My Volvo C30 has served me well over my year of ownership with almost 15,000 miles added to the clock so far. Maintenance wise, none of the classic problems that come with buying a used luxury car have come up. Other then an oil change, new spark plugs, and a new set of tires, nothing has needed to be replaced or fixed. It helps that my particular C30 had been very well cared for by its previous owner, and had relativity low mileage (65,000) when I bought it. The T5 inline 5 cylinder that pushes the car has a long history of decent reliability, but the same cannot be said for the electronic systems in 2000s Volvos. However, like I said so far nothing has gone wrong.
When it comes to the experience of actually driving the C30 everyday, I have two conflicting critiques of the car. A few days ago I took the C30 down Highway 1 along the coast, a twisty road that may be the closest thing to driving heaven on the West Coast. The C30 is very good at tackling these kinds of roads. It is very quick once you get out of first gear, and has loads of grip with little body roll. But all those things add up to a rather boring driving experience. I found myself wishing for more road noise, less weight, and less overall refinement. The C30 is a quick, confidence inspiring car, but on public roads it is hard to find any way to push it to it's limits without endangering others. In fact, with the exception of driving on a track, having tons of fun in the C30 is just hard to do. It is fast and grippy and quiet, but unless you are on a track or a extremely twisty and technical road, it isn't a very exciting car.
On the way back, I headed inland and took the freeway. And this is where all the aspects of the C30 that I didn't like on the coast road turned into things I loved. The swaths of soundproofing and B pillars that would look at home on a tank made the ride very quiet. The leather seats and top notch audio that weighed the car down in the turns kept me comfortable. The power, which is hard to access at low revs and then seems like overkill when the turbo finally kicks in, made passing a breeze. This is a classic battle, waged by keyboard warriors on online car forums, between refinement and driving pleasure, between modernity and experience.
The reason I drove down the coast in the first place was to visit a friend of mine who is currently rebuilding a Datsun 510, a car that, by modern standards is very much focused on experience without any hints of refinement. He also had a 1961 Beetle (owned by his grandfather) at the house when I got there. After working on the Datsun a little (an article on that is coming soon), we took the Beetle out for a drive. As we did, we had a discussion on what is it that draws so many people, ourselves included, to classic cars. To cars that are objectivity not as good as their modern counterparts, but that arguably do a much better job putting a smile on your face. In fact, driving the Beetle at 30 mph was miles more fun than driving the C30 at 60. Even the materials that you touch when driving a old car make it feel more special. Wood, metal, leather, all things that we used in objects that we like. Like a nice watch, the interior of the Beetle is pleasing to look at and pleasing to touch.
I've written about this before (see here), but thinking about my own car brought me back to this same idea. And while I understand that things like airbags, ABS, actual seats, and not crumpling like a tin can are important, there are some things that older cars do better then new ones. We can't have it all, but it sure would be nice to be able to have a little more.