Sunday, January 25, 2009

2006 Volvo C70 Coupe / Convertible

It was the introduction of the C70 in 1997 that cracked the conservative, stodgy mold of Volvo's character. If there were any pieces of that mold clinging after almost a decade of fresh product releases, the 2006 Volvo C70 has left them in its dust.

Base priced, including destination charge, at $39,405 with the six-speed manual transmission and $40,655 with the five-speed automatic, the new-generation midsize C70 will make its appearance in showrooms this spring. This four-seater coupe/convertible cranks up charisma with a slick new form highlighted by a retractable hardtop that allows it to change personality in seconds. The C70's edge is its "two-cars-in-one" appeal, offering the advantages of both a sleek, precise-fit hardtop and open-air convertible.

With a touch of the button the three-piece top begins its show, splitting apart to fold into the trunk, than out again - operations accomplished in about 30 seconds in each direction. With out the top up, the trunk provides a relatively spacious 12.8-cubic-foot storage capacity. When the top makes its home in the trunk, storage is reduced to 6 cubic feet.

Body styling is clean and sophisticated, a bit understated and definitely recognizable as a Volvo - featuring traditional cues such as a short front overhang, subtly rounded corners and strong shoulders.

In terms of exterior dimensions, the 2006 model is about the same width, but 5.4 inches shorter in length and with a 1-inch shorter wheelbase. It sits lower and has a slightly shorter nose that Volvo touts creates a more powerful and athletic look.

In sync with its more muscular appearance is a potent powertrain and a balanced performance character, making the C70 exciting to drive. Power is sent to the front wheels via a T5 2.5 liter inline-five-cylinder engine. Boosted by a light pressure turbo, this powerplant delivers 218 horsepower and 236 foot-pounds of torque. With the manual transmission, its 0-60-mph time is 7.6 seconds.

Well-planted wheels, Dynamic Stability and Traction control, and on-center steering contribute to high-speed agility. Traction comes via 235/45/17 tires wrapping aluminum wheels with forked spokes. Eighteen-inch wheels and 235/40/18-V Rated tires are a $995 option.

The T5 is offered with a choice the two aforementioned transmission mates - a six-speed manual and a five-speed automatic with "Auto-Stick" manual shifting mode. Shifting the real manual is a slippery operation, great for those liking sophistication over notchy, traditional sports car feedback. The auto transmission slips into manual mode with a right tap of the lever into a vertical slot. Moving the lever forward upshits and backward downshifts. Driving the C70 on twisty roads and hilly terrain, the "Auto-Stick" feature was greatly appreciated.

The leather-grip shift lever is planted in the lower slop of a trim, refined-looking brushed-aluminum-accented center control panel. The steering wheel is leather covered, with an attractive aluminum strip lining the underside of the upper arc. The steering grip, enhanced by bulges, has a substantial feel.

Leather seats are an option that comes as part of a $1,395 Premium Package. Eight-way power adjustability on driver and front-passenger seats is standard. The front buckets are aggressively bolstered and supportive to provide comfort for long-term driving. Headrests are large, padded and contoured for excellent support.
Safety has always been the key feature for Volvo cars and the Volvo C70 is no different. Rollover protection system, Whiplash Protection System, front, door, rear side bags with Side Impact Protection System are all safety enhanced systems for the C70.


2006 Dodge Magnum RT Review

The new Magnum is a great looking car that will get your neighbors talking as you rumble around the block. The unique styling of the Magnum will also attract muscle car group in the form of 18-22 year old guys pointing for their friends to “check that out”. And a few people will approach you as you are filling up the gas tank to ask, “Does it really have a Hemi?”, with only a vague notion that it somehow makes the car better.

The Magnum is offered with many different engine sizes (either a 6-cylinder or 8-cylinder) with your choice of horsepower output of 190, 250, 340 and 425. The price of the vehicle also corresponds with the engine size starting at $30,345 to the expensive STR-8 model for $37,320. A big part of the mystique around this car is the Hemi engine. The Hemi is short for hemispherical combustion chamber, which creates more efficient fuel burning and allows larger valves for better airflow. Basically, it produces more power than an engine with its displacement would normally produce. (There are also drawbacks to the Hemi, which is why it isn’t the only engine that Chrysler produces).

The interior of the car looks much more expensive than you’d expect for the price of the Magnum. Since Mercedes bought Chrysler, the Dodge vehicles I’ve sampled have had a sharp improvement in interior quality. While on the road, the car is very solid and the seats are comfortable even on long highway runs.

As much as I like the looks, after driving it a while I really have to question the design concept that the Magnum offers. It is a station wagon built to transport a lot of people and a lot of stuff. But mating this with a powerful engine with the taught racing-like suspension is uncomfortable for both. It is like having a Corvette tow a small trailer, and you are in the trailer and the Corvette driver is 15 years-old, pushing the car to its limits. (Only an actual Corvette has a much more comfortable suspension than the Magnum). Even driving on smooth roads, the steering is very darty and difficult to control. And with a large car, all that weaving and road feedback is exaggerated for the passengers and everything you’ve stored in the back.

I like having a navigation system, but figuring out how to use it with the steering wheel controls made me frequently refer to the user’s manual. In spite of the high horsepower and low-end torque I played with when starting from a full stop, the RT model I drove averaged 20 MPG on the highway.

What I presume to be the target market for this car, those 18-22 year-old guys that I mentioned, will probably love this car. And as much as I love driving sports cars, the darty steering and sharp suspension make it too uncomfortable without any spectacular payoff. The 0-60 sprint is fun for a little while, but I’d pass on buying a Magnum as a daily driving vehicle.

by: Andrew Kier