2012 Volvo C70 Inscription

Matt Tierney
#Volvo, #C70

The C70 is beautiful. Its sensuous curves and well-proportioned body have not aged a day in my eyes. It probably helps that the streets are hardly thick with them even after six years on the market.

The rest of the car hasn't fared nearly so well. Beyond the balky and antiquated infotainment system -- an expected encumbrance on Volvos -- the entire interior feels a bit plain and tired. Whereas the newer S60 sedan is a standout in its segment for its interesting surfaces and materials, the C70 has too many bland plastics. And that's with the $3900 premium package, which at least covers the handbrake and dash in leather.

The C70 also suffers for its powertrain options, or lack thereof. I don't mind Volvo's venerable inline-five engine and front-wheel-drive as a base setup, but by the time the price balloons past $45,000, I expect all-wheel-drive and perhaps an optional six-cylinder.

Mind you, the C70 isn't at all unpleasant. Its steering is communicative and well weighted save for the occasional tug of torque steer under hard acceleration. The turbo five-cylinder emits a nice growl, and the thickly bolstered leather seats are as comfortable as they look. The hardtop retracts pretty quickly, though it requires you to be stopped with your foot on the brake pedal. For distinctiveness alone, the C70 might be worth a look over competitors like the Infiniti G37 convertible or the Audi A5 cabriolet.

David Zenlea, Associate Web Editor


The C70 is showing its age in many way, but one place where it still shines is in its styling. Most hardtop convertibles look awkward with the roof in place, but the lines of this C70 are quite pleasing even when the roof is in place. Once inside the cabin, the seats are typical Volvo, which is to say exceedingly comfortable and supportive. Unfortunately, even though the rest of the interior is finished quite nicely, the details are dated, such as the popup navigation system, which is operated by either a remote or by controls on the back side of the steering wheel. Volvo did away with that system after only one generation of vehicles, so obviously they realized it wasn't a great idea.

The C70, with a 250-hp five-cylinder and front-wheel drive, isn't a car that asks to be driven aggressively. Rather, it's more of a grand tourer. With the top lowered, wafting along rural two-lane roads is not exhilarating but is still fun. It'll be interesting to see if Volvo continues to build a coupe/convertible after the C70 goes away. It's pretty much a niche market for what is effectively a niche vehicle manufacturer, so the business case might be pretty difficult to make.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor


I have an original dealer packet for the 1975 Chevrolet Caprice Convertible that touts the car - billed at the time as the last Chevrolet convertible - as something of a collector's item.

The Volvo C70 Inscription Edition strikes me as a similar vehicle: C70 production ended at the Pininfarina plant last month, and reports indicate Volvo isn't considering relocating the production line nor developing a C70 successor. In fact, the automaker's own press release suggests the IE is "perhaps the ultimate expression of the iconic hardtop convertible."

So, what does an Inscription Edition include? Mostly a rash of cosmetic upgrades, including a glossy black grille, black five-spoke wheels with bright alloy spokes, LED driving lamps, bi-xenon projector headlamps, and your choice of either ice white or black sapphire paint colors. Our tester wore the latter and looked rather sinister - although I'm still not sure I like how Volvo's new family face sits on the aging C70's body. I do, however, love the Inscription's supple white leather seating surfaces, and the leather-wrapped dashboard does help dress up the interior.

Volvo's range of tuning chips from Polestar -- which will soon be offered through dealers on a rash of Volvo models -- comes as standard equipment. As a result, the turbocharged I-5 sees its output rise to 250 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. It's no rocket ship, but acceleration is quite brisk. Since that power is channeled through the front wheels, you'll occasionally encounter torque steer, especially when accelerating out of hard corners.

As far as celebratory "end of the line" models go, the C70 Inscription Edition isn't half-bad, but it doesn't magically make up for the car's shortcomings. The folding hardtop, though novel, eats up a sizable amount of the trunk space - and thanks to a tall bumper beam, you'll be hard pressed to load or unload anything larger than an attache case once the top is stowed. A button which raises the folded top parts by a couple inches does little to alleviate this restrictive aperture. And, as David Zenlea notes, the C70's infotainment system feels antiquated - especially the odd pop-up navigation system.

