Volvo Cars sold a scant 200 C70 convertibles per year in its Swedish home market before the auto maker stopped making the rag top in 2004, two years after ending production of a companion C70 coupe.
Now the C70 returns as a two-in-one vehicle: a sleek coupe and a convertible, when its 3-panel hardtop roof electronically retracts, a 30-second contortion act that ends in the trunk.
Sales of the new model in convertible-challenged Sweden are expected to increase to 700 units. That still is low volume but a 350% jump, nonetheless, in a country located partly in the Arctic Circle.
The real sales action is expected in the U.S., where C70 deliveries are forecast at 6,000-8,000 units annually, about 50% of the car's anticipated world sales.
Volvo is bringing the versatile 4-seater to market as a “halo car” intended to stir emotions while freshening Volvo's image.
Exterior designer John Kinsey sought to accentuate strength, elegance and simplicity in styling the new C70. The car is lower, shorter and wider than its predecessor. Rounded corners, a minimal front overhang and upsweeping shoulders are cited as Volvo design hallmarks.
Volvo stands out as a safety-conscious OEM, and the new C70 is touted as a “safe” convertible that can win over consumers who think driving one is like playing football without a helmet. Protective gear includes door-mounted inflatable curtains, super strong hydroformed A-pillars, steel roof panels and reinforced side doors.
Volvo pondered a roof that retracts with a quick-touch button but scotched the idea due to safety concerns. Instead, the button must be held down for 30 seconds.
The new model is powered by a 218-hp 2.5L light-pressure turbocharged inline 5-cyl. The mill is positioned transversely in the front-wheel-drive vehicle and mated to a 6-speed manual transmission or optional 5-speed automatic.
The '06 C70's base price is $38,710 with a $695 destination charge. Options include a $1,550 premium sound package. Stand-alone options include the automatic transmission ($1,250), 18-in. alloy wheels ($995) and bi-xenon headlamps ($700).
The car goes on sale in late April. The C70's chief competitors are the Audi A4, Saab 9-3 and3-Series, which is the segment leader with annual convertible sales of 14,000 units.
Volvo hopes the new C70 will attract more male buyers. New York and Los Angeles are considered Volvo's best sales cities — and in particular for the C70.
Far from the urban markets, Volvo holds a media drive preview in a remote location, the tiny town of Hana on the eastern end of Hawaii's Maui island.
The area is known for its Hana Highway, a 35-mile (56-km) stretch of winding roadway with about 600 turns and 54 one-lane bridges. It can be a treacherous passage.
Yet the C70 stays on its toes, responding to assorted driving commands and conditions, such as a road surface flooded in spots by a pounding rain. The 3,722-lb. (1,621-kg) car shows road-hugging confidence, precise steering and nimble handling along this unusual tangle of turns.
With speed limits never exceeding 35 mph (56 km/h) and the road never really straightening out, this is not a test of flat-out speed as much as an exercise of command and control in a steady car designed to take Volvo into new territories of the marketplace.
'06 Volvo C70
Vehicle type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, 4-passenger 2-door hardtop convertible
Engine: 2.5L (2,521 cc) DOHC turbocharged I-5, aluminum block/aluminum head
Power (SAE net): 218 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 236 lb.-ft. (320 Nm) @ 1,500-4,800 rpm
Compression ratio: 9.0:1
Bore × stroke (mm): 83.3 × 93.2
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 103.9 ins. (264 cm)
Overall length: 180.4 ins. (458 cm)
Overall width: 71.7 (182 cm)
Overall height: 55.1 ins. (140 cm)
Curb weight: 3,772 lbs. (1,712 kg)
EPA fuel economy, city/highway (mpg): 20/29
Market competition: Audi A4;3-Series; Mercedes CLK; Camry Solara