Would suit: Middle England
Price: £31,900 (as tested)
Maximum speed: 150mph, 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds
Combined fuel economy: 31mpg
Further information: 0800 400 430
Few things remain as constant as we might wish. They're mucking about with Radio 4 again, I hear; Kate Winslet looks like Uma Thurman these days; and they've even gone and put Marmite in a squeezy bottle (if they think that's going to make it taste any better...). I don't want to come over all Telegraph on you, but it really does look like all we've got left to cling to amid the wreckage of untrammelled progress is Volvo.
Volvos aren't usually terribly sporty or dashing, but they are safe and dependable - which doesn't sell magazines. If you believe the motoring press, Volvos are like the fat asthmatic kids always picked last for the football team at school, with BMW the team captain. But I, on the other hand, absolutely think Volvo makes some of the best cars in the world.
I'm talking about the real world where quality, safety, reliability, value and practicality supersede the ability to shred tyres, lap circuits or act as a substitute for penis-size comparisons down the pub. So just imagine how great a genuinely sexy Volvo would be. It'd be a world beater, surely?
Well, here it is: the new C70 convertible. It doesn't look awfully different from the last one which, admittedly, was a stinker of a car that shuddered over the merest pothole like that same asthmatic student during trampolining practice, but look closer and you'll notice that the new car is tighter, more elegant, meaner looking. It's not easy to build a cohesive visual identity across a diverse range of cars (just ask Fiat, which is hopeless at it), but Volvo is the master. You know this is a Volvo at a glance.
The thing everyone is talking about, though, is the C70's awesome folding hard top. We've seen these things many times before, of course, but we've seen fireworks before too and it doesn't stop us going "ooh" and "aah" every 5 November. And anyway, the C70's is a doozy, folding majestically into three parts - although this impressive pirouetting doesn't appear to have given it any more boot space than the usual folding hard tops.
Never mind, at least with the roof down you can better appreciate the exceptional quality of the interior and the peerless clarity of its controls. Volvo is building some of the best interiors in the world right now, with its trademark "floating" centre console; simple, unfettered surfaces and minimised knobbage. It's always made the best seats, and still does, which makes the inside of the C70 a very nice place to be.
No one expects a Volvo to drive like a TVR, except the bearded old farts and pimply teenagers of the motoring press who have criticised its "vague" steering and "woolly" handling (one thing that doesn't change, it seems, is the car journo's lexicon). It's true, the C70's steering is way over-assisted, but that only makes it all the more soothing and lovely as far as I'm concerned. If I want a sports car, I'll buy an MX5.
The Volvo C70 even went as far as to revive my faith in human nature as, moments after this photograph was taken, the photographer got the Volvo's front wheels thoroughly embedded in the pebbles on the beach (OK, I admit, it was me, but she put the damn thing there in the first place). Within three minutes - and I am not kidding - two motorists had pulled up to see if they could help drag us out. Now isn't that nice? Or is it just the mystical, mind-altering magic of Volvo?
It's a classic: Volvo P1800
Every once in a while Volvo's design team orders in some pizza, cracks open a few cans of low-alcohol lager, and goes absolutely crazy. The C70 is the latest result of one of these hedonistic binges but, thanks to the patronage of a certain Simon Templar, the P1800 is probably the best known.
The elegant, be-finned P1800 coupé was launched in 1960. The cars were originally built by Jensen, but these early examples disintegrated fairly rapidly and production was moved to Sweden in 1963, where the car was re-badged as the P1800S. An "estate" version followed which, to some, looked even better than the coupé, but both cars shared a stylish interior and, less fortunately, prosaic underpinnings.
As with the C70, the P1800 was no sports car - it had a top speed of 104mph and reached 60mph in 13.2 seconds - but that didn't stop it being chosen as Roger Moore's car in The Saint. Moore liked the car so much, he bought it after shooting finished.