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Motoring – Convertibles You Can Use Everyday

The appeal of a convertible is plain to see – good looks, especially with the top down, and the joys of wind in your hair motoring. Most of us need to use our cars all the time, though, and need practicality too – space for four passengers and their luggage, good build quality and reliability and, most importantly in this day and age, low running costs. Here are four ways to have your cake and eat it.

 

Volvo C70 (2006 to present) Based on the S40, the C70 is undoubtedly the best looking Volvo you can buy. It has an all singing, all dancing folding metal roof, all the safety features you could wish for and the ride, handling and refinement of a luxury  saloon. There are some hugely powerful   Turbos in the engine line up but I’d go for Volvo’s excellent 2.4 litre D5 diesel; it delivers all the performance you could wish for but still manages 40mpg around town. Better still, there’s plenty of room for 4 adults and a  commodious boot. A 2007 model with 75k on the clock can be yours for a very reasonable £8,500. For: Looks, quality, refinement, performance Against: Antique dealer connotations

 

BMW 320d Convertible (2000 to 2005) I still maintain that the last generation 3 series was the best that BMW has ever made and the convertible version totally proves my point. It is a stunning looker, particularly with the top down, and still sets the benchmark today as an all-round dynamic package. The silky smooth 3.0 litre straight six is hard to resist but I’ve gone for the most excellent 2.0 litre diesel which will punt you up to 62mph in 9.7 seconds but still give better than 50 mpg on a run. They are surprisingly expensive; £8000 puts you in a 05 plate with a hefty 85,000 miles under its belt. For: Lovely looks, great to drive, very economical Against: Last year’s model

Audi A4 Cabriolet (2000 to 2005) Ever since Princess Di bought one, the A4 Cabriolet has been an Audi icon. Underneath the celebrity glamour it is actually a very good car. It combines timelessly elegant looks with peerless build quality and precise handling. Audi makes the best diesel engines in the business and the 2.5 V6 is one of their finest. This is a car that will hit 140 yet still average 39mpg in mixed motoring. The Diana effect is still noticeable in the prices; you will need to stump up £8k for a 2004 version that has covered 60,000 miles. For: Style, build quality, performance. Against: Pricey, overly firm ride

Saab 9-3 Convertible  (2003 to present) Saab has had its ups and downs over recent years but the 9-3 soft top has been a consistent success story. The styling is still crisp 8 years down the line and it retains   several of the quirky features that Saab  loyalists cherish so dearly. Mechanically it has been left behind though; the 150bhp 1.9 diesel takes a painful 11.2 seconds to drag it up to 62 and the scuttle shake and under steer are relics of yesteryear. On the plus side, it is a reasonably well built old bruiser and there is plenty of room in the cabin. It’s relatively cheap too, a four year old with a mere 45,000 miles on it will cost you £7,500.

For: A handsome old brute, Saab individuality, value for money Against: Poor performance and economy, handling

 

Have you been persuaded?  Perhaps we will be seeing more convertibles in Sutton Coldfield soon.

 

This motoring feature appeared in Walmley Pages Magazine,

delivered to 8000 home in Sutton Coldfield


Road test Volvo S60 D5

Volvo S60 D5

Volvo has long been viewed as sitting in the second tier of prestige car manufacturers, a club that includes Saab and Alfa Romeo. The reasons for this are simple, dynamically and stylistically any recent model Volvo has produced has

not been the match of its rivals from Audi, Mercedes and BMW. With the new S60, Volvo has set out to remedy this, or at least that’s what the launch advertising campaign would have us believe.

The S60 is aimed squarely at the “compact, prestige, sporting saloon” segment of the market, in other words it is up against the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. What is it doing differently that will enable Volvo to take the fight to these titans of the prestige car industry? Well, if we start with the styling I have to say it looks the part. From the side profile it has the curves that, these days, are associated with a four door coupé and from the rear everything is taut and tidy. Unfortunately, until Volvo decides to completely abandon its boxy heritage, the front end is always going to be a problem. Even with the trendy LED running lights, the headlights are bulbous and awkward looking. To my eye the car looks slightly too high sided and stubby as well.

Climb inside and everything is as it should be in an executive saloon. The fit and finish, quality of plastics and all-round ergonomics are nearly up there with the Audi and ahead of anything BMW or Mercedes have to offer. I’m not wild about the slab-like centre console but it is a Volvo after all. The front seats are supremely comfortable but if you get in the back you will find that the price of those coupé-like looks is limited leg room, a centre seat that is strictly for kids and a slightly claustrophobic feel. There are also some funky things on the options list, how about a collision avoidance system that detects pedestrians walking out in front of you and applies the brakes before you run them over?   

Volvo’s tried and tested 2.4 litre 5 cylinder diesel produces 204bhp in this guise, enough for a 7.4 second 0-62 time and a top end of 146mph. I like the hefty shove in the back it gives when it hits the power band and that distinctive 5 cylinder warble makes it one of the few diesels that I actually enjoy the sound of. The economy figures don’t quite keep up with the likes of BMW, expect around 50mpg in mixed motoring, but are perfectly respectable. I drove the six speed manual which is fine, but I hear that the automatic is to be avoided.

What about the handling though? After all, Volvo has made a huge song and dance about what a sporty drive this car is. I can report that this is without doubt the best handling Volvo I have ever driven and I would go further, it is considerably better than the class leading Ford Mondeo whose platform it shares. Even so, it doesn’t exactly make your heart sing and urge you to push it into every corner as hard as you can. The steering is decidedly lifeless too. By way of contrast the ride is excellent, soaking up the bumps like a bigger car but without any wallowing or excessive roll. The way I see it is that it will be a rare occasion indeed when you explore the limits of the handling envelope of your sporty saloon, but a supple ride is something you will appreciate every time you drive it.

The S60 is a solid all rounder and represents good value for money. Somehow though, I don’t think that it will have the German aristocracy quaking in their boots. Even so, if you are bored with your A4 or 3 Series, it is worthy of serious consideration. And if you are quite happy to drive a second tier, prestige sporty saloon, this is definitely the one to go for.

Kit Johnson

Car tested Volvo S60 D5               £26,745 RRP   

Car review provided by Recommended, Sutton Coldfield community magazine advertising local business to the Sutton Coldfield public