By MALCOLM GUNN
Swedish automakers such as Volvo are noted more for their advances in safety than for their innovative style and designs.
So it's a pleasant surprise to find this Ford-owned organization pushing all the right buy-it-now styling buttons with its brand new C70 convertible.
"This is a sexy new convertible that marries a convertible with a coupe," says Jeff Burnette, general manager of Al Johnson Volkswagon-Volvo in Dalton. "This car had been very well recieved and we will be restocking in June and July."
Patrons of the Volvo brand have been without a drop-top since the previous 850-sedan-based model bowed out in 2004. However, the past 18 months have definitely been worth the wait, as the all-new mid-'06 replacement shows off its show-stopping three-piece disappearing steel roof.
Hardtop convertibles appear to be the "in" thing these days, with a diverse group of manufacturers (Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Pontiac and Volkswagen) already joining in on the lid-flipping antics. Apparently the advantages of such an arrangement ? a more rigid structure, cleaner lines and improved safety and security ? outweigh the disadvantage of a significant reduction in trunk space with the top folded.
Most manufacturer field studies must obviously conclude that convertible buyers aren?t particularly concerned about the practical nature of their chosen ride. Their focus is on ingesting unlimited amounts of fresh air while catching a few rays and trying to convince the rest of us that driving should be a see-and-be-seen activity.
Compared to the previous convertible, the C70 is shorter overall by more than five inches and the wheelbase reduced by one inch due to a platform that?s based on the junior-sized 40/50-series Volvos as well as the Mazda3 (Ford also owns part of Mazda). Despite its tidier dimensions, the car has added 300-plus pounds, no doubt partly due to the extra mechanicals required for the metal roof to retract.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while a five-speed automatic is optional. Volvo claims a six-speed C70 will hit 60 m.p.h. in 7.0 seconds, less than a half-second faster than an automatic-equipped version.
A Volvo wouldn't be a Volvo without a plethora of safety gear (after all, a Volvo engineer invented the three-point seat belt) and the C70 is no exception. Along with the expected side-impact and door-mounted side-curtain airbags with rollover protection, the convertible gets stability and traction control. The front seats, with built-in whiplash protection, are designed to keep occupants from sliding out from underneath the seat belt in a collision.
The remaining standard luxury-esque content includes climate control, eight-way power driver and front passenger seats, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, cruise control and power heated outside mirrors. But its the standard folding metal roof that?s the star of the show and the best news is that Volvo is actually charging a lower admission price (by about $1,000) than for the old soft-top unit.
That makes the C70 an attractive buy and for more than just its equally attractive sheetmetal.