Traffic stopper, literally

Traffic stopper, literally image

Text: Jude Morte / Photos: courtesy of Volvo Car Corporation, Brent Co, Jude Morte | posted May 21, 2009 00:00

Volvo unveils the XC60

Any SUV – or any vehicle for that matter – can stop in traffic. But when that vehicle in particular has the ability to make itself and oncoming traffic stop – meaning, no aid from the fellow behind the wheel and effort from the brake pedal – it then is sure to generate interest among pundits and the public.

Such is the appeal – and more – of the new Volvo XC60, recently launched at Volvo's showroom and headquarters along Pasong Tamo Extension in Makati.

Much heralded in the XC60 is its City Safety and Collision Warning with Auto Brake (CWAB) technologies. The former can help the driver avoid frontal collisions at low speed (read: 10-30 kph). If the driver is about to drive into a vehicle's rear and does not react in time, the SUV uses a short-range infrared rangefinder to gauge distance and applies the brakes by itself. The latter (albeit available only for the P 3.695 million petrol 3.0L T6 all wheel drive variant) first gives a warning via an audio-visual signal. If there's no response from the driver, CWAB engages the brake pads to reduce the braking system's response time (before braking automatically) if a front collision against a moving or standing vehicle is imminent. This was demonstrated in an exercise at the Volvo Safety Lab (within the Volvo complex at Pasong Tamo Extension), where participants were made to drive forward an XC60 at 20 kph and "collide" with an object directly in front of it without stepping on the brakes. At less than a foot's distance between the SUV and the object in front of it, the brakes suddenly bit hard and the ABS woke up without warning, preventing the XC60's front bumper from hitting the solid object in front of it.

However, it's important to note that the aforementioned accident avoidance/mitigation safety technologies DO NOT relieve the driver from the primary responsibility of taking control of the vehicle. "On the other hand, the XC60's safety technologies – including City Safety – reduces dashboard-related injuries by 40 percent and whiplash by 50 percent," said Viking Cars, Inc. assistant vice president for business development Dave Zaballero at the XC60 launch.

Oncoming traffic will stop to marvel at the XC60's go-fast motion. Offered in either a P 3.295 million, 175 hp/420 NM 2.4L straight five FWD turbodiesel or the aforementioned 3.0L inline six cylinder turbocharged all wheel drive (AWD) variant, the powerplants give a great balance between outright power and fuel parsimony. The range topping 3.0L T6 AWD is the more touted of the two, as the unit carries 285 hp and 400 NM of torque, aided immensely by a twin scroll turbocharger (or slug) with an inlet side divided into two sections of three cylinders each. This approach eats up less engine bay space and provides boost at low engine speeds, at par with the power delivery brought by dual slugs.

The engine of the 3.0L T6 AWD petrol is mated to a transverse-mounted six speed Geartronic automatic tranny and an AWD setup. The former allows for less engine bay space, and helps reduce the risk of penetration into the cabin in case of frontal collisions. The latter uses an electronically controlled clutch, to constantly distribute power between front and rear wheels. An Instant Traction function within the AWD shifts power from the front to the rear wheels instantly when needed, like standstill acceleration on slippery or loose surfaces.

Motorists will definitely stop and stare at the XC60's exterior. The contours of the headlamps and the taut rearward flow of the fenders emphasize the hood's classic V-profile, giving the front a wedge-shaped stance. The large wheels, bold wheel arches and the darker shade of the body's lower section further enhance its muscular feel. And the dynamic, flowing lines of the XC60's greenhouse, combined with its daring roof contour, impart a sporty coupe feel to the upper area. Lastly, the T6 variant offers a panoramic glass roof that has two panels. The forward panel can be tilted for ventilation or it can slide rearward as with a conventional roof. Unlike the latter, the forward panel slides over the rear section of the vehicle's roof. Rear seat passengers can let the sun shine in thanks to a second stationary glass roof panel.

The cabin was designed so every detail looks like it's in motion. XC60 interior design head Jonathan Disley adopted a "thick-to-thin" theme which veers away from the business-like Volvo interiors of yore and adds drama and excitement to the SUV. For example, the curvature of the forward edge of the rear seat cushion has been designed for easier entry and exit. The rear seat is also somewhat higher than the front seats to give its occupants a better view. The two outboard seats can be specified with the same two-stage child booster cushions introduced in the 2007 Volvo V70 and XC70. "The recurrent asymmetrical look gives the interior a self-assured attitude, brimming with self-confidence. This feeling is reinforced by the well thought-out mix of contrasting materials, such as soft, warm, dark panels and hard, cold aluminum inserts," said Disley

The XC70 isn't just a people hauler; it can also haul cargo with relative ease. The XC60's tailgate opening is the widest in the segment while the luggage capacity measures 30.8 cubic feet with the rear seat up. As in the V70 and XC70, the rear seat is a three-piece 40/20/40 split/fold design. Each section folds down easily to create a totally flat cargo platform for maximum flexibility.

The XC60 is Volvo's first brand to offer HD (high definition) Radio as standard, with FM broadcasts improving to the level of a typical CD while AM broadcasts are improved to FM levels. The XC60's standard high performance sound system includes AUX and USB inputs to allow connection and control of external MP3 players, and a Bluetooth hands-free phone interface. Lastly, the T6 variant offers Dynaudioฎ Premium Sound System with a 650-watt amplifier, 12 Dynaudio speakers and Dolby Pro-Logic IIฎ Surround.

The new XC60's safety, interior and performance features make it a traffic stopper – both literally and figuratively.