Road tests / Car Reviews: Volvo V40 T5 Cross Country 2014

April 12th, 2014 by Robert Barry

IMG_0276It may sit 40mm higher than a standard V40 hatch but the all-wheel-drive V40 T5 Cross Country pictured here is more of a crossover hot hatch than a hardcore off-road SUV.

Don’t let the raised driving height, durable front and rear body kit, side scuff plates and rear skid plate fool you into thinking otherwise. Continue reading “Road tests / Car Reviews: Volvo V40 T5 Cross Country 2014” »

Volvo V60 D4 Luxury 2013 Review

December 11th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

Buy a Volvo with City Safety and in some countries you get a discount off your car insurance because insurance companies know that it has reduced crashes in XC60s by 22%. Insurers in New Zealand are lagging behind (probably trying to maintain their profits), but there might come a time soon when systems such as Volvo’s, or Subaru’s EyeSight attract a nice discount as they virtually eliminate at-fault minor fender benders.

volvo-v60-d4-luxury-2013-rear-quarter-lowThis technology will ultimate also improve our traffic flow because there’ll be less opportunity to rubberneck. At the moment, though, not every manufacturer has a system like City Safety which brakes automatically for you at speeds up to 50kph if it detects you’re about to trade paint with another vehicle, or worse, squish a pedestrian.

volvo-v60-d4-luxury-2013-front-interiorSafety features aside (because it’s kind of a given when you talk about Volvos), the V60 is a station wagon that sits between the S series sedans and the XC series SUVs. You can get into one for a shade under $67,000, and the top of the line is the $87,000 R-Design. Our test car is the diesel D4 which is $69,990, plus it has the most popular options package. This bumps the price up to $77,210 with heated front seats, bi-xenon active bending lights, 18-inch alloys, electric passenger seat, alarm, navigation and some trim upgrades.

The driving experience is smooth with a pleasant wave of 400Nm of torque that is good at highway speeds on overtaking duty, but a little sluggish off the line followed by a burst of torque steer. The 120kW engine gets you too 100kph in 9.4 seconds which is a little tardy and would be improved dramatically if it was more spritely from rest. The five-cylinder, two-litre diesel has a grunty tone when pressed. Fuel economy is 6l/100km combined and that’s OK for a car this size.

volvo-v60-d4-luxury-2013-rear-seatsThe V60 excels at touring. Put it on the smooth expanses of motorway (that are still, unfortunately fairly rare in New Zealand), and it will devour the miles while delivering entertainment from a number of sources including Bluetooth streaming from your phone. It’s no slouch on the backroads, either, but it’s definitely exudes more of a plushness than a swift sportiness. Around town it performs well once you learn the correct throttle control – the large amount of available torque can mean it gathers momentum quicker than you’d expect with small throttle movements. Continue reading “Volvo V60 D4 Luxury 2013 Review” »

Road Train Successfully Tested

May 31st, 2012 by Karen Joy Provo

Volvo has successfully tested a road train for the first time on a public road on a motorway near Barcelona in Spain.

The SARTRE (Safe Road Train for the Environment) comprised a Volvo XC60, a Volvo V60 and a Volvo S60 plus one truck automatically driving in convoy behind a lead vehicle, with no drivers.

Vehicle platoon tests in the SARTRE project – a joint venture between Ricardo UK Ltd, Applus+ Idiada, Tecnalia Research & Innovation, Institute für Kraftfahrzeuge Aachen (IKA), SP Technical Research Institute, Volvo Technology and Volvo Car Corporation – have until now taken place on test tracks.

“We covered 200 kilometres in one day and the test turned out well. We’re really delighted,” says Linda Wahlström, project manager for the SARTRE project at Volvo Car Corporation.

A road train consists of a lead vehicle driven by a professional driver followed by a number of vehicles. Building on Volvo Car Corporation’s and Volvo Technology’s already existing safety systems – including features such as cameras, radar and laser sensors – the vehicles monitor the lead vehicle and also other vehicles in their immediate vicinity.

By adding in wireless communication, the vehicles in the platoon “mimic” the lead vehicle using Ricardo autonomous control – accelerating, braking and turning in exactly the same way as the leader.

