First Hand: The Volvo S60

Cars

Upon arrival at Aberdeen airport, two very established, very male motor journos and I were presented with a shining row of old Volvo estates. We were assigned one that was a year younger than me – an F reg. Thankfully being in my early twenties and of the ‘fairer sex’ meant that I was instantly relegated to the back seat, safely away from the non-power assisted steering and the directions.

These retrospectively cool yet cumbersome machines represented the old dependable family wagon that is instantly associated with the brand. This long in the tooth Volvo image, though, that eclipsed the brand’s pre 1970s stylish raciness, is to become a thing of the past. Volvo’s target buyer is now younger, more fun and style conscious. They are, in oher words, Twilight viewers.

Volvo really did their research for the road test. The big cheese Duncan Banister reckoned the route we took included some of Britain’s finest driving roads. He wasn’t wrong. Winding through the Aberdeenshire hills, past Lecht Ski Centre and through some small towns, the chance of a traffic jam or even speed camera was laughable.

The S60 looks pretty sexy in an understated kind of way – and certainly has enough technology to put an Apple store to shame. But ultimately you can’t help feeling that when safety is such a primary focus, the Teutonic panache of brands like BMW, Mercedes and Audi will tend to eclipse Volvo’s efforts to get noticed.

Nevertheless, Volvo’s aim across the 60 range is to create vehicles that are fun to drive, and to demonstrate their success the press people have enlisted the help of very adept racing driver John Cleland. As demonstrated by John the S60 does have a fair bit of oomph – but this oomph seems to have been created with the mantra; ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’

This brings us to this machine’s groundbreaking piece of technology – City Safety. A radar in the grill communicates with a camera on the windscreen that is home to 100, 000 images of people in order to recognise wayward pedestrians. When travelling at 22mph or less the car will apply a full break – after a noisy warning – if someone steps in front of the vehicle and the driver shows no sign of being in control. Or, if the car is moving faster than 22mph the car will slow to 10mph to minimise damage.

In addition to being Joe Public’s knight in shining armour, the car protects itself with more sensors than you can shake a stick at. The body may as well be covered in industrial goose down pillows. City Safety not only decreases the chance of causing carnage on a city street: it also banishes the chance of those annoying Tesco carpark dings decreasing your residuals. Yes the beeping of the sensor alarms can get annoying. But like all good automotive technology you can turn it all off.

Ultimately, Volvo has succeeded in keeping safety at the heart of their company with a car that is quite pretty, nippy and that handles well. As just the sort of urban twentysomething that Volvo need to court to be cool – I would definitely consider ownership. But, then again, I never watch Twilight.

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