A car as good to look at as to drive – but for the colour - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

A car as good to look at as to drive – but for the colour

ROBBIE TIFFIN is impressed by the safety features in the new Volvo XC-60

POLITICIANS! Who would want to be one?

In almost every other job on the planet there is always a possibility of doing something well and being praised for doing so. For example, a doctor can be lauded for saving someone’s life, a judge can be acclaimed for putting a violent and dangerous criminal behind bars and an accountant be sobbingly thanked for completing your tax return and for not boring you to death in the process.

Unfortunately, those opting to become politicians will never be so fortunate.

Now I wholeheartedly appreciate that they don’t do themselves any favours by submitting expense forms for moats, duck houses or legions of Vietnamese dancing girls and the public are quite within their rights to be apoplectic about the politician’s need to claim for the (wholly and exclusively work-related) 2,000 inch plasma television that adorns one of the walls in the second home. However, for most of the time, politicians may feel that they can’t do right for doing wrong.

Surveillance whinge

Take public surveillance for example. I have now lost count of the number of times I have heard a Pinot Grigioinduced, middle-class whinge around the dinner table on how Britain is becoming a nanny state and that people are sick of being watched by GCHQ whilst on their toilet, eating canapés.

I am also sick of hearing builders moaning, in between a series of burps and expletives, about why there are now so many speed cameras on the roads and how this prevents them from travelling at the speed of light between the builder’s yard and the chip shop. Yet most of all, I am bored rigid with people bleating with how the smoking ban infringes their civil liberties.

Well I’m sorry but, since we are now on the theme of politics, I may as well get on my proper soap box. The increase in surveillance activity is ultimately necessary in order to prevent another terrorist outrage, the influx of speed cameras is due to our nation’s peculiar desire to drive everywhere as if we were Jeremy Clarkson on the way to a lynching, and the smoking ban is a blessing from God for the majority of people who would like to go to the pub and return home without smelling like a coal miner’s sock.

Perfect companion

Yet, it is neither you nor I who will be credited for these new regulations, many of which are ultimately designed to add to our quality of life or simply extend our lives – full stop. Instead, the spite and vitriol of the general public will be aimed directly at those unfortunates charged with representing us all in the House of Commons, which has led me to the dismaying yet inevitable conclusion that the general public may well hate the car I have been testing this week: the Volvo XC-60.

Priced at around £30,000, it is yet another entrant into the very popular cross-over SUV range. Therefore, a car that is not a full-on luxury 4×4 like the Range Rover, BMW X5 or Mercedes ML, nor is it an executive saloon car like the Mercedes E Class, Audi A6 or BMW 5 series.

Instead, it is an amalgamation of the two and is quite fantastic as a result. It proved to be the perfect companion for a recent trip to the north of Scotland; not only was it very spacious – the 1,455 litre boot space was able to accommodate two mountain bikes, two sets of golf clubs and two suitcases – it was also remarkably refined and comfortable. The large leather seats were excellent and made a nine-hour drive not nearly as arduous as it would have been in many other cars.

The car I tested was the five cylinder, 185bhp diesel model which managed to combine power (making overtaking possible on those rare opportunities along the A9) with efficiency (I averaged around 32mpg on the 1,000-mile round journey).

However, what makes the Volvo XC- 60 the automotive version of Marmite is the number of innovative safety features it comes with, many of which come as standard and will surely face mixed responses from Britain’s motorists. For example, the XC-60 has blind spot indicator lamps which flash whenever another vehicle is occupying your blind spot and can’t be seen by the side mirrors.

Radar-guided cruise control is also available, which automatically slows you down if another car pulls into your path and your pre-selected cruising speed is then resumed as soon as the road ahead clears. In addition, there are a series of warning lights which flash up whenever you drive too closely to the car in front and a warning buzzer will sound every time you change lane on the motorway without indicating.

Large step forward

While many people (myself included) will embrace this technology as a large step forward in the world of automotive safety, I’m sure that there will be others who will intensely dislike the “big brother” style of interference and will frantically scour the handbook for clues on how to turn it all off.

That being said, the coup de grace for the XC-60 must surely be its “city safety” technology, something I’m sure all drivers will appreciate. This feature comes as standard on all models and works best at very low speeds (under 18mph). It is designed for when the driver is in traffic and may not be paying attention to the road ahead, for example he (or even she) might be busy writing an e-mail to the Jeremy Vine show complaining about Shahid Malik’s expense claim.

If a collision with the car in front, in this case not necessarily a Toyota, becomes imