SHAKEN BUT NOT STIRRED

Technology on wheels is the boast from the Swede that has now turned Chi­nese, but Fred­eric Manby found its re­worked sus­pen­sion sys­tem left much to be de­sired.

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE -

VOLVO’S all-new S60 saloon is a se­ri­ous ri­val to Audi’s A4 and BMW’s 3-se­ries. Prices open at £23,295 for the 161bhp diesel D3 which has a 60-plus mpg po­ten­tial and a 0-60mph time of 8.7 sec­onds. The car­bon emis­sions rat­ing of 139g/km is on the ball, too. An es­tate ver­sion is on the way.

It fits be­tween S40 and S80 mod­els and is 182in long, so a few bob short of a Ford Mon­deo, wieldy and sharphan­dling on its front-drive chas­sis which for Europe is set firmer and stiffer than on other Volvos.

This is a full-blooded ef­fort, with shorter springs, and thick­en­ing of ev­ery­thing from the steer­ing col­umn to var­i­ous sus­pen­sion mount­ings.

Ste­fan Säl­lqvist, re­spon­si­ble for the S60 chas­sis devel­op­ment ex­plained: “ We spent many weeks fine­tun­ing the dampers out in the English coun­try­side. We drove on old Ro­man roads that have only ever re­ceived a few lay­ers of tar­mac over the cen­turies – a per­fect en­vi­ron­ment for find­ing the right damp­ing qual­i­ties.”

Well, Ste­fan, you should have also tried Coverdale and Langstroth­dale and a few oth­ers... This is one of the most un­com­fort­able “nor­mal” cars I have driven for ages. The ride is just far too firm. Pas­sen­gers felt queasy and I was rather shaken, too, at the wheel.

This year, you may now know, Volvo left Un­cle Sam be­came Chi­nese, in a strange de­ra­ci­na­tion that saw SAAB acquired by the Dutch.

What we have in this S60 was all made un­der the old regime, one which Ford found too much to han­dle as it sought, suc­cess­fully, to avoid the im­plo­sion that wrecked its com­pa­tri­ots Chrysler Jeep and Gen­eral Mo­tors.

As­sum­ing the Chi­nese econ­omy does not also over­heat, but it may, Volvo looks set to do very well from cars such as this S60 once it re­laxes the sus­pen­sion. The body car­ries on the zoomy, ea­ger char­ac­ter of the C70 coupé-con­vert­ible. It still has the Volvo sta­ples such as high safety pro­tec­tion and new ones which stop you run­ning into things or not see­ing over­tak­ing cars.

The in­te­rior is re­ally nice, nicer than Saab’s new 9-5 for ex­am­ple. Volvo has grasped what I want in­side a car. This is places to put things, lots of things, though I looked in vain for a specs holder. There is a natty open-sided yet dis­crete hold­ing space be­hind the fly­ing cen­tral stack, now larger and handy for say a big cam­era or a ladies hand­bag.

Peo­ple did look at this car, ei­ther be­cause they knew what it was (the new S60) or be­cause of its “looks”, which had some of them very in­ter­ested and point­ing.

This is a good sign with a car. No one will be point­ing at the lat­est Suzuki Swift be­cause it may as well be the old Swift as far as “looks” are concerned.

My test car was the bet­ter spec­i­fied SE Pre­mium model which costs £27,295 and ideal I sup­pose for the pri­vate buyer or mid­dle man­age­ment com­pany driv­ers with that ben­e­fi­cial CO2 rat­ing.

Ex­tras on the demo car in­cluded a pop­ping £625 for the Caspian blue metal­lic paint and £1,250 for some­thing called a “driver sup­port pack”. A chair, per­haps? The 17 in Njord al­loys were a no cost op­tion. An ex­te­rior styling pack con­trib­uted £620 and I would imag­ine this in­cludes the vaned rear bumper. With a sporty steer­ing wheel the bill comes to £30,595. The driver sup­port kit is a rather vi­tal safety add-on, giv­ing own­ers the op­por­tu­nity to pay more to ben­e­fit other road users. Its prin­ci­pal el­e­ment is called “Pedes­trian De­tec­tion with Full Auto Brake”. It em­ploys radar in the car’s grille, a cam­era fit­ted in front of the

The in­te­rior is re­ally nice, nicer than Saab’s new 9-5 for ex­am­ple.

mir­ror, and a cen­tral con­trol unit. Volvo ex­plains: “The radar’s task is to de­tect any ob­ject in front of the car and to de­ter­mine the dis­tance to it, while the cam­era’s job is to de­ter­mine what type of ob­ject it is.”

The sys­tem can de­tect pedes­tri­ans who are over 80 cm tall – that is 32 inches so cov­ers most of us. I found it was de­tect­ing chil­dren on the pave­ment, too.

In an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion, the driver ini­tially re­ceives an au­di­ble warn­ing com­bined with a flash­ing light in the wind­screen’s head-up dis­play. At the same time, the car’s brakes are pre-charged. If the driver does not re­act to the warn­ing and an ac­ci­dent is deemed as im­mi­nent, full brak­ing power is au­to­mat­i­cally ap­plied to bring the car to a stop. I never dared test it.

Volvo warns that half of all pedes­trian ac­ci­dents oc­cur at speeds be­low 15mph. The technology can avoid a col­li­sion with a pedes­trian at speeds up to 21mph if the driver does not re­act in time. At higher speeds, the fo­cus is on re­duc­ing the car’s speed as much as pos­si­ble prior to the im­pact.

Volvo says: “A lower speed of im­pact means that the risk of se­ri­ous in­jury is sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced. For in­stance, if speed is cut from 31mph to 15mph, Pedes­trian De­tec­tion with Full Auto Brake is ex­pected to re­duce the fa­tal­ity risk as much as 20 per cent and, in some cases, up to 85 per cent.”

Smart stuff, in­deed. Your £1,250 also brings a lane de­par­ture alert, a blind-spot monitor, an­other that tells you if you are within a pre-set dis­tance to the car in front, and adap­tive cruise con­trol which mon­i­tors your gap with ve­hi­cles in front, re­mov­ing the need for reg­u­lar brak­ing and ob­vi­at­ing the risk of tail-gat­ing. On the ES en­try grade it costs £1,425.

You can, by the way, switch off all or any of these safety de­vices. I am not sure why, and they com­bine to make the S60 an out­stand­ing ad­vance in road safety. The awards are al­ready be­ing counted.

There will be those who carp that it is tak­ing con­trol of the car away from the driver, that it will give a risky sense of false se­cu­rity and so forth. I say yah boo. The dis­tance alert helped me when a car in front did a quite un­ex­pected left turn while I was look­ing at some­thing in the fields.

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