Close your eyes and say the word “Volvo”; what comes to mind? More than likely, a boxy sedan that is obnoxiously safe and secure will pop up as a visual but while the Swedish automaker has a zealous fondness towards occupant protection, it isn’t the only thing they’re good at. Oddly enough, in the past few years, Volvo has been churning out some of the industry’s most eye-catching rides around, with styling that is nothing more than pure pretty. About a decade ago, the company more associated with safety belts, air bags and structural rigidity began to change the appearance of its cars and SUVs and one of them has been stealing the show longer than any other. Its name is the C70 Convertible and while a dreamboat on four wheels can snap heads day and night, the 2012 version needs to be more than just a pretty face if it wants to be called a full on success.

Born in 1997, the C70 fell into the Volvo lineup as a dedicated convertible two door. Since its debut, the car has not evolved to earn a four door, fixed roof or hatchback sibling and has stayed true to its original philosophy for the past 14 years. Now in its second generation, the C70 we know today was brought to this earth in 2006 and shares its underpinnings with other Volvos such as the S40, C30 and V40. Powering the front wheels is a unique corporate engine and making use of its turbocharged power is a fully independent suspension with struts up front and a multi-link set up in the rear. With its sights set for the convertible versions of the BMW 3-Series, Audi A5, Infiniti G37 and Lexus IS, the C70 lands on the more refined spectrum of the high-end drop top market and has its own list of exclusive traits and talents.

In order to find out just how unequalled those attributes are, we got behind the wheel of a 2012 C70 Inscription. Set as the higher up variant of the C70, the Inscription starts at $44,350; $3,900 more than the base T5. For that extra cash, a buyer gets items such as more output, larger 18 inch wheels, active dual Xenon headlamps, aluminum sport pedals, leather wrapping for the interior and unique stitching. To boost our test car even more, the $1,000 Premium Plus Package was fitted to bring keyless drive and rear parking assist while the $1,000 Climate Package added heated seats, rain sensing and humidity sensor. Bathed in a coat of $550 Black Sapphire Metallic paint, our test C70’s final MSRP with destination charge came to be $47,775.

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The C70 has always lacked the BMW cookie-cutter syndrome of other plush convertibles and for 2012, the story is just the same as it was before. Instead of a six cylinder powering the rear wheels, the Volvo shuffles its two front feet and does so with one unique engine. Since its debut in 1992, the Volvo inline five cylinder has been a working icon among the Swedish automaker and is still widely used today. Powering our tester, the boosted five displaces 2.5 liters and uses variable valve timing for its dual overhead camshafts. In base form, the single turbocharged mill pumps out 227 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque but thanks to some reworked tuning, the Inscription features a bit more oomph. Spinning the front wheels via a five speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode, our C70 delivered 250 horsepower and a stout 273 lb-ft of torque. While not the lightest car out there, the C70 is thus not the fastest especially considering its rivals. With a 0-60 mph sprint in the mid 7 second range, the Volvo would get dusted by the likes of the 328ci, A5 Cabriolet and G37 Convertible.

What the C70 lacks in power and straight line excitement, it makes up for with its overall appearance. On the surface, the Volvo’s flat hood blends almost too perfectly with its sculpted and cut face. The symmetry of the front is dead on while the deep fogs and Inscription-specific grille add a bit of mystery to the car’s persona. Laid out like a 2+2, the Volvo features a retractable hard top roof so a little extra sunshine can be brought to all four occupants in a matter of seconds. With its wide fenders, sharp angles and long overhangs, the C70 is a handsome car but it almost represents two types of vehicles. When the top is down, a fun-loving, exotic and charming convertible is had that doesn’t look hacked off like other offerings. It looks like it was meant to be a drop top and its subtly raked rear works wonderfully to keep things flowing the way they should. But when the top goes up, the Inscription’s big wheels and colored trimmings turn the C70 from easy-going to down-to-business. In coupe form, the Volvo appears strong, muscular and ready to rumble but either way it goes down the street, the C70 is still one of the best looking cars out there.

While the Volvo may look stout enough to carve corners with vigor and leave a scorched asphalt, its actual dynamics don’t quite match its appearance. The engine sounds throaty enough but the acceleration produced will fail to shiver spins. Equipped with an Electro-Hydrualic power assisted steering rack, the two door can’t seem to communicate fast movements properly and is much more comfortable cruising around town than carving a mountain road. With some of the best seats out there, a fantastic stereo system and excellent driving position, the C70 is without a doubt, a cruising machine. The tuning of the suspension is set to soft and while it soaks up potholes, it also dives and rolls if pushed hard. Further proof of the car’s true calling can be found in its trunk as the Volvo carries one of the segment’s biggest spaces; with the top up or down.

The Volvo C70 is, to put it simply, an interesting car. It looks muscular, pretty, delicate, strong, elegant, brutish and smart and does so in both of its forms. In practice, the car is more like its softer adjectives than anything else and is much more comfortable at 42 mph than at 76 mph sideways. It can get out of its way but it doesn’t really feel right being pushed to and or beyond the limits. The C70 is mature and calm with an added bit of pizzazz; just enough to keep things cooking. Supple seats mesh with a distinctly Swedish interior design and no one would call the Volvo uncomfortable. For what it is, especially without navigation, our C70 is a bit overpriced considering that for a similar amount, a hot-rod G37 Convertible could be had. Even still, the Volvo does a fantastic job of not caring as it couldn’t be bothered with apexes, drag strips and trail braking as it’s too busy being refined. That is the car’s key as not too many, not even the BMW, can match the Swede’s diplomacy or security. Easy to live with, easy to operate and gorgeous in all situations, the 2012 C70 Convertible holds the same strength that the faithfuls know and love but with an added bit of enchantment.

Photos: © Copyright 2012 Ossamah Shabbir