Remember when Volvo was Swedish for “safety”? Now it seems every car manufacturer is learning the language. Most cars and SUVs seem to have a back-up camera, parking sensors, and more airbags than you can throw a stick at. And if you don’t get a nod from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), forget it.
You’d think it might be tough for Volvo to outclass the competition. But now it seems their cars can tell the difference between a pedestrian and a bicyclist – and hit the brakes as well. That’s something I had to see for myself. And Nelson, my contact at Volvo, was only too happy to put me in a glossy white 2014 Volvo S60 T6 AWD to see for myself. He practically volunteered to stand in front of the Volvo to show me what the car could do, but we settled on a set of pylons instead.
As I drove into the metre-high orange pylons, every muscle and molecule in my body on edge, all hell broke loose. The dashboard lit up with flashing lights, accompanied by a god-awful screeching noise, and the Volvo slammed on the brakes. It was quite the show.
Boy, was I was impressed, and wondered if I’d get a chance to see the Volvo in action on Toronto streets. Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t looking to mow anyone down! But on the hectic streets of this city, it’s not unusual for other road users to wander in front of a car. Yet, for the entire week that I had this sparkling white vehicle, I only got a chance to see it strut its stuff once. As I was driving along the Esplanade, a woman started crossing the street a little too soon. Bam! The lights on the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree, and the hounds of hell sounded. She wasn’t close enough to make the car brake, but I would have had to be in some kind of stupor to not notice.
For the rest of the week, I drove in the likeliest places – the U of T campus, Queen West, Yonge Street, Spadina – you name it. Perhaps the cold weather discouraged people from walking and cycling where they shouldn’t. Come to think of it, there weren’t a lot of bicycles to be seen anywhere. And those hardy souls that did take to two wheels obviously knew better.
How does the Volvo know which is which? It has not only radar, but also a camera-based technology that can detect an actual image as well as motion. These are mounted at the top of the windshield, and there are more sensors all around the car. It also had a Blind Spot Information Package, which is handy for parking in Toronto’s choked streets.
And when Old Man Winter drops by, like he did these past few weeks, this is the car you want to be in. Everything heats up. The seats (front and back), the steering wheel, the sideview mirrors, the windshield, the headlight washer nozzles. The AWD crunches through the snow. It’s hard not to feel invincible!
Like one of my cats, this is a car that likes to talk. When you’re driving, the Blind Spot Information System warns you with a light if there’s someone in the way. It also kicks in when you’re parking. No one can sneak up on you! Should you drift from your lane, the Driver Alert Control lights up and buzzes. It also has Adaptive Cruise Control – which should be on all cars.
Other cool features including folding down rear seat head rests, which can otherwise get in the way of the driver’s view. And my favourite – lock the car, and the side view mirrors flash and fold in.
I’m glad to see the Swedes are still at the top of the game.
Pedestrians and bicyclists should be, too.