Some cars catch on quickly, while others struggle for attention. Volvos stylish front-drive coupe and convertible fall into the latter category, failing to draw more than modest sales. Production difficulties surfaced early, too, which delayed the proper promotion of the car. Changes are few for 2001, and the Swedish-built two-doors have a hazy future since Volvo has new S60 sedans and V70 wagons on sale now, diluting the mix of models at dealerships.
Volvo launched the C70 coupe as a 1998 model and added a similar-looking convertible the following summer. Described as ground-breaking in design, the C70 was supposed to change the way that Americans look at Volvo automobiles. Competitors include the BMW 3 Series coupe and convertible, Acura CL coupe and Mercedes-Benz CLK.
During their first few seasons, the coupes and convertibles came with either a high-pressure or low-pressure turbocharged engine. But for 2001, Volvo has dropped the coupe with the less potent low-pressure engine, noting that coupe buyers consider power to be their third highest reason for purchasing a particular vehicle. Coupes tend to draw male buyers, but Volvo reports that women purchase 70 percent of convertibles.
Smooth lines characterize the two-door Volvo, making it hard to believe that its manufactured by the Swedish automaker long known for square, upright designs with rear-wheel drive. A traditional Volvo-type vertical grille sits up front and shows off a large corporate logo. Otherwise, the curvaceous C70 has few design features that distinguish it from other brands.
A power sunroof is available for the coupe, and the convertibles top is a power-operated glass rear window with a defogger. Front and rear fog lights are standard. Standard tires are 16-inchers, but 17- or 18-inch rubber can be installed. The C70 is 5 inches longer and 2 inches taller than the Mercedes-Benz CLK.
Regardless of the body style, only four occupants fit inside a C70 and rear seating may be cramped for adult passengers. A power front-passenger seat slides slowly forward to help ease rear access, but getting in and out of the backseat can be a pain. Still, the C70 beats a number of other two-door models in terms of interior space.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, heated power mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise control, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, an eight-way power drivers seat with memory and an eight-way power passengers seat. Leather upholstery is standard in the convertibles. Heated front seats are an option, and an accessory wind blocker is available for the C70 convertible.
Under the Hood
Two inline-five-cylinder engines are offered for the C70. A 2.4-liter engine with light-pressure turbocharging makes 190 horsepower, which is available only in the convertible this year. For extra performance, theres a 236-hp 2.3-liter with a high-pressure turbocharger, which is standard in coupes and available in the convertible. The light-pressure engine teams with a five-speed-automatic transmission, while the high-pressure version gets either the automatic or a five-speed-manual gearbox. Volvos electronic stability system, called Dynamic Stability Traction Control, is also available.
Volvo has long been known for safety considerations, and the C70 is no exception. Dual-stage front airbags, side-impact airbags, daytime running lights and all-disc antilock brakes are standard, in addition to Volvos Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), which moves the front seats rearward in a collision. The side-impact airbags are designed to protect not only the occupants chest, but also the head and upper body.
After a drive in either of the C70 body styles, one wonders why these stunningly shaped, Swedish-made two-doors never achieved sales success. High prices are part of the reason, and publicity about production problems for early models didnt help. Still, performance and comfort abound in these modern-day Volvos.
Like other Volvos, the C70 exhibits a heavy feel overall. Steering demands some effort but pays off in solid road behavior and superior highway handling. But on city streets, the ride can get rough. Assembly quality is solid and tight, and the C70 makes a fine choice for a long trip.