2011 Volvo C70: Quick Drive

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It's spring, and what could be more pleasant than putting the top down in a stylish European four-seat convertible?

We got the chance to drive the 2011 Volvo C70 recently, rediscovering the joys (and smells) of open-air travel in the spring sunshine.

The C70 is a bit of an oddball in the Volvo lineup, which is otherwise largely composed of sensible sedans and capacious crossovers.

It's what the Europeans call a coupe-convertible, with a metal roof that folds into the trunk within 30 seconds when you want it to become a droptop.

It's a remarkable process to watch, as a collection of electric motors and hydraulic rams disengages the top from various latches, then lift it, separate it into three short sections that nest neatly into each other, and drop the whole thing into the trunk--whose lid has opened from the rear on a special second set of hinges.

2011 Volvo C70

2011 Volvo C70

The C70 competes with the Volkswagen Eos (and used to match up with the old Audi A4 Cabrio), but it sits a notch below convertibles from more prestigious nameplates, including the current Audi A5 Cabrio, Lexus IS-C, and Infiniti G35 cabriolet.

The base price of the 2011 Volvo C70 is $39,950. Our test car listed at $46,550, including a $2,600 multimedia package, $1,900 for a dynamic package plus a climate package, $700 for Volvo's exemplary Blindspot Information System, and $550 for metallic paint.

Striking, sporty ... and very, very red

The front end of the C70 was restyled last year, updating the corporate grille and vent placement to resemble the stylish and successful XC60 crossover. The lamps are swept back into the fenders, and it gives this car--now several years old--an entirely new look.

The truly striking deep cherry-red metallic paint combined with five-spoke wheels and low-profile tires to erase any traces of stodginess, making the C70 look far sportier than it used to. And the car attracted looks aplenty.

There are a few quibbles: Unusually for safety-minded Volvo, the deep seats and rising beltline make the rear visibility marginal and reversing a challenge, even for a six-foot-tall driver.

Inside, the C70 cockpit is a bit severe, with lots of hard black plastic--more so than the more recent XC60, with its warmer cream and beige interior.

Turbo howl

Volvo has simplified the C70 options list. There's now only one engine and transmission combination. It's a turbocharged 227-hp, 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine, mated to a five-speed automatic that drives the front wheels.

2011 Volvo C70 Convertible

2011 Volvo C70 Convertible

For a tight four-seater, the C70 isn't light--coming in at 3840 pounds--but the turbo gives the engine sufficient oomph to make the car entertaining on country roads and when getting away from stoplights.

Turbo lag is tolerable, and our biggest surprise was simply the amount of turbo howl given off by the engine when it was pressed.

On the other hand, we drove almost entirely with the top down, so it might have been quieter inside the cabin with the roof up. For us, that wasn't what this car was about.

The EPA rates the 2011 Volvo C70 at 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 23 mpg.

We achieved roughly 24 mpg over a weekend test drive of 340 miles that skewed more heavily to highway travel than around-town stop-and-go.

Scuttle shake, for days

The previous generation of the Volvo C70 was known as a very soft-riding coupe, so Volvo firmed up the suspension and changed the wheels and tires. Unfortunately, the company may have overcompensated.

The undeniably sexy five-spoke, 18-inch "diamond-cut wheels" and low-profile all-season tires have taken the ride quality from soft to hard, occasionally bordering on disturbingly harsh.

Our C70 exhibited constant tremors on certain types of road, plus the definite sense that the two halves of the car were moving at different frequencies.

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