Volvo: Sweet on safety

Krystyna Lagowski 2014 Volvo S60Remember 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.IMG_8201

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!IMG_8221

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.




23 Comments on "Volvo: Sweet on safety"

  1. Christine Peets January 6, 2014 at 5:40 pm · Reply

    My brother-in-law rented a car very similar to this (maybe even this same model) and was quite impressed. He didn’t mention all of the features you have, but he was definitely impressed with it and will rent one again.

    As I am a pedestrian much of the time, and my husband is a cyclist, we’ll certainly appreciate more drivers being in one of these!

    I love your fun style of writing too. Who says reading about cars needs to be dull?

    Well done!

    • Krystyna Lagowski January 7, 2014 at 2:26 am · Reply

      Why thank you, Christine! The Volvo folks have always excelled at making safe and comfy cars, so I’m not surprised your brother-in-law was pleased. It’s wonderful that active safety technology is about more than the vehicle, and includes other road users – especially the more vulnerable ones.
      I’m glad you like the post. I’m glad when you drop by : ))

  2. Laurie Hurley January 6, 2014 at 9:59 pm · Reply

    Wow, that is super-cool. I thought my Prius V was fairly high-tech with a rear-end camera, but this takes the cake! My husband predicts that soon cars will be driving themselves. That I am not too sure about!

    • Krystyna Lagowski January 7, 2014 at 2:30 am · Reply

      Laurie, there are many technological innovations that are making self-driving cars a reality, and this is a perfect example. There are many people who would love to see this type of vehicle on the road – they are legal in Nevada, Florida, California, and Michigan. Google is famous for many things, not the least of which is its driverless car. Naturally, the technology needs to be tweaked a little before self-driving cars take over the roads!

  3. Greg January 6, 2014 at 11:00 pm · Reply

    Hi Krystyna,

    Something about seeing that Volvo in the snow makes me want one, not sure what it is. Nice advertising!

    Could be the allusion to Swedish things, which makes me want to travel.

    Is Volvo your favorite car? What about Saab?

    Greg from BHB

    • Krystyna Lagowski January 7, 2014 at 2:38 am · Reply

      Hey Greg, I’m tickled that my post made you want a Volvo. They’re certainly wonderful in the snow, and I understand New York is experiencing its fair share of the white stuff this week. The Swedes are definitely a clever bunch. Volvo, Ikea, ABBA, herring, vodka. And so on.
      I enjoyed the Volvo, but I wouldn’t say it’s my number one favourite car – that changes every week! And Saab, hm. Fun to drive, but costly to repair. Car enthusiasts still love them, even though the company went bankrupt. They’re trying to make a comeback. Never say never!

  4. Jane Langille January 7, 2014 at 1:36 pm · Reply

    Hi Krystyna,

    Nice post! The S60 T6 AWD looks like a sweet ride. I still miss my Volvo XC V70 with AWD. What sold me was test-driving it in a snowstorm – sure-footed and it didn’t waver, even once. It was a great vehicle for 12 years.

    • Krystyna Lagowski January 8, 2014 at 3:05 am · Reply

      You were smart to test drive a car in a snowstorm! Not enough people are brave enough to do that, when it really should be mandatory. How else can you really judge what a car can do? I’m glad you liked your V70, they’re a superb vehicle.

  5. Doreen Pendgracs January 7, 2014 at 1:39 pm · Reply

    Hi Krystyna: It’s really nice to see that Volvo is continuing to take their leadership in the safety realm seriously. They’ve always been known for safety and reliability. I’m glad to see they’re finally making them a bit more stylish! That white car looks awesome with the snow and your red hair really sets it off!

    • Krystyna Lagowski January 8, 2014 at 3:09 am · Reply

      Hey Doreen!
      Not only has Volvo been a leader in safety, but they’ve shared their innovations. Remember the three-point seat belt? They were the first ones to put it into use, and put it out there for the industry. And yes, safety doesn’t have to mean square and boxy any more! It’s a very pretty car, especially in white – which is the colour of the moment, it seems. I thought it would look at home in a snowy setting, and I’m glad you agree!

