The C70 broke Volvo's decades-long styling tradition of boxy, rectilinear designs. According to Peter Horbury, Volvo's design chief from 1991 to 2002, with the C70, Volvo threw away the box, but "kept the toy inside!" Our vision was to design a convertible that would meet the needs of a family of four looking for comfortable blue-sky motoring in a vehicle also providing stylish looks, performance and faultless driving and road-holding."
In a development program of 30 months and working with a Volvo 850-derived platform, Britain’s TWR (Tom Walkinshaw Racing) co-designed the car's basic design and suspension tuning with Volvo. Manufacture of the C70 was a joint venture until the two companies experienced disputes that threatened to interrupt production; TWR did not contribute to the second generation C70.
Volvo's first modern convertible, the C70 was manufactured in Uddevalla, Sweden on a separate assembly line from the 70-series sedan and station wagon. The four-seater convertible featured an electrically-heated glass rear window, automatic (pop-up) rollover hoops, seat belt pre-tensioners, boron steel reinforced A-pillars, front and side airbags, and a safety cage — a horseshoe like structure around the passenger compartment.
The cloth convertible top, initially available in four colors, was fully automatic, operated by a single, dashboard-mounted button. The top stored automatically under an integral rigid tonneau cover in a system pioneered in modern convertibles with the fourth generation Mercedes SL.
The C70 convertible exhibited two negative traits endemic to convertibles: poor rear visibility and pronounced skuttle shake, a characteristic whereby the structural design of the bulkhead between engine and passenger compartment of a convertible suffers sufficiently poor rigidity to negatively impact ride and handling — and to allow noticeable vibration, shudder or chassis-flexing into the passenger compartment.
An early special editions featured two-tone leather interior, SC-901 (1998) Dolby Pro Logic I stereo with 3-disc integrated changer unit (via a cartridge) 500 watts of power and 12 high end Dynaudio speakers.