A common sense convertible

Volvo C70 T5

Whilst Melbourne’s weather is notoriously changeable there was no way I could have packed for my latest road test of the recently released Volvo C70 convertible. You see the plan was to take five brand new C70’s to Mount Buller for the weekend to enjoy the scenery and to test out their handling on those winding mountain roads.

Olle Odsell, the Swedish engineer who designed the C70 would be there for Q&A and your intrepid AMA motoring writer would have a chance to unwind with my motoring colleagues.

I was thinking that it could be a little chilly in the evening at that altitude so I threw in a jumper. But the fire-storm engulfing the area would mean that the hats and sun screen provided by Volvo may not have offered quite enough protection. So our group took a detour to Port Campbell and the equally spectacular Great Ocean Road. And, can you believe it that had we made the trip to Mount Buller two weeks later we would have been caught in the snow rather than dodging the bush fires.

Todd Hallenbach from Volvo Australia warned us to wear our Volvo hats and put on the Volvo sun-screen. Just as well because I have come to realize that you are less protected against ultra-violet radiation when you drive a convertible. This probably also explains why actinically-challenged Swedish car companies are so keen to have a convertible in their range. Saab have been building one for nearly 30 years and like most models that old it’s starting to show its age. Whilst Volvo have totally re-designed their C70 to incorporate a retractable hard-top.

The classic lines of a 2+2 coupe were the inspiration for the contours of the new C70 with the roof on. Once the shape had been honed a Nobel prize-winning team of engineers then figured out how to get that curvy metal roof to fold up and fit in the boot. Like a 3-D visuo-spatial jig-saw it amazingly retracts and collapses and the C70 holds the record as the only car in the world with a three piece folding roof.

There’s not much room in the boot with the roof down, but convertibles have always been more about style than practicality. And with the roof up you would never know that it wasn’t one sheet of steel welded in place.

What I really liked most about the C70 was just how much attention had been paid to safety in this car. I’m sure Olle Odsell could have talked to us for hours about the C70’s air-bags and crumple zones and the fact that the C70 has two steel walls to protect the back seat passengers in a rear ender. The A-pillar is hydro-formed (ie shaped by water pressure) and welded to the floor and Volvo have still managed to include side impact protection in the C70, even without a roof.

It all reminded me of those classic Volvo ads where they stuck five cars on top of each other and the doors still opened on the bottom one. As medical students we did try this once with MG’s, but without the same success.

I was really impressed by the engineering of the C70 and value-conscious doctors will note that the new model is around $20,000 cheaper than the rag-top model it replaces.

In spite of the changeable Victorian weather, Olle Odsell was never fazed having told us that he’d been driving his C70 in Sweden with the roof down for twelve months through two Swedish winters. And though Australian motorists might not generally need the heated seats they do make life more comfortable at 40 degrees below zero.

Safe motoring,
Dr Clive Fraser

For: Stylish, safe and surprisingly sensible.

Against: My partner won’t let me have one.

This car would suit: Female doctors (according to Volvo).

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    Medical Motoring is an online record of the articles written by Dr Clive Fraser and published in the Australian Medicine magazine by the Australian Medical Association.