  6. Bindhurani January 7, 2014 at 4:57 pm · Reply

    I didn’t know these details about Volvo. Wow! Really amazing what technology can do. I know, you are really enjoying the warmth in your Volvo this week. I always depends on TTC and please forgive my jealous about your Volvo right now.

    • Krystyna Lagowski January 8, 2014 at 3:11 am · Reply

      Bindhurani, it’s quite remarkable what cars can do these days. I could have practically lived in that Volvo, if I’d had to. There were days when it was cosier in there than it was in my apartment. But if you take TTC, you know what? You’re saving money that you can use for something else … like maybe travelling on vacation. So no need to be jealous! : ))

  7. Debra Yearwood January 8, 2014 at 2:59 am · Reply

    Glad to see Volvo is still on their game. That’s one smart car. Although all the features you mention look good, I really like that the side mirrors fold in automatically. It’s a small thing compared to the cyclist and pedestrian sensors, but I don’t think I’ve seen that feature before.

    • Krystyna Lagowski January 8, 2014 at 3:14 am · Reply

      Debra, this was a very enjoyable and fun car to drive. There was all kinds of technology that I didn’t get a chance to use, even though this has been one of the more user friendly vehicles i’ve driven. The side mirrors folding in was a clever trick, especially when you consider parking in downtown Toronto. That way, no one can damage them. Those Swedes are smart!

  8. Jeri January 8, 2014 at 4:45 am · Reply

    All those features are crazy and amazing. What I most covet is a rear view camera. Maybe I’ll finally get one whenever it’s time for a different vehicle. I’ve never driven a Volvo, but would like to. Amazingly enough there’s not too much snow in Idaho right now. I think the rest of the country is getting it, but I always look for cars that handle well in the snow.

    • Krystyna Lagowski January 9, 2014 at 2:59 am · Reply

      You’re lucky Idaho isn’t snowed in, Jeri! And those rear view cameras should eventually be standard equipment on all cars. It’s scary how useful they are. Most vehicles also beep when you’re backing up, to let you know how close you are to the object behind you. Some even come with lines that turn as you move the steering wheel, to help you park. One of the more useful pieces of technology that’s come along lately!

  9. Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) January 8, 2014 at 11:49 am · Reply

    I remember back in the 80’s (yes I do) when a friend bought a Volvo based on the safety features. I wasn’t fond of the appearance, but she made her case. NOW…it way cool way safe, and way pretty too!

    • Krystyna Lagowski January 9, 2014 at 3:03 am · Reply

      Haha, Jacquie, I remember the 80s quite well also. Volvos had a reputation for being boring but safe, although they were also wicked rally cars. Consumers are pretty demanding today, and want sexy looking cars. After all, cars are expensive – why should we settle for anything less?!

  10. Cassi January 9, 2014 at 1:47 pm · Reply

    You should’ve recorded the show! LOL The S60 T6 looks awesome.

  11. Arleen January 10, 2014 at 12:24 am · Reply

    Krystyna- It looks like Volvo is going back to their roots with safety first.

    With that said I am not sure that I would like to have the car in control. I would always wonder if it will work. Will this also make drivers more laxed about driving. With that said everything has it placed.

    I do like the rear view mirror on my SUV and the noises that are made if I get too close to anything. Not ready to have the car take own a mind of its own.

  12. Susan Cooper January 10, 2014 at 2:59 am · Reply

    I have always been a fan of Volvo’s This one is particularly pretty. I do like all the new features and think when I look for a new car this may be on my list to test drive.

  13. Krystle Cook January 13, 2014 at 3:30 pm · Reply

    I remember when Volvo was considered so much safer than the rest. I am glad that other manufacturers are getting with the times now.

  14. Becc January 14, 2014 at 6:12 am · Reply

    I didn’t know it was a Volvo, but we had this discussion the other day. It is totally fascinating. How the hell does this car do it? I love the idea of it and truly hope it leads to less fatalities on the road.

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