The project aims to deliver improved comfort for drivers, who can now spend their time doing other things while driving. They can work on their laptops, read a book or sit back and enjoy a relaxed lunch, while their vehicles automatically follows the one in front.

Naturally the project also aims to improve traffic safety, reduce environmental impact and – thanks to smooth speed control – cut the risk of traffic tailbacks.

“Driving among other road-users is a great milestone in our project. It was truly thrilling,” says Linda Wahlström. The vehicles drove at 85 kilometres an hour. The gap between each vehicle was just six metres. “During our trials on the test circuit we tried out gaps from five to fifteen metres,” said Linda Wahlström.

Sitting in a car just six metres behind another one while travelling at 85 km/h and relying totally on the technology may feel a bit scary. But the experiences gained so far indicate that people acclimatise very quickly.

The three-year SARTRE project has been under way since 2009. All told, the vehicles in the project have covered about 10,000 kilometres. After the test on the public roads in Spain, the project is now entering a new phase with the focus on analysis of fuel consumption.

“We’ve learnt a whole lot during this period. People think that autonomous driving is science fiction, but the fact is the technology is already here. From the purely conceptual viewpoint, it works fine and road train will be around in one form or another in the future,” says Linda Wahlström.

“We’ve focused really hard on changing as little as possible in existing systems. Everything should function without any infrastructure changes to the roads or expensive additional components in the cars. Apart from the software developed as part of the project, it is really only the wireless network installed between the cars that set them apart from other cars available in showrooms today.”

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Pedestrian Airbag Explained

May 29th, 2012 by Karen Joy Provo

Seven sensors, advanced technology and an airbag that deploys at lightning speed in the windscreen area. These are some of the main elements of Pedestrian Airbag Technology – the system that makes Volvo Car Corporation with its all-new V40 the first manufacturer with a pedestrian airbag.

Volvo has a long running tradition of safety innovations dating back to 1944 when it introduced the laminated windscreen. Other milestones include three point front seat belts in 1959 and rear seat belts in 1967 and the collapsible steering column in 1973.

Built in child booster cushions were launched in 1978; anti submarining protection for all seats in 1982; side impact protection system in 1991; whiplash protection system in 1998; blind spot warning system in 2004; curtain airbags for convertibles in 2005 and most recently City Safety to prevent collisions at speeds under 30 km/h.

In China 25 percent of traffic fatalities are pedestrians. In Europe the figure is 14 percent and in the USA 12 percent. Far larger numbers of pedestrians are injured.

The most serious head injuries involving pedestrians and cars are caused by the hard structure under the bonnet panel, the windscreen’s lower edge and the A-pillars.

These were some of the considerations when Volvo started development of its Pedestrian Airbag Technology. The system was a world breakthrough when the all-new Volvo V40 was launched in Geneva earlier this year.

“We are proud to be able to offer a car with an airbag for pedestrians. The purpose of the airbag is to help protect pedestrians in certain situations when they impact the bonnet and the area around the windscreen wiper recess and A-pillar, where there may be a risk of serious head injuries,” says Thomas Broberg, Senior Technical Advisor Safety, Volvo.

Seven sensors embedded in the front of the car transmit signals to a control unit. When the car comes into contact with an object, the signals change. The control unit evaluates the signals and if it registers what it interprets as a human leg the pedestrian airbag is deployed.

The bonnet hinges are each equipped with pyrotechnical release mechanisms which, when the system is activated, pull out a pin and release the rear of the bonnet panel. At the same time, the airbag is activated and starts filling with gas.

During the inflation sequence the airbag raises the bonnet. It is lifted ten centimetres and stays in the raised position.

The added gap between the bonnet and the hard components in the engine compartment gives space for the bonnet to deform, creating a dampening effect when it is hit by a pedestrian.

“The airbag has two functions. Firstly, it raises the bonnet to create distance, and secondly it cushions the impact around the hard parts of the area near the windscreen,” said Mr Broberg.

In its inflated position, the airbag covers the entire windscreen wiper recess, about one-third of the windscreen and the lower part of the A-pillars. The entire sequence from activation of the system to full inflation takes a few hundredths of a second.

