Behavior Modification

February 26, 2009

Volvo will release a completely new model to the U.S. in March. It’ss the 2010 XC60. This new Volvo is the most thoughtful motor vehicle ever built. A humanistic car like no other. This new 5-door, all wheel drive Volvo will change your behavior, but only if you want it to.

Volvo will release a completely new model to the U.S. in March. It’s the 2010 XC60. This new Volvo is the most thoughtful motor vehicle ever built. A humanistic car like no other. This new 5-door, all wheel drive Volvo will change your behavior, but only if you want it to.

Sure, we went to the driver meeting, but nobody told us about the mind-bending way the newest safety features would affect our thinking. We were on the highway going toward the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. After 300 plus miles of demanding driving, a rush of fresh thinking came to the fore, I felt lighter quicker as if my senses have been extended. I was more relaxed. We were less burdened.

This car complements your animal; this car complements your intelligence. The safety interface between the driver and the machine is superior. The XC60 encourages you to become alert and response-able, fast. Just how safe is the new XC60? Project Director Lars Blenwall said it best. “This is the safest Volvo so far,” and he followed it with “No one should die or be severely injured in a car.” And that is simply Volvo’s mission.

New Safety Invention

Volvo invented the 3-point seat belt near half a century ago; now it’s on all cars. Volvo’s latest safety technology will affect all automakers too. “City Safety” is Volvo’s latest invention. City Safety consists of lasers and a receiver mounted in front of the center rear view mirror behind the windshield.

The lasers sense about 18 feet in front of the car. Just under 20 mph, the lasers will see a car like object in front of you, measure your closing speed and instantly apply the brakes to decrease the impact speed. If the closing speed is 9 mph or less, the Volvo should come to a complete halt before it hits the car ahead.

The most common 2-vehicle impact situation worldwide is probably a front-to-rear collision. You make hundreds of instant decisions while driving. This is fatiguing, and a driver can become forgetful and distracted. Trauma will usually be lessened because the impact speed will be reduced by automatic braking.

City Safe won’t do automatic braking for guard rails, support posts, humans, trees or a hippopotamus that might wander onto the street. We understand that Volvo is working to make City Safe see humans. If the brakes are actuated one time and save you from impact, it paid for itself. City Safe is standard equipment on the new XC60.

More Eyes on the Road

The XC60 is an SUV with a midsize car footprint. It has 2 rows of seats and fits 5 safely, 4in luxury. Stability control, traction control, inflatable side curtain, tire pressure monitor, antilock brakes, and a whole mess of other things that come on the finest of big safe cars are standard on this new Volvo.

Like many cars today, Volvo offers optional safety features, such as blind spot cameras that are mounted on both outside rearview mirrors. These cameras tell you whether you are safe to change lanes and warn of a potential collision. Another feature the Volvo offers that you might find on the other luxury/performance vehicles is a lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control with collision warning.

What makes the XC60 so safe is not one outstanding feature, but a symphony of features, and the way they interface with the driver. For example, your drive might consist of some city and some highway driving. As you start, the City Safety feature turns on automatically, as does your Lane Departure Warning when you get above street speed. So now you go a mile or two in stop-and-go traffic, creeping along at 5 miles an hour to sometimes good sprints of 35 mph, and then again down to 5 mph, creeping along as you spot an attractive store window off to your right. There’s something in it that interests you. Now you spot an attractive person walking in front of the attractive window and you continue to look away watching them get into their attractive car.

Jerk, shock, sudden stop! Although you had your foot lightly on the brake and you are sure you could see traffic in your periphery. City safety slammed on your brakes. It kept you from mashing the rear end of that Maserati Quattroporte in front of you. Now you feel like you just had a cup of coffee, and continue your commute entering the highway.

Safety Alerts at Highway Speeds

On the highway, you decide not to set the active cruise control, because you might doze. So you cool down the car, roll down the window, turn on the talk radio or crank up the tunes and set the Distance Alert. Now while you’re going down the road trying to loosen your load, you might drift into another lane. The Lane Departure warning sees you going onto the stripes and from that side of the car it gives you a warning sound that is an auditory replication of rumble dots. The sound is alerting—not alarming. This car will not try to pull you back in lane, it will only warn you that you’re drifting.

In front of the driver where the windshield comes down to the instrument panel deck, there is a thin row of bright red LEDs that project upward and reflect off the windshield. It’s one hell of a heads-up warning light that works ever so politely with your Distance Alert. Say you’re cruising along at 60 miles an hour, and you’re getting a bit close to the car in front of you, but you’re not a good judge of distance. DA lights up the bright translucent red at the bottom of your screen, warning you to back off. Even in daylight, it's easy to see this pleasant red friend in your windshield.

As you pull into your driveway, you’re happy that you didn’t need to use Collision Warning with Auto Brake (CWAB). I think you can imagine how this feature works. From the studies we have read through the years and from our own observations, the average driver makes at least 60 decisions during a mile of suburban driving. On the gas, off the gas a little, left, check the review mirror, a little right, check the outside mirror, a little left, off the gas, on the gas, a little right, a little left, a little brake, a little coasting, use the turn signal, check the lane, check the mirror, so many decisions. With each decision comes a judgment and a calculation and then an adjustment of the judgment and a recalculation.

When the red windshield warning lights up with DA, you simply lift your foot off the accelerator, no calculation is needed, and the decision is simplified. Now I can see the distance that a computer wants me to keep from the car in front of me. The driver is allowed to adjust the distance for greater comfort, but the initial software setting is undoubtedly a series of decisions by safety experts, attorneys, and engineers. Surprisingly, the safety experts and attorneys did not get too much in the way of the fun the engineers wanted you to feel.

