New Car/Review

Volvo

1999 Volvo C70 - Tour De Coupe

NICHOLAS FRANKL
European Correspondent

Yes! It's a Volvo, But if I had told you that 5 years ago - you would have thought me madder than one of those English hatters. Someone, somewhere (probably a cold place in northern Sweden) is laughing. Why? Cos they are responsible for a quite amazing transformation. Volvo. The car they hated so much they pushed it out of 10th storey windows onto solid concrete- and even filmed the mechanical homicide for all our collective pleasures. I remember one renowned journalist who used to say, that the only good Volvo - was a dead one!

I should now add that this was a long time ago, when people parked for free and you could drive from London to Birmingham without stopping, at all. But it wasn't. The T5 estate did for me. When in 1995 I took it round a race track and was flashed out the way by it's big brother Touring Car estate at 125mph- I knew Volvo were going places - and not necessarily into the Armco barrier. Bring me then, great gifts from the gods, because this C70 certainly looks like it was formed on another planet. As if Pininfarina himself, the god of most things automotively beautiful, decided to sell his Ferrari coupe blue print in an act of Italian Euro-charity. What a blasphemous child I am - for it was Peter the great of Horbury (alright just Peter Horbury to you and me Guv) who created such a design of desire. The car simply looks good from any angle, particularly when clothed in 17ins alloys, which by the way my press car wasn't but still looked good anyway.

Enough about the looks, as you've probably seen one on the road anyway. Now along with safety, the Volvo by-word, has come power. Namely this 2.5litre turbo 5 cylinder engine that develops a very tasty 240 bhp. At least it would have come along had the man delivered the right car. I got the new "lesser" model with a light pressure turbo and despite my attempts at pumping up the "light pressure" to "serious heavy pressure" with my foot pump- I couldn't get anything more that the standard 193bhp out of it. Not catastrophic, but a bit deflating all the same.

Deflated is a word I used regularly as C70 and I got to know each other. The handling, for which I blame Tom's boys at TWR (they were given a very lucrative contract to do all the mechanical bits) really haven't done the flashy panels justice. Now this maybe because the original chassis is from the saloon and that is not a good place to start for any Coupe. But all the same I couldn't get the thing to do what it should, like corner crisply, react responsibly and generally not understeer at the merest suggestion of exuberent activity.

The engine does pull quite well and combined with a low cd makes for quiet motorway cruising, say in Texas where the roads are quite long and straight. The interior is nicely appointed in a very Volvo way, but comfortable and modern with good switch gear, a decent stereo, although the CD player is a bit naff and doesn't work well. Although the rear room is adequate for adults on shortish trips - getting to it is one of the most infuriating acts I have ever performed. Volvo have fitted, along with the electric (heated) seat, a motor to slide the seat back and forward to help exit and entrance. Firstly the switch to operate this is totally crap and very heavy, secondly by the time the seat has actually moved forward you have either dropped your papers, lost circulation in your adjusting finger or forgotten all together what you wanted to do in the back anyway. The system on the CLK is much simpler and a pleasure to use. I realise that people are now so lazy that everything has to be powered, but this is painful. As, is the lack of legroom in the front. OK. I admit I do have a bad knee- but many commented that if you're going to have a coupe and there's no-one in the rear at least let the seat run all the way back - not back as far as the pigmy bureaucrat seat runner measurer thinks is far enough.

The C70 is a good car. It has style and in T5 form a good lick of pace. But it's not cheap, and certainly for the keen driver fails to deliver on the handling side. The Merc CLK is better (but not cheaper), the Ford Cougar is a good bet for 5,000 less than the 2.5 20v, and then of course the BMW 328 coupe isn't too bad either. But if you dare to be different, in a strange short of way, you'll not be too disappointed.

Engine          2.5-litre Turbo
BHP             193
0-60            7.8 secs
Top speed       130mph
Price           28,995

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