2007 Volvo C70 Convertible

Sam Smith

It rains all the time in Hawaii. In the wetter regions, during the rainy season-the rest of the northern hemisphere's winter-spastic tropical rainstorms come almost often enough to set your watch by. It rains in the morning, it rains at night, and occasionally, it rains just to remind you that it rained five minutes ago. It doesn't necessarily come down constantly, but it comes down a lot.

The thing is, though, Hawaii wouldn't be Hawaii without the amount of rain it gets. The same stuff falling from the sky that deflates your Aunt Harriet's permanent also makes sure that every color you see has its saturation level cranked up high enough to burn the cones off your retinas. Paradise, you come to realize, is a land born of, and defined by, the wet.

What to drive, then, on the roads of such a place? A convertible, of course, the better to take advantage of the spectacular view; a hardtop convertible if you're feeling posh. Something European, maybe, but not too flashy, a little sporting, and safe enough to keep you alive should the scenery prove too distracting to keep you on the road. A hardtop Volvo convertible might do the trick.

The 2006 C70, for example.

Volvo's all-new replacement for its previous-generation, 850-derived C70 coupe and convertible is based on a longer, wider version of the same platform that underpins the European Ford Focus, the Mazda 3, and Volvo's own S40/V50. The C70 also shares its 218-hp, 2.5-liter turbo five-cylinder engine with other Volvos. At $39,405, however, the C70 checks in as the most expensive car built on its corporate Ford architecture.

Part of what you pay for is the folding hard top. Even if you've seen this show before, Volvo's version is still entertaining to watch. It raises and lowers itself in a gloriously complex fashion that suggests a man pedaling a bicycle underwater or a hundred squirrels in hard hats running a steam shovel. Predictably, the three-piece roof cuts down trunk space by more than half when retracted, but the noise reduction and the increase in isolation are compensation enough. With its long, delicate C-pillars, the hard top even pulls off that rare feat among the folding-roof crowd: it makes the car look better when it's up. It may take a somewhat lengthy thirty seconds to raise, but the end result visually is worth it, and the process remains quick enough to head off those sudden Hawaiian thunderstorms.

Of all the Hawaiian islands, it's often said that Maui is the best place for a first-timer. Parts of it may be chock-full of resorts and crowded restaurants, but the island has a lot more to offer than the stereotypical sandy beaches. Eastern Maui appeals all the more due to its varied, rain-forest-like features, and because it's home to perhaps the two most interesting and well-known drives on the island. The first, the Road to Hana (named after the tiny, secluded village to which it leads), is a winding, fifty-five-mile coastal highway. The second, the Haleakala Highway, twists its way from the small town of Pukalani up to the top of Mount Haleakala, the world's largest dormant volcano.

One of the curious things about Maui is its odd sense of scale. The roads are small, the cars are huge, and drives that seem eyeblink short on a map often end up lasting all day. This isn't an inconvenience. No one complains that time drags on Maui.

That sense of scale smacks you square in the face as you leave Hana, a town that consists of not much more than a gas station and a general store. Rolling out of the hotel parking lot and onto the only paved road leading toward the rest of Maui, you immediately realize why Hana has remained tiny: the road itself simply keeps the town in and the rest of the world out. Twisting through jungled forests and teetering around cliffsides so steep that they look from the top as if they end in China, the Road to Hana is a beautiful sidewalk of a highway tacked onto the very edge of the earth itself. It's also a very slow drive. Traveling the fifty miles to Hana from Kahului, home of Maui's main airport, can take three to four hours.

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