Will I miss the C70 when it's gone? That I don't know. I'll appreciate its place in history -- much like I do that '75 Caprice -- but seeing as there are a number of premium midsize drop-tops on the market -- notably the Audi A5, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and the BMW 6 Series -- that offer the same amenities but in a more modern and sophisticated form, I'm not sure I'll be that saddened by the C70's demise.

Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor


This is not really a driving impression, but rather a Volvo Roadside Assistance Impression:

I typically pride myself on being keenly aware of the road and obstacles around me when driving, a habit I picked up due to spending a majority of my seat time on motorcycles. Many of those awareness and defensive driving skills translate easily from a sportbike seat to a vehicle seat. But you can't catch everything. While driving the C70, I did not catch something that the low-profile tires on the C70 did. I heard a rather harsh sound, and the car immediately began pulling to the left on the freeway. I pulled the car off the road immediately.

Sure enough, driver's side front tire was flat. Not a good start home on Good Friday. I opened the trunk only to find a jack but no spare tire. There was no tire or service station visible nearby. I called our Road Test Editor Chris Nelson. He instructed me to pull the center console out of the rear seat, as there is an emergency tire fix kit there. I followed its Ikea-esque instructions but the kit was of no help -- the tire was too badly damaged by the impact.

My second call was to Volvo Roadside Assistance. The first portion of the call was with an automated computer. Although the Q&A session between me and the computer seemed long given my predicament, it was probably less than 45 seconds. I was asked if they could use the GPS in my phone to help determine my location. A question or two more and the computer said "OK, we have located your location" and transferred me to a live operator.

Naturally her first question was "Are you in a safe location?" As I looked around while standing in a trash-filled ditch, next to an expressway, between two entrance ramps, I calmly replied to her cheerfully voiced question: "As safe as I can be." She then made arrangements for a tow to a Volvo dealer only 7 miles away. She thanked me for calling and wished me well. With in seconds of ending the call, Volvo sent me a text message with the E.T.A. of the tow truck, the tow truck company's name, and the telephone number of the driver. Within a second of that the tow company called to verify my safety and my location. Keep in mind I never once gave my location verbally. She said, "OK, we have you on eastbound I-94 at the entrance ramp from Exit 175." Impressively, they were only about 20 yards off of my exact location.

I raised an eyebrow when the tow truck arrived. It was not the flatbed kind, but rather the old-fashioned hook type. Two good ole boys hopped out of the truck. I think the first thing out of the driver's mouth was, "Damn that's a sexy car!" He then went on to explain that the second dude was in training. They went through a very thorough process of securing the car.

The dealer also was as impressive. Volvo had contacted them to say that we were on our way in, and not to close the service department. Because of the specialized wheel/tires, the dealer did not have a replacement available until Monday. I expected as much and arranged for a ride home. Nonetheless, they still offered to give me a car, and or take me to a location of my choosing if need be. South Beach would have been nice, but I think somewhere local was more what they had in mind. The owner of the dealership came out front, introduced himself, and more or less sat there and chatted me up about everything from my incident to the state of his dealership until my ride arrived.

While not the ideal start of my weekend, I couldn't help but be impressed with the overall experience.

Kelly Murphy, Creative Director


If judged on its driving characteristics, the C70's smooth -- if a bit anemic -- five-cylinder engine; forgiving ride; and light, direct steering make it a good alternative to some of its pricier competitors. It also stacks up well in terms of looks, with modern lines that look good from every angle. The two-tone, five-spoke wheels on this C70 Inscription are especially nice and possibly the flashiest I've ever seen from the traditionally reserved Swedish automaker.

But if evaluated on the appearance and functionality of its in-car electronics, the C70 doesn't stack up very well against rivals such as the Audi A5 and the Lexus IS C. Admittedly, these cars are a bit more expensive -- the base front-wheel-drive A5 is $2500 more and the base rear-wheel-drive IS C is $2000 more -- but the modern, attractive, and user-friendly systems in these vehicles alone make them worth their price premiums. Even more detrimental to the Volvo C70's viability is the Volkswagen Eos. The Eos is a good driver with a lovely interior featuring a straightforward and nice-looking infotainment system with a starting price about $5000 less than the base C70. Despite its merits, the C70 will have a tough time wooing buyers away from competitors until it gets modern electronics and a usable infotainment interface.

Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms

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