- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2002

Once the ugly duckling of near-luxury automobiles, Volvo has, in recent years, actually become downright stylish. You need look only as far as its C70 coupe to see this Swedish maker's change in attitude.

Timeless in its design, the C70 casts off Volvo's historic obsession with square corners, resulting in a look both aggressive and appealing. Fifteen years ago, no one would have imagined a drop-top Volvo.

Let's face it, it would have looked like a chalkboard eraser with wheels. But with the svelte lines of the C70 coupe, a convertible was a logical progression. Indeed, the C70 convertible is one of more handsome ragtops on the road today.

With spring upon us, it is natural for our thoughts to turn to wind-in-the-hair motoring, and the selection of convertibles today is the largest it has been in 30 years. Standing out among the current crop of softtops is no easy feat, but the C70 convertible does just that. Its wind-cheating lines, spacious interior and 236-horsepower, high-turbo engine blend to forge a worthy competitor for a crowded field of ragtops.

In the C70, Volvo has a coupe with a surprisingly roomy interior. Consequently, lopping off the roof creates a convertible capable of comfortably transporting four adults. The rear seat is remarkably spacious affording adequate hip and legroom. Getting into the back seat is less a chore with the top down, but patience is required in waiting for the motorized movement of the front seat propelling it out of the way once the seatback has been tilted forward. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Up front, firm, supportive seats and lots of elbow room make for an inviting environment. Heated front seats have been made standard equipment for this year. The instrument panel is uncluttered and the controls self-explanatory.

Like nearly every convertible, when the C70's top is raised, a clear vision rearward requires judicious use of the outboard mirrors. The convertible top in the high-turbo C70 lowers and raises with the push of a button, and has a glass rear window. The light turbo's top is manually operated.

The C70 convertible has the full complement of Volvo safety equipment including front side-impact air bags, whiplash protection system, automatic safety belt tensioners for all four seating positions, stability traction control (a new standard feature), roll-over protection system and anti-lock brakes.

The base engine is a 2.4-liter, light-turbocharged, five-cylinder engine. It makes 190 horsepower. The optional 2.3-liter, high-pressure turbocharged five-cylinder delivers 46 additional horsepower and 244 foot-pounds of torque. Only a five-speed automatic is available with the light turbo, while it, as well as a five-speed manual, transfers engine power to the front wheels of the more powerful engine. The high turbo with automatic transmission used for this evaluation delivered a 0-60 time of less than seven seconds. It accelerates with passion and without much turbo buzz.

Handling wins out over ride comfort in the C70. Its firm suspension delivers a less than pliant ride. On the other hand, it corners well helped along by optional sticky low-profile 17-inch tires and steering response is nearly instantaneous.

Handsome and fun to drive, the C70 convertible is anything but inexpensive. The 2.4-liter, light-turbo version rings the register at $44,125. Commanding another $2,000, the 2.3-liter model delivers the more powerful engine, as well as the automatic power top, an upgraded audio system with three-disc in-dash CD changer and outside temperature indicator.

Other standard features on both convertibles include cruise control, automatic dual-zone climate control, power locks with remote keyless entry, power windows with auto down, auto-dimming rearview mirror, eight-way power adjustable front seats, leather seating and tilt/telescopic steering wheel.

The automatic transmission, 17-inch wheels, premium audio system and delivery charge pushed the price as tested to $48,750.

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