There are rules to driving convertibles.

The first is simple: If you're not in a hail storm or hurricane, put the top down.

If it's snowing, use the heater.

If it's raining, drive faster.

And when the top is down, your windows should be too -- and I mean all of them.

When I recently hopped into the 2008 Volvo C70, I thought I was following all of the rules correctly. But only after I pulled off the road, I noticed the rear window sticking, cutting through the air like a shark's fin in the ocean. For shame.

There's a simple but elegant beauty with the C70. Watching those magnificent pieces of the roof slide together and fall gently into the trunk makes me giddy. A hundred miles in the C70 is a breeze, though it's murder on your hair.

Tweaked for the 2008 model over last year's, the new C70 is noticeably better.

My test vehicle included laminated oak trim that is the best wood accent I've ever seen on a car. It looks like weathered teak from a boat, carved grain outlining the ultra-slim center stack and console, with a few wooden touches throughout the cabin.

It makes the interior look so nice you want to leave the top down so people can admire it while it's parked. The new Z-shaped emergency brake; the intuitive and simple center stack; the beautifully crafted leather seats that hold you in place snugly but don't try to squeeze you like a grandmother heading back to Alaska for a year.

I also like that the C70 is a four-passenger coupe, with complete second row bucket seats -- though they do lack much leg room (33.9 inches). Sometimes convertibles say they can accommodate five people, when really, they were made for four. There's nothing pretentious about this coupe. Four is enough.

The exterior has a split personality. Put the hard top up and it's as straight-laced as a deacon in Lake Wobegon. Hold down the "open" button; wait less than 30 seconds and the C70 becomes as wild as a Swede cruising to Estonia.

Convertibles are like that, it's just one of the rules.

There are hints that the top comes off when you see the car sitting in a parking lot. That line that runs across the center of the top for no particular reason is the first giveaway. The odd break along the trunk that seems unnaturally high is another.

But Volvo has managed to create such a styling roofline curve that many people might only think it's a stylish coupe, not a sun worshiping machine.

Nicely proportioned and balanced, the C70 remains true to Volvo's design cues with lots of straight and easy flowing lines. Because of the lifted back end, the rear tire looks a little small, but it's simple and clean.

On the road, it's still fun. Volvo added nine horses to the five-cylinder 2.5-liter turbocharged engine, increasing its power figures to 227 horses and 236 pound-feet of torque. I was fortunate enough to be driving the six-speed manual transmission and found the pick up pleasantly good, as long as I kept the revs high during acceleration. The turbo lag -- the amount of time between mashing the accelerator and the kick of the engine -- was only noticeable on the highway, and even then, it didn't feel out of place.

A five-speed automatic is also available, but it will be slower off the line. (Volvo says the manual goes 0-60 mph in 7 seconds; the automatic takes 7.4 seconds.) The manual will also get you another mile per gallon on the highway, hitting 27 mpg compared with 26 mpg for the automatic. Both reach 18 mpg in city driving. Another perk is that Volvo's turbo does not require premium fuel, regular works just fine.

The car's handling was good. On the highway it was smooth and the ride was very comfortable. Wind noise was minimal and there was very little cowl shake -- the windshield shaking side to side when the top is down.

The steering felt firm and the car always felt well planted. But I'll admit that I didn't press this car through its paces at first. I just enjoyed it, opening the top on a cloudy, cool day, turning the heated seats on high and listening to the 910-watt Dynaudio Premium Sound System.

That's another rule with convertibles: No AM radio.

2008 C70 T5

MSRP: $39,985

Engine: 2.5-liter, five-cylinder turbocharged engine

Power: 227 horsepower; 236-pound-feet torque

Max engine speed: 6,500 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual; 5-speed auto

EPA Fuel economy:

Manual: 18 mpg city / 27 mpg highway

Automatic: 18 mpg city / 26 mpg highway


Front: MacPherson strut with coil-over springs

Rear: Multilink independent with coil-springs

Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion

Turning circle: 38.7 feet

Curb weight: 3,776 pounds

Wheelbase: 103.9 inches

Length: 180.4 inches

Height: 55.1 inches

Width: 72.3 inches

Trunk capacity:

Top up: 12.8 cubic feet

Top down: 6 cubic feet


Front: 42.3 inches

Rear: 33.9 inches

Performance numbers:

Top speed: 146 mph (electronically limited)

0-60 (manual): 7 seconds

0-60 (auto): 7.4 seconds

Stopping distances (62 mph): 123 feet

Scott Burgess is the auto critic for The Detroit News. He can be reached at