There are few places one can go these days where the coffee is dark, the air is clean and nature is still the wild beast that controls your destiny. Even fewer hotels that offer no internet service, no television and no clock. Hana-Maui is one of those places.
I landed in Maui to a beautiful 81 degrees and the humidity of an island that has tropical tradewinds lithing back and forth over the white sandy beaches all day. Our stay is at the Hana-Maui, a hotel over on the Northeast side of Maui. It is late in the day so we charter a propjet to take us to our final destination of the week.
We flew the coast of Maui, the sandy white beaches and aquamarine water beckoning me to land and enjoy at each alcove. As we go further up the coast it winds upwards, lava starting to jut out, hills and then mountains concealed by green and uncontaminated paradise. We land a scant 13 minutes later in tropical paradise that is completely unlike the other side of the island. I have always known Charles Lindbergh was buried in Hana. It wasn't until I felt the turbulent winds and remembered the book his wife wrote, Listen! the Wind, that I understood why he came here.
I am taken to my Hana-Maui bungalow that opens up to the sea, a frothing sea that thunders up against the lava rock, cracking open to show its true more gentle aquamarine colors I saw straddling the beaches.
The rhythms of the waves cracking take away all my intentions of working or working out. The negative ions are infusing my body, calming me. Tomorrow I will try to salvage those good intentions, today I sit on the veranda, aromatic European style coffee in hand as I watch the winds whip the trees and I breath in the fragrance of this new earth.
Combining the best of both worlds is what Volvo has tried to do with their C70 convertible. A mixture of sun and rain; a mixture of real life and the vacation we always dream of, all in one car, all on one island. One press of a button, while the car is in park with your foot on the brake, and the hard top coupe becomes a convertible in just 30 seconds.
Volvo has had a C70 convertible since 1997, but this is the new version of which 1,100, 2006 models are already spoken for in the United States. I didn't like the earlier version of the Volvo convertible. The suspension was weak and it was a rag top with too much wind noise. Volvo had never messed up so badly on a car, in my opinion, as the first C70, so I gave them another try. This new Volvo would have to be completely different in order to compete with convertibles the like of Saab, Audi and BMW. Compete it will.
The new C70 has the coolest three-piece retractable hardtop (RHT) I've ever seen. It is built in collaboration with Pininfarina through their Open Air Systems company called Oasis. It has one motor with four valves and uses electro-hydraulics and a computer to retract the steel roof all within 30 seconds. It has a 12.8 cubic-foot capacity with the roof up and 6.0 cubic feet with the top stowed. A yellow button on the inside of the trunk will assist you with loading while you stick your groceries in and snap the cover back in place. A ski hatch in the rear seat allows you to carry long objects inside the car when the top is up. The best thing, no wind noise from a ragtop.
I promised myself I wouldn't let the cool technology phase my judgement as to whether the suspension was any good. The chassis height has been lowered 0.3 inches up front and over 0.5 inches at the rear over its predecessor. The fully independent suspension is a MacPherson spring-strut, lower link, anti-roll bar front and an individual multilink, coilsprings, anti-roll bar for the rear. The steering wheel itself is a lesson in ergonomics; a wheel that makes a man with even the biggest hands feel like he his holding something substantial in his hand. There are strategically placed handles that are shaped for your hand and a leather exterior that always you to grasp the wheel anywhere.
The lush Hana highway to Haleakala volcano gave me my driving experience of the day. I drove 52 miles and almost 600 curves in both the 5-speed automatic transmission and six-speed manual gearbox that was developed for the Volvo S60 R and V70 R. The roads were narrow and slick, the tourist didn't know the size of their rental cars and the locals let you know that they owned the roads. In short, we went over some potholes, in some ravines and gave way to the locals. When we were able to let the car out a little it sang around the curves. DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control System) is standard and offers extra stability when driving on a slippery road surface. I turned it off and tried passing on a slippery road about 50 mph and quickly decided that I liked having traction control and anti-lock brakes as standard. The suspension was much better than the predecessor C70 and gave a responsive ride.
The 2006 C70 convertible is an in-line 5-cylinder, T5, turbocharged with a transverse front-wheel drive. The engine gives 218 horsepower@5,000 rpm and a blasting 236 lb-ft of torque@1,500-4,800 rpm. With global annual sales projected at 16,000 unites, the Volvo Car Corporation say they expect the U.S. sales are expected to account for 50 percent of the global volume or approximately 8,000 units annually, starting in 2007 model year. All of the C70s are built at the plant in Uddevalla, Sweden, in collaboration with the Italian car company Pininfarina, which is now known as Pininfarina Sverige AB. The C70 will be available for European delivery if you'd rather vacation in Sweden and ship it home.
