Classic CARmentary: 1998 Volvo C70 Coupe

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

While I don’t remember much about this C70, I do remember driving it to Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia for a series of events sponsored by the company that handled press cars for the majority of manufacturers.  The purpose was to give other journalists seat time in as many different cars as possible.  The first event was a scavenger hunt in which you were supposed to switch cars periodically throughout.  Somehow, my wife and I were able to claim a Jaguar XK8 convertible in British Racing Green at the beginning of the hunt, and if another journo wanted to take it, he/she was going to have to pry it out of my cold, dead fingers.  While the Plymouth Prowler we encountered during the event looked tempting, and the driver was more than willing to trade, I didn’t think my wife would enjoy the experience.  She was already not really enjoying herself in the Jag.

The next event was wet-road handling instruction utilizing several old Caprice Classics.  I thought I did pretty well considering that I had no professional driving experience.  The only other part of the weekend I remember was the opportunity to drive a Viper GTS.  However, we were not allowed to drive it on the track – we could only drive it in the adjacent residential neighborhood with its 30 MPH speed limit.  It’s a lot like snagging a date with the sluttiest girl in school but being informed that she will only let you hold hands.  I politely declined the exercise in extreme self-restraint.

As for the C70, this generation never lit up the sales charts and was replaced in 2005.  The following C70 was a hardtop convertible “lifestyle” car based on the S40’s Focus-derived platform but cynically badged “70” so Ford Volvo could charge more money for it.

The below review ran on November 23, 1998.

The look of the redesigned C70 hints that Volvo has apparently decided it is time to shed its “boxy” image. Using the curvaceous P1800 coupe of the sixties as inspiration, the designers created a slick coupe with frameless door glass and a steeply raked rear window out of the boxy 70 series that consistently received a, “That’s a Volvo?” from onlookers.

While the outside is decidedly sporty, the squarish dash and large four-spoke steering wheel seem out of place on the racy coupe. Otherwise, the cockpit is well designed with large, well-placed gauges and controls. Being the image builder that it is, the C70 is full of comfort and convenience items such as automatic dimming rearview mirror, trip computer, dual-zone climate control, and tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Leather heated seats are one of the few options available. The multi-power front seats are comfortable for long trips but don’t hold you in place when the road gets twisty. Volvo has smartly allowed both seats to slide forward electronically to give passengers access to the tight rear seat. Luggage capacity is above-average for a coupe.

The C70 gets the turbocharged and intercooled 236-horsepower screamer that is also found in the T-5 sedan and V70R wagon. Available with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, this power plant provides enough impetus to push you back hard against your seat when the pedal hits the floor. The 17-inch tires grip the road like claws, and the ride is surprisingly smooth for such a well-handling car. The icing on the cake is the knowledge that personal protection has not been abandoned for style, as Volvo goes to great lengths to preserve its sterling safety reputation.

There are two things preventing the C70 from being the success it should be: the beautiful Mercedes CLK320 and wild BMW M3. Both cars have retail prices within a few dollars of the C70 and are usually at the forefront of people’s minds when seeking a $40,000 coupe. But the C70 is the beginning of Volvo’s design renaissance, as will be demonstrated with the less-angular styling of the small S40 and large S80 sedans.

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Type:Two-Door Coupe
Engine:Turbocharged and Intercooled 236-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline five
Transmission:Four-speed automatic
EPA Mileage:20 city/27 highway
Tested Price:$43,820