Volvo’s 2004 C70 convertible stands the test of time

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Even we forgot about the Volvo C70 convertible, an open-air cruiser we really enjoyed shortly after its introduction back in 1998.

A discussion recently ensued as to the merits of various luxury convertibles. Such makes as the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes CLK, Saab 9-3, Ford Thunderbird and Audi A4 Cabriolet were thrown out for deliberation when talking to a couple of people who were in the market for an upscale drop top.
Somehow everyone overlooked the Volvo C70, maybe because the coupe version had been dropped after the 2002 model year, perhaps because it is entering its seventh model year with only minor upgrades, and perhaps because Volvo doesn’t spend a lot of time or money promoting it.

That recent discussion came to mind the other day when we took delivery of a 2004 C70 Convertible. Despite its age, how could we have forgotten this beautiful hunk of sheetmetal, perhaps the most gorgeous Volvo to ever grace a city street?

It may be running on a decade-old platform but it still has a lot going for it in addition to its charming looks. For one thing, Volvo has trimmed the price. That makes the C70 even more provocative. We hope the Swedish car company will not be accused of starting the dreaded deflation Washington economists have been talking about in recent months.

Our test car was a High Pressure Turbo model with optional 5-speed automatic transmission and an upgraded stereo system. The bottom line including destination charges was $44,165.

The identical car in 2003 guise commanded a list price of $47,725, according to

The 2004 C70 comes in two trim levels, the LPT or light pressure turbo with a 197-horsepower 5-cylinder engine for a base price of $40,565 with automatic transmission, and the HPT with a 242-horsepower 5-cylinder starting at $42,565 with a manual transmission.

For the 44 grand, the C70 with its 2.3-liter 242-horsepower 5-cylinder engine and automatic has a lot to offer. Although the front-driver does display some torque steer and there is a slight turbo lag, the engine will take the car from 0 to 60 in about 6.5 seconds and run through a quarter mile in around 15 seconds. The transmission smoothly ticks through the gears under lead-foot acceleration.

The performance matches nicely with such drop top competitors as the Saab 9-3, Mercedes CLK320, Ford Thunderbird and BMW 325i.

Where the C70 falters just a bit on its aged platform is in high-speed cornering. Body roll is evident in tight corners. Also the steering lacks the road feel of some of the other European four-place convertibles. But the Volvo tracks nicely and is easy to keep directed in a straight line.

To put things in perspective, under normal driving conditions (those employed by 95 percent of the population) torque steer, turbo lag, steering feel and a slightly soft suspension even with its beefy 20mm front and rear stabilizer bars, will never be noticed.

The Volvo is more of a beautiful cruiser, perhaps in the vein of the Thunderbird, rather than a sporty machine in the image of the BMW.

And there’s certainly nothing wrong with a comfortable, leather-clad, gorgeous convertible that can smoke most of the cars that pull beside it at the stoplight.
One downside, and perhaps this is due to the car’s old platform, is more body flex than we’ve become used to in the newer convertibles. Rough pavement or an unsettling set of railroad tracks will create some cowl shake.

The top operation is one touch. To get it moving the parking brake must be engaged and the transmission shifter must be in park. It takes about 30 seconds to completely stow the top.

With the top up, the C70 has a decent amount of trunk space, 8.1 cubic feet. We didn’t have the opportunity to attempt it, but golf club storage could be a challenge.
The instrument panel (IP) is well laid out and switchgear is easy to use. One example of where older is better is the stereo system. It includes an old-fashioned tuning knob and push-button pre-sets for the radio. That’s much better than Volvo’s new radio design where pre-sets must be selected by turning a knob.

The only inharmonious note in the IP is a speaker setting up high in the middle of the dash. We never could quite figure that one out. But it’s still there.
As in most Volvos, the seats are heavenly. This Swedish company has the right ingredients for making, arguably what may be the best and most comfortable chairs in the business.

The back seats are uninhabitable by adults for long drives, but as in most four-place convertibles, they are just fine for short periods of time. A jaunt to a nearby restaurant or the movie or an hour cruising the boulevard on a sunny afternoon should be the limit adults are made to endure in the second row.

The C70 is loaded with good stuff. Safety features, aside from the standard expected devises such as dual stage front airbags and Volvo’s famed SIPS and WHIPS (side and whiplash protection systems), include side impact airbags, a rollover protection system, antilock brakes and traction control.

Inside, driver and passenger are treated to eight-way power driver and passenger seats, leather seating surfaces, a leather covered tilt and telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, a fully automatic drop top with a glass rear window that has a defroster built-in, dual electronic climate control, 400-watt stereo system with 3-CD changer and 12 speakers, all-window master control switch with auto down, and genuine redwood inlays.

With Volvo setting the base price of a well-outfitted C70 just a bit over $40,000, it has made its convertible not only relevant for 2004 but certainly worth a test drive if you’re in the market for a really cool drop top.