The super-thin center stack, with just enough room in back of it to hold a cellphone or a digital camera, that was introduced in the Volvo S40 sport sedan and V50 sport wagon can also be found in the all-new Volvo C70. As with most 4-seater sports cars they say they can fit 4 adults, but there are very few adults I know that could sit comfortably in the C70 with the top up. Two American-sized adults and two children would be fine, which is still saying a lot for most convertibles. Everywhere we turned on the Hana highway there was a Chrysler Sebring and I didn't see one with four adults with the convertible up,even during the tropical rainstorms.
Of course, one can't talk about Volvo without talking about its heritage in safety. The C70 has standard door mounted inflatable airbags and side impact airbags, pop-up roll bars that come up in an accident, reinforced body structure with four different grades of steel and secure storage. Expect to see more technology, from a safety standpoint, coming out from Volvo in the near future.
Standard equipment on both the automatic and manual are; three-piece retractable hardtop, 17-inch Sadira aluminum wheels, aluminum dash, shift knob and steering wheel inlays, 6-disc in-dash CD changer, dual polished exhaust pipes, power driver and passenger seat, trip computer, auto-dimming rear view mirror and two-step locking deadbolt system.
The 6-speed manual I drove had a base price of $38,710 with the optional 18 inch Mirzam wheels for $995 along with a destination charge of $695 for a total of $40,400.
The 5-speed automatic transmission ($1,250) I drove had a base price of $38,710, plus optional equipment of premium package ($1,395) which consists of leather seats, homelink, compass and the Dynaudio Package ($1,550) consisting of 12 Dynaudio speaker, 4X120-watt amplifier,1X130-watt center amplifier, 2X9-inch subwoofers and a cold weather package ($675) of heated front seats, headlamp washers and rainsensor windshield wipers. Adding in the $695 destination cost brought the total up to $44,275.
The only real complaint I had about the new C70 were the map holders in the door. It was an interesting idea to have hydraulic-like storage units in a door, but first, they were too small and secondly, they should have come out from the top, not lifting up from the bottom. Guys with big hands won't be able to use them, but then guys over 6'3" are going to have a hard time with the roof up anyway.
Volvo has been in business for 78 years. Anne Belec is the CEO and President of Volvo Cars of North America. Belec likes cars, not just because they are cars, but because of their interaction with people; "Everyone remembers their first car. They have memories of their life with their cars." When I asked Belec what the next 78 years held for Volvo she answered, "Scandinavianess. In order for Volvo to continue to be successful you have to stick to the fundamentals that are culturally a part of the Swedish psyche. It is true that you can't take the Volvo out of the Sweds and you can't take the Swedish out of Volvo."
Belec went on to talk about attributes of Volvo that are important to Volvo as a company, "The reuse of materials is a thoughtful process, the ability to reuse materials so that you don't waste. Every product has an impact on the environment throughout its lifecycle, therefore it is important to study its environmental impact from a holistic, lifecycle perspective. We depend on the environment and we have to respect it. We expect the C70 to be about 85 percent recyclable." If you want to see how Volvo calculates a whole lifecycle go to http://www.volvocars.com/AboutVolvo/EPI/US/.
The common question to Belec was how much does she have to answer to Ford and how much does Volvo have to answer to Ford. "Since our acquisition by Ford we have been successful, so Ford leaves us alone. I answer to Sweden. Our key markets are North America (includes Canada and Mexico 35 %), Europe (30%), and Japan at somewhere between 5-10 percent. Last year we sold around 124,000 vehicles in the United States. With three new models coming out this year (C70, S80 and refreshened XC90) we look to increase our volume. Ford put a lot of money into Volvo that Volvo couldn't put into itself. The rollover-stability control on the XC90 was jointly developed with Ford. Ford helped with the chassis design of the S40, C70 and C30. This gives us a solid foundation to work with while still making it very Volvo."
Though no company likes to go into future product Belec did acknowledge that the increase in fuel prices were waking up a lot of people to the fact that fuel is a finite resource. The S80 and S60 are both bi-fuels in Germany and Sweden, meaning they can take a blend of ethanol and gasoline, so it wouldn't take much to refit them for the United States. It will take Ford Motor Company, the parent company of little Volvo, to continue to seek an infrastructure in the United States that allows for E85 in corner gas stations, so that consumers are not inconvenienced and so that America can get off the dependence of foreign oil.
The last day my friend, James, and I drove the coast to Charles Lindbergh's grave. An unassuming little tombstone in back of a dilapidated church, there rested one of the most famous pilots of all time. We savored the moment as we ate our lunch at a wooden picnic table under the ancient trees where the rocky hillside afforded some cool respite from the sun and the noise. Solving the worlds problems as we glanced out to the ocean trying to spot a whale we both agreed, the C70 was a winner.