Driver Alert Control

Yes, the car is good, but we have to tell you a bit more about the electronics before we tell you about mechanical features. The Driver Alert Control (DAC) is brilliant and unique to Volvo. It actually senses your driving pattern to conclude whether your driving pattern is slightly erratic. Fatigue driving, inattentiveness, and falling asleep at the wheel are some of the biggest causes of death by automobile. The Driver Alert Control promptly alerts you with a well-thought-out series of tones and a strong lighthearted message and symbol on your screen.

Decades ago, when talking cars were popular for a short time, drivers began to realize they didn't like their machines telling them what to do in clear English. In the computer age, auditory wing bats have us dancing every time we turn on a machine. Even at the office.

Yes, there is a lot of technology built within this car. It is easier to control the XC60 electronics than my camera or watch. Like my camera, a lot of the settings are my judgment and feel. You will be trying different combinations of setting. The steering has three different settings. Tired of experimentation, you can simplify your choice by pushing the factory default button.

A Mechanical Symphony

The mechanicals and structure of the XC60 are as sophisticated as the electronics and part of the complete symphony that makes this Volvo a leader. For the most part, the body is made of different types of pressed and welded steel. Look underneath and you’ll see an aluminum sub frame and some aluminum suspension components. As you would imagine, the steel unit body is very rigid and the independent suspension is supple, with a sporty feeling that is pleasant on a variety of surfaces.

The long 109-inch wheelbase is good for towing, comfort and high-speed. Need to tow a boat or a couple of snowmobiles? Order the optional Trailer Stability Assist for the most control.

Driving off-road? Then you’ll love the 9 inches of ground clearance and the standard skid plates. Going down a scary steep hill? Press the Hill Descent Control button—another Volvo first from years ago. The HDC will make you a great hill descent driver.

As you roll down the road, feel the strong body, steering and suspension. Now add power. The 3-liter, in-line turbocharged 6 cylinder engine is transversely mounted for the best safety. Packaging the in-line engine for transverse mounting to give you the best safety is no small feat. Audi doesn’t do it, BMW doesn’t do it, Lexus doesn’t do it, and not even Mercedes does it. Mounting the in-line engine transversely tends to minimize intrusion into the passenger compartment on impact, allowing the unit body and crumple zones to decelerate you as gracefully as possible.

The engine is pleasingly responsive, and the turbocharger is nearly transparent, bringing up most of the torque at a low 1500 rpm. The standard 6-speed automatic is well teamed to the whole driveline. The normal setting is luxurious and the sporty setting should produce a tingle down your spine. In the manual setting, upshifting was nice, downshifting was not what we wanted. Shifts were solid, yet soft. The all-wheel drive with a Haldex unit distributing power was ideal when the driving surface was irregular or slippery. Our test car was European specification. We’ll let you know if our U.S. spec car is any different after they go on sale in normal production.

Sexy Styling; Naturally Designed Earthy Interior

The exterior skin does have a recognizable Volvo-ness to it, yet is sexier than any design Volvo has done in decades. The exterior lighting is very well done—distinct and brilliant. Upfront between the grill and headlight housing on each side is bright white well shaped LED running light. The high-mounted LED taillights are beautiful; really, these taillights are destined to be classic industrial art. The overall style does not jump up and grab you.

The interior has a modern Scandinavian look about it. The earth tones, textures and optional Nordic light oak inlays of real wood are distinctly Volvo. The steering wheel texture is soft and grippy, with entertainment and cruise control buttons at the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions.

In front of the driver is a large analog speedometer and analog tachometer. In the center of each gauge is a large circular computerized screen that you can load with information as you see fit. To your right at the top of the center console are two more screens—both rectangular. The smaller topmost screen gives you climate and audio settings. The switches and dials that control climate and entertainment are located in front of the gear shift lever on a rectangular field of black. Interestingly, all buttons, switches, and knobs become easy to control because of their placement and feel, so little eye contact is needed.

The largest most colorful-screen in the car is primarily for the navigation system. There are no traditional controls for the navigation system on the center console. The driver has a complete set of navigation controls at her fingertips, yet out of sight of all occupants. Another Volvo exclusive, the navigation system comes with a remote control unit, so now your navigator can be in the back seat. The seating is noticeably thin, supporting and comfortable. Drivers below 5’ 5” may find some fit or visibility problems.

If You Go XC60, Go Big

It appears the best way to option the XC60 is loaded. The Collision Avoidance Package is a must to protect your most valuable investments. The Climate Package is important if you have allergies or are sensitive to pollution or want heated front and rear seats. The Technology Package gives you the best rear park assist camera, DVD navigation system, and a thrilling 650 watt 12-speaker Dynaudio system.

Mercedes just released their size comparable all-new GLK. Audi is about to release their all-new Q5. Both are just too new and untested to buy right now. Of all the competitive vehicles, nobody offers all the life-saving safety features of the new XC60. Can your family afford to wait?

2010 Volvo XC60

Specs & Dimensions

Length 182.2 in.

Width 74.4 in.

Wheelbase 109.2 in.

Weight (lb.) 4,174 lbs

Passengers Five

Drive AWD

Engine 3.0-liter, Inline-6 Turbo

Hp@rpm 285 hp @ 5600 rpm

Ft-lb@rpm 295 lb ft @ 1500 rpm

Transmissions 6-spd auto

City/Hwy** 15/22 mpg**

Gas Requirement Regular

Built Ghent, Belgium

Safety Score N/A yet*

Real price Loaded $42k

Website volvocars.com (check out lov tour)

*informedforlife.org

** fueleconomy.gov