It's a good feeling when a car is communicative. I like it when the drive wheels tell me how they are handling the power I feed them. I like to sense understeer, oversteer, torque steer. I like the sense of stiffness that a body imparts in a sharp, fast corner. I like it when an engine's sounds become so familiar that it is not necessary to watch the tachometer or the speedometer to know exactly what the car is doing. Some cars, however, can get communicative in a bad way, and I'm sorry to say, the 2001 Volvo C70 is one of those.

Leaving Boston for New Hampshire on my first trip behind the wheel, I noticed that it didn't just communicate. It chattered incessantly. At first, I tried to chalk it up to the expressway and to Big Dig roughness. It seemed I felt every crack, every groove, through the wheel. When I opened it up on the highway, the chattering turned to a steady shudder, transmitted not so much through the wheel as through the entire body of the car. It was a steady vibration, so steady that it dawned on me: Mad Cowl Disease. It has crossed the Atlantic.

Volvo, long known for steely, solid, rugged, and stiff cars, has built a car that, well, shakes, rattles, and rolls right at its very heart: the space between driver and engine. It's not stiff enough to handle even the smallest road imperfections without chattering or shuddering.

The last C70 I reviewed had a problem more to the rear: a rattling that came from the area where the doors met the rear panel. I don't know if in tinkering to fix that problem, Volvo engineers somehow pushed the vibration point forward. What I do know is the new shake comes not from behind but from in front. And that is too bad. With its engine, its amenities, and its hot look, this is otherwise a truly fine automobile.

It is powered by a 2.3-liter, 5-cylinder, DOHC, turbocharged engine that puts out 236 horsepower and 244 lb.-ft. of torque. With all that torque in a front-wheel-drive auto, it is remarkable that very little torque steer is present. But still, there is that cowl shake.

It can't be related to the suspension, a fine-tuned setup that includes, up front, struts, lower A-arms, coil springs, tube shocks, and antiroll bar and, in the rear, semi-independent trailing arms, coil springs, tube shocks, and antiroll bar.

And it is not as if Volvo, known for ruggedly built, safe cars, skimped anywhere. The C70 envelops you in a cocoon of safety: solid head restraints on four seats; multiple break points in the steering wheel to protect the driver in frontal crashes; air bags that adjust for strength of crash and even determine whether driver or passengers are wearing seat belts; heavily reinforced doors that feature high-tech steel braces; a rear compartment that surrounds passengers in a steel horseshoe; and "hoops" that pop up as rollbars if sensors determine the car is in danger of tipping over.

No, you are safe in this car. Safe, and comfortable. The leather seats are sculpted to hold you firmly, comfortably, and safely. The gauges and controls are grouped in logical formations. Fuel, speed, engine temperature, and tachometer - as well as trip computer - are behind the wheel. At center dash, the climate controls are on top, the audio below.

If there is a utilitarian fault, it's the lack of storage. Door bins are too shallow, the center console bin is small, and even the trunk (perhaps owing to the need for a place to put the roof when it's down) is not very large. That roof, by the way, works in a remarkably simple manner: Push a button and hold it until the roof is down and stored beneath a hard cap.

The sharp slope of the windshield keeps wind and noise out of the car with the top down; with the top up, the C70 is as whistle-free as a convertible can be.

It is a smooth car to drive (forgetting that cowl shudder) as far as power transfer is concerned. Straight ahead, it surges with guttural power absent any turbo whine. It is not a car given neck-snapping acceleration, but it delivers a steady, sure climb through the torque band.

In high-speed cornering, there is some sense of body torque. Throw in some bumps in the corners and it is as if you can see the movement in the cowl. Straight ahead on the highway, and in quick lane changes, it was steady and sure.

Stopping, using ABS and four-wheel disc brakes, was straight and sure, with no nose dive.

It is odd to discover a car that, with so much going for it, has such an aggravating flaw. Volvo is a company making solid moves to a sportier image - I can't wait for this fall's first drive of the all-wheel-drive S60 - but with the C70, something has gone awry.