boston.com   your connection to The Boston Globe
The experimental Heico Sportiv Volvo C30, with design help from Burton Snowboards, is a one-off hot-rod version, not for production.
The experimental Heico Sportiv Volvo C30, with design help from Burton Snowboards, is a one-off hot-rod version, not for production. (Burton/Heico Photo)

Street-legal Volvo

Experimental version of C30 offers glimpse at a possible 'hot-rod' future

STRATTON MOUNTAIN, Vt. -- Today we drive a car that gives us a tantalizing glimpse of a potential future, even as its predecessor is ready to roll.

While a new Volvo C30 hatchback will not be given to the press for testing until this summer, to be followed by its appearance on showroom floors, there is already a media buzz: This will be a huge car for Volvo and its enthusiasts. Hatchbacks with grunt could be the hot rods of the future, and I predict that the C30 even in this "civilian" form will be one of the best to hit the streets in years.

But let's hope the experimental version of the C30 I just drove, called a Heico Sportiv , makes it into production as well. The Swedes in charge at Volvo won't be firing on all cylinders if they don't offer up the Sportiv version, which features all-wheel drive and about 300 horsepower.

Inside, finely stitched leathers surround the dash. Even the texture is preserved. The same care is used in the seats, which have dark leather surrounding a gray insert. Again, the fine stitching gives it a look of luxury.

Big knobs and buttons allow convenient operation of ride, audio, and climate functions from a floating control panel that is wafer-thin. It descends from the upper dash to the shifter.

Volvo teamed up with Burton Snowboards as well as the tuners at Heico Sportiv to build this one-off hot-rod version, and the tuners juiced the car to the gills. On top of the horsepower, it boasts 310 lb.-ft. of tugging torque. In third and fourth gears, that allows the driver to stomp the gas and get a surge of instant response.

And I loved playing with the gears. Six of them are plenty for rolling along the twisting, up-and-down roads between Vermont and New Hampshire. Pushing the engine, transmission, and tires -- that were specially designed for the showcase model -- showed me just how far this Volvo could go.

The cargo compartment has room for snowboards and boarding boots can be tucked beneath a rear deck, which is heated. I think the snow-boarding term for this would be "sick." And that's what a 20-something woman actually said to me when I stopped for a cup of coffee in Brattleboro . She liked my ride. This was not her father's Volvo.

The front end still says "Volvo " but the rear end has another statement.

First, the fenders are downright pumped. Big and bulging, sort of Jose Canseco-ish. They flare above the rear tires, giving great definition to the back that Volvo aficionados will appreciate (picture the old and fabled 1800 ES). The rear gate is a big piece of glass.

But there is no doubt this is a modern car with modern features, including air bags, Heico coil-over suspension, and a Haldex all-wheel-drive system that sends power and braking wherever needed for optimum control.

And there is a lot to control. The 2.5-liter engine is boosted by a Borg-Warner turbocharger that is cooled by air and water.

The good news is that in the past decade I have driven a couple of cars that are affordable and fun for the everyday driver: The Audi A3 and this Volvo.

Unfortunately, the Volvo I just drove is not a production version -- yet. It will be shipped back to Sweden and crushed.

Royal Ford can be reached at ford@globe.com.


(Photos By Burton/Heico)
SEARCH THE ARCHIVES