Volvo C70 (2008) - long-term test

After nearly 18 months on the long-term fleet, our C70 has finally gone back to Volvo.

  • ENGINE It’s smooth, powerful and frugal, plus it sounds good – important in a convertible.<BR><BR>RIDE Comfort on the road is exceptional, and is aided by a smooth automatic gearbox. <BR><BR>ROOF Folding metal roofs are brilliant. By comparison, soft-tops now feel cheap to me.
  • SERVICING A bill of £303 for a first check-up is ridiculous. The customer service at HR Owen Regent’s Park was great, but oil accounted for about £70 of this. Did they top up with champagne? <BR><BR>ROOF PROBLEMS The party piece could be its Achilles heel. Our car spent six weeks at the dealer for a major repair.

Marmite – you either love it or loathe it. And our Volvo C70 divided opinion in the Auto Express office in much the same way. That’s because it did some things rather well and others quite badly indeed.

Half our team hated the car, due to its dull chassis. “The steering feels remote and the body flexes at even a hint of a corner,” explained online editor Chris Thorp.

“Volvos used to be exciting, but this car is as inert as the xenon gas in its lights,” added motoring editor Dan Strong.

Yet the factors which turned off some people appealed to others. Road tester Owen Mildenhall said: “If you want a big, comfortable, well built convertible, the C70 is a good choice. It’s better value than the BMW 3-Series, so long as you’re not after a sporty experience.”

And entertaining driving wasn’t one of acting deputy art editor Paul Slater’s requirements when he borrowed the Swede for a week-long trip to Spain. If you’re doing 2,000 miles on the motorway, a soft ride and luxurious cabin are preferable to taut suspension, pin-sharp steering and limpet-like cornering grip. “Even after a full day at the wheel, I didn’t feel tired,” he said. Paul liked the styling, too – especially the interior, which he called “contemporary minimalist brilliance”. Being a designer, Paul is well placed to comment.

Yet even though the C70 has a folding metal roof, he didn’t think it sacrificed function in the interest of form. “The Volvo was surprisingly practical,” Paul said. “I was amazed how it carried me and two mates, plus camping gear and a week’s worth of clothes, even with the top down.”

Low fuel bills from the 2.4-litre D5 engine were the icing on the cake – his trip cost him only £180 in diesel. Taking the C70 was not only far cheaper than flying, but it meant Paul and his friends’ carbon footprint was kept to a minimum.

Yet none of these factors explains why I liked the Volvo so much. What I appreciated was how it changed my driving style. My previous long-term car was a MINI Cooper S Convertible. With a supercharged engine and excellent handling, it was a hoot. But I’d treat every journey as a big race. It felt like I was an accident waiting to happen, and a few camera flashes away from a ban.

Apart from the stress of getting the roof mechanism fixed (it took six weeks!) after its sensors malfunctioned, the Volvo chilled me out. It made me a calmer driver – I even tuned the stereo to BBC Radio Four. I’m sure it helped lower my blood pressure, too. If I ever felt the red mist descending I’d pull over, lower the roof, take a few deep breaths and head off again relaxed and refreshed.

So, forget beta-blockers; the C70 should be available on the NHS to anyone with hypertension. Ours has now gone back, and I can feel my blood pressure rising again. Thankfully, Auto Express is getting another Volvo soon: a C30. This car’s quirky styling has already divided opinion in the office – and it hasn’t even arrived here yet!

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