Flaw­less safety from the XC90

The Herald Magazine - - ETC | DRIVE -

VOLVO’S com­mit­ment to hav­ing zero oc­cu­pant fa­tal­i­ties in its cars by the year 2020 ap­pears to be well on track, af­ter new data showed its XC90 SUV had not suf­fered a sin­gle fa­tal ac­ci­dent in the UK since it was first re­leased in 2002.

The XC90, now in its sec­ond gen­er­a­tion, has reg­u­larly been touted as a su­per-safe car – both gen­er­a­tions achieved five stars in their re­spec­tive Euro NCAP crash tests, and the most re­cent was named the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s safest car of 2017.

That sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion car of­fers classlead­ing ac­tive safety fea­tures, in­clud­ing stan­dard-fit au­tonomous emer­gency brak­ing (AEB), large an­i­mal de­tec­tion and blindspot mon­i­tor­ing. But it’s not just the ac­tive safety that con­trib­utes, says Matthew Avery, re­search di­rec­tor at Thatcham.

“All sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Volvo XC90s have had AEB as stan­dard, so they’ve all had col­li­sion avoid­ance sys­tems out of the fac­tory. But be­fore that, none of them had the col­li­sion avoid­ance sys­tems we’re talk­ing about,” says Avery.

“So most of the delivery of safety of that ve­hi­cle, the fact that no one’s been killed in it, is be­cause of the good struc­ture. It’s about re­pro­gram­ming the en­ergy in the col­li­sion, about good re­straints, good seat­belts, pre­ten­sion­ers and load lim­iters. It’s also about good airbags. The real delivery is not the col­li­sion avoid­ance sys­tems, it’s be­cause it’s got re­ally good pas­sive safety.”

The Volvo holds up to scrutiny. In Euro NCAP’s 2003 crash test, the car was noted to have an ‘im­mensely strong body’ that pro­vides ‘safe, all-round pro­tec­tion for its pas­sen­gers’. The re­port goes on to say the The Volvo XC90 has not suf­fered a sin­gle fa­tal ac­ci­dent in the UK since it was launched in 2002 body per­formed ‘ex­cep­tion­ally well’ in front im­pact tests, while side im­pact tests were ‘among the low­est seen by Euro NCAP’ at the time of test­ing. The 2015 model re­ceived sim­i­lar praise, gain­ing full points for its pro­tec­tion of chil­dren in car seats as well as its pro­tec­tion in the side bar­rier test.

Thatcham is now call­ing on other ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers to fo­cus on pas­sive safety, in ad­di­tion to head­line-grab­bing ac­tive safety fea­tures. “Ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers can’t back off from ac­tive safety. Volvo’s XC90 shows you have to have very good pas­sive safety, and you can built the ac­tive safety on top of that,” says Avery.

How­ever, he notes AEB does have a part to play. “I can see the col­li­sion avoid­ance sys­tems are work­ing. The smaller XC60 with its stan­dard fit AEB sys­tem is re­duc­ing fron­tinto-rear crashes by some­thing like 40%, so I’m sure the XC90 will be just as good.” The Mercedes A-Class is set to go elec­tric.

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