Swedish car man­u­fac­turer Volvo is on the warpath and their weaponry in­cludes a range of im­pres­sive cars that are turn­ing heads and win­ning awards around the world. We re­cently drove three new models.

go! - - Contents - BY PIERRE STEYN

Volvo’s new ve­hi­cles are turn­ing heads and win­ning awards. We test three new models.

Along time ago, I touched down at the air­port in Kiruna, the north­ern­most town in Swe­den, in the mid­dle of win­ter. Kiruna is about 150 km into the Arc­tic Cir­cle; the pilot ca­su­ally an­nounced that the ground tem­per­a­ture was -30° C. I don’t know if it’s pos­si­ble for a puffer jacket to melt in the cold, but that’s what hap­pened to mine when the stew­ardess opened the cabin door. My jacket was like a sec­ond-tier club rugby fly­half sud­denly trans­ported to the House of Pain in Dunedin to face off against the All Blacks. “Don’t let me stand in your way, Mr Lomu,” it seemed to say. “I’m way out of my depth.” A gi­ant Swede met us in the tiny ar­rivals hall. He looked how I imag­ined Björn Loth­brok, son of Rag­nar, the leg­endary ninth­cen­tury Vik­ing war­lord, might have looked: blue eyes, blonde hair, goa­tee, mas­sive knife in a scab­bard hang­ing from his belt… Björn was our guide and his job was to make sure we made it to our wilder­ness camp alive on our snow­mo­biles that night. He looked at the group of shiv­er­ing South Africans and praised us for bring­ing our warm­est clothes. “I’m sure your cloth­ing is per­fectly ad­e­quate back home in Africa,” he said. “But now you are in La­p­land. Here you will die in those clothes. In Swe­den, there is no bad weather, just bad clothes.” He laughed up­roar­i­ously at his own joke. Mer­ci­fully, we were each is­sued with the right cloth­ing and we sur­vived the night. Kiruna is a place where iron ore has been dug from the earth for more than a cen­tury, and the re­sul­tant steel is used to pro­duce Volvo’s range of ve­hi­cles. Look closely at the Volvo em­blem: It’s the old alchemy sym­bol for iron. How­ever, the mine has be­come so deep that it’s threat­en­ing the town. To fix the prob­lem, the Swedes are mov­ing the en­tire place, build­ing by build­ing, to a new site 3 km to the east. It’s a project that started four years ago and will be fin­ished some­time around 2100. Yes, Swe­den and its peo­ple don’t flinch in the face of a chal­lenge, and they plan very far into the fu­ture. The same goes for the new gen­er­a­tion of Volvos that was launched this year. Cars like the V60 Cross Coun­try, the XC40 and the XC60. The XC60, a medi­um­sized SUV, is the top-sell­ing Volvo and was re­cently crowned 2018 World Car of the Year. The funky XC40 is a smaller SUV that turns heads wher­ever it parks. It’s go­ing to be an­other win­ner in the Volvo sta­ble. The V60 Cross Coun­try is a more tra­di­tional fam­ily es­tate car, the kind of ve­hi­cle that Volvo has

pretty much per­fected over the years. Like most car man­u­fac­tur­ers these days, the three ve­hi­cles share tech­nol­ogy, trans­mis­sions, en­gines, 4x4 sys­tems and chas­sis de­sign. What sets Volvo apart from its com­peti­tors are not only things like ex­cel­lent fuel ef­fi­ciency and a but­tery ride, but the feel­ing that you’ve stepped into the fu­ture. The clean Scan­di­na­vian de­sign on the out­side, the lux­u­ri­ous and mod­ern in­side and the tech­nol­ogy un­der that steel skin are vastly im­pres­sive. Volvo calls it “Pilot As­sist” and “City Safety” – cam­era and radar tech­nol­ogy that helps you to avoid other cars, pedes­tri­ans, cy­clists and an­i­mals. I ac­ti­vated these sys­tems in rush hour traf­fic in the XC60 and the car prac­ti­cally drove it­self all the way into Cape Town. It kept a safe fol­low­ing dis­tance, ac­cel­er­at­ing and brak­ing when it needed to. The steer­ing wheel gen­tly nudged me back into my lane when it sensed that I was drift­ing. In an emer­gency, this tech will save you thou­sands of rands, and pos­si­bly your life, by brak­ing on your be­half. More than a thou­sand years ago, the Vik­ings – peo­ple like Rag­nar, his war­rior wife Lagertha and their son Björn – ran riot in Bri­tain, France and other na­tions. Maybe that era has dawned again…


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