of that, and coupled with tight handling and good road feel, makes for a car that's fun to drive well beyond the joy of top down motoring.
On the practical side, this four-seater got just below 30 mpg in over 500 miles of mostly highway driving. The 400-liter volume trunk gets reduced to half that with the top down. But Volvo engineers have incorporated a "load aid" functionwith the trunk open conventionally, the push of a button raises the stored roof panel package a foot, easing access to the trunk space below.
Safety-wise, rollover protection was a major design point, so pop-up roll bars protect occupants (in conjunction with boron steel, hydroformed tube windshield pillars), even with the top up. Designers didn't want to rely on the retractable roof structure for protection, even in the up position, according to Patrik Widerstrand, a C70 project leader.
He also told me the roof is powered by electrically-driven hydraulics with 16 sensors for functions such as position monitoring. Hall sensors, regarded as more reliable than microswitches by the design engineers, are used to confirm latching in the up and down positions. Widerstrand added a key design challenge was securing the retracted roof panels to each other and the truck to avoid damage when traveling over rough roads, ensuring a long functional life of the mechanism.
Even my wife thinks fondly of the C70 putting the $40k car on her wish list.
View a C70 video that includes retractable top operation.