Thumping music, “Truth or Dare” games, tyre-smoking stunt drivers – yeah, this must be the… Volvo launch?
Can the archetypal sensible-shoes brand really be the automotive equivalent of the adrenaline rush? Frankly, the idea of luge pilots queuing up to take a drive in a Volvo seems unlikely. Changing lanes without indicating – that’s extreme sport in a Volvo.
But here’s the interesting thing: Volvo really can make cars that raise the hairs on your forearms, get your heart thumping faster and leave your throat a little dry. It’s made them for ages. Only now, it’s making more of them. And it’s making more of a song and dance about them.
The new S60, launched this week in George, looks sensational. There’s more of a flow to the coupé-like lines, more of a poised ready-for-action attitude, less of the chunky, sculpted rock-like look of the previous S60. And oh, does it go. Heading inland over the Robinson Pass from Mossel Bay, the 3-litre 224 kW/440 N.m T6 did the luxury sports express thing to a tee. One moment it’s a refined whoooosh; prod the right pedal, and there’s a delicious snarl as it despatches slowmoving traffic. The ride is firm – even in the optional adaptable suspension’s Comfort mode (Sport and Advanced are the other settings) – without being noisy, and the car always feels thoroughly planted. The 5-cylinder diesel isn’t nearly as responsive, but once you’ve accustomed yourself to its meaty torque delivery it just simply flows up mountain passes at a superbly relaxed gait.
What really impressed, though, was the 2-litre turbocharged Four, which develops 149 kW and 300 N.m. In normal driving, you hardly miss the extra oomph of the Six. Volvo seems to have got the balance of this one just right.
Two chassis options are available; South African versions get the new dynamic chassis (the North Americanspec comfort chassis involves differences to dampers and front and rear subframes, with a softer setting for a smoother ride on poorer road surfaces).
Prices: from R355 500 (2,0 T manual) to R464 000 (T6 Geartronic).
Safety first. Besides the attitude adjustment, the other big news with the S60 is the implementation of Pedestrian Detection with full auto brake. This world-first technology is a development of the company’s radarbased City Safety auto-braking system, standard on the S60. City Safety avoids low-speed rear-enders by stopping the car if the driver hasn’t reacted to an obstacle up ahead. The new Pedestrian Detection uses a combination of a radar unit in the grille and a camera fitted near the interior rear-view mirror. The radar detects obstacles up ahead; the camera image helps the central processor determine what that obstacle is – and can activate full braking power to bring the car to a stop, at up to 35 km/h, if the driver doesn’t respond in time. Being wide-angle, the radar can even pick up a pedestrian (even a child) stepping off the kerb. Programmed into the technology is the ability to recognise a pedestrian’s pattern of movement and the likelihood of stepping into the road in front of the car.
Added to the range later will be a 176 kW/320 N.m T5, turbocharged 1,6-litre Fours, and two more lowerpowered diesels.
Wallpaper: To download wallpaper images of the 2010 Volvo S60, [click here]