The system is active at speeds between 20 and 50 km/h. 75 percent of all accidents involving pedestrians take place at up to 40 km/h.

“We developed the technology using computer simulations and human-like leg and head forms. The tests were carried out in a wide variety of configurations,” said Mr Broberg.

The airbag itself consists of a sack and a gas hybrid generator. Upon activation, the sack is filled with gas within a few milliseconds.

Two years ago Volvo launched Pedestrian Detection with full auto brake. The system can avoid a collision with a pedestrian at speeds of up to 35 km/h if the driver does not respond in time. At higher speeds the focus is on reducing the car’s speed as much as possible before the collision.

Mean Green Machine

May 7th, 2012 by Tim Grimley

Despite being honour-bound as an Englishman to have the ‘island mentality’ that makes one deeply suspicious of foreign Johnny’s who don’t speak in the Queen’s tongue, I must confess to having rather a soft spot for the Scandinavians.

Not only do they have a habit of reliably turning out some of the most aesthetically pleasing examples of womenfolk, but they are also a little bit bonkers. I found this out in a pub in Prague a number of years ago when a man from Finland engaged me in a long, beer-fuelled conversation about the sporting luminaries his country had produced. Mostly he talked about millions of rally drivers whose last names end in ‘en’, but I did manage to chip in with footballer Jari Litmanen and strongman Jouko Ahola.

My slight knowledge of Finnish sporting heroes delighted my intoxicated colleague who, by way of reward, regaled me with tales of his Nordic life. Alcohol figured quite highly – as one might expect for a man whose southern neighbour was 5km away and on the northern side had no human life between himself and the North Pole – as did snowmobiling, reindeer farming, driving sideways and hunting bears.

Life towards to the Arctic Circle is seemingly a little bereft of what we would consider to be normal pastimes. And I suppose it shouldn’t really come as a surprise – if you’re the kind of person who voluntarily lives in an environment where it can drop below -50°C and consider the height of bad manners to be asking a man how many reindeer he owns, being captain of the local cricket team just isn’t going to get you out of bed in the mornings.

Not that green, but mean as

So step in Boije Ovebrink, possibly the nuttiest example of the breed yet discovered. Yes, he may come from Sweden, which isn’t quite as tetchy about reindeer questions and generally only gets down to a positively balmy -30°C, but he is the man at the reigns of Mean Green, the world’s fastest truck.

The 2100bhp Volvo – 200bhp of which is provided by an electric motor in what is probably the most tenuous claim of green credentials ever – has, this week, hurtled down the runway at Wendover airfield in Utah, clocking a staggering 95.245mph average over a standing kilometre and 147.002mph for a flying run over the same distance.

Impressive numbers for sure, but it does beg the question; why?

Despite what those of you who have had an enormous semi-truck stuck up their chuff on State Highway 1 may think, these road leviathans are not built for speed. Yes, it’s useful if they can bindle along at such a pace that any perishable cargo doesn’t expire before reaching the its destination, but the gargantuan horsepowers and mountainous torques are mainly there to ensure a trailer load of very heavy things can be pulled from A to B.

There is no feat of speed, handling or endurance that Mean Green could perform that a smaller, lither car with superior power to weight ratios couldn’t eclipse with minimal effort. Yes, the truck may well be capable of beating a stock standard Ferrari down a drag strip, but put it up against Jenson Button in his company car and see what happens.

And this leaves only one conclusion that can sensibly be drawn; Mean Green is utterly pointless.

Yet this is also what makes it utterly, utterly wonderful. Let’s face it; if we only ever did things that made sense the world would be a very, very dull place. Everyone would drive a Toyota Corolla, pretty women would shun lingerie in favour of knickers that you could go camping in and no-one would ever order a mutton phall at Indian restaurants.

The world needs more people like Boije and his team who instead of asking ‘Why?’ choose to ask ‘Why not?’ instead. Because in doing so, they can produce things – in this case a phenomenal piece of engineering – that, while they may not move the human race forward in any great leaps or bounds, brighten our lives by making the world that bit more fun and that little bit crazier.

In fact, just that little bit more Scandinavian.

Volvo celebrates 85 years of mass production

April 17th, 2012 by Karen Joy Provo

Eighty five years ago, the first mass-produced Volvo car rolled off the production line at the Lundby factory in Göteborg.

Now, 85 years later, the Volvo Group is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of commercial vehicles and Volvo Car Corporation sells almost 500,000 cars each year.

At 10 in the morning of 14 April 1927, sales manager Hilmer Johansson drove the first mass-produced ÖV4 model through the factory gates in Lundby in Göteborg. On the same date this year, the same car passed through exactly the same gates to celebrate Volvo’s birthday.

Stefan Jacoby, President and CEO of Volvo Car Corporation, and Olof Persson, President and CEO of the Volvo Group, were behind the wheel. “It’s a fantastic car, but it’s easy to see how much has changed over the last 85 years,” says Stefan Jacoby, who recently premiered the new V40 at the Geneva Motor Show.

The Volvo Group and Volvo Car Corporation are two companies with a long shared history. However, what was at that time one company began as a very unpromising project, because Volvo’s founders Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson had no direct experience of cars or the automotive industry.

During its first year of production, Volvo sold a very modest 300 cars. However, in the following year business really began to take off, when the company also started manufacturing trucks and buses. Even back then Volvo realised that the key to success lay in exports. “Our roots are still very important to us. Around 30,000 of the Volvo Group’s 120,000 employees work in Sweden, but 95 percent of our products are sold outside the country,” says Olof Persson.

The equivalent figures for Volvo Car Corporation are 14,500 employees in Sweden out of a worldwide total of 21,500. Around 87 percent of all Volvo Car Corporation’s sales take place outside Sweden.

In 1999, the Volvo Group sold its car business. Since then, the two companies have continued to grow in different directions. Volvo Car Corporation is now in the premium segment and last year sold around 450,000 cars in 120 countries, with the USA as its single largest market.

The Volvo Group produces trucks under the Volvo, Renault Trucks, Mack and UD Trucks brands, together with buses, construction equipment, drive systems for marine and industrial applications and components for aircraft engines. With a turnover of SEK 310 billion, the Volvo Group is the world’s second largest manufacturer of heavy trucks and Sweden’s largest company. The group has production sites in 20 countries and sales organisations in 190.

Volvo V60 D3 2012 Review

March 22nd, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

The spiritual successor to the ‘flying brick’ has had yet more corners chiseled away. It’s now like a brick that’s spent several years rolling around in the Muriwai surf. Of course, the bits that now bulge serve a purpose: they create deformable areas that assist with maintaining Volvo’s position at the top of the safety pile, along with a blizzard of available electronic aids (some of which are optional or only available on better specified models than the D3).

After I had digested the brochure’s waffle I took a good look around the V60. From the side you’ve got a strong swooping shoulder line. It’s handsome. At the back there are stretched high level taillights and at the front the headlights smear up the side of the sculpted bonnet. This is a car whose proportions work well.

Our test Volvo V60 didn’t come with a lot of the electronic driving aids that can impress your mates but it did come with a seat I would be quite happy to sit in non-stop for the full Continue reading “Volvo V60 D3 2012 Review” »

V40 to debut at Geneva Show

February 29th, 2012 by Karen Joy Provo

Volvo Cars will reveal the all-new Volvo V40 at the Geneva Motor Show next week.

The all-new V40 is designed to take on the competition in the Premium Hatchback class with sharpened features and characteristics from larger Volvos wrapped in a sleek, compact package.

“The all-new V40 is the first new model that is fully developed according to our human-centric, Designed Around You strategy. Charged with an outstanding set of high-tech features it definitely will give our toughest competitors a headache,” says Stefan Jacoby, President and CEO of Volvo Car Corporation.

Volvo, with the regular launch of striking new models, was the fastest growing luxury car brand in the world in 2011. The V40 is expected to continue that momentum as it comes on stream progressively from June. Its New Zealand launch is expected in the last quarter.

The V40 is a modern, expressive car with a Scandinavian luxury look and feel, a high-quality aura and meticulous attention to detail. The new, fully graphic instrument cluster with personalised layout and Continue reading “V40 to debut at Geneva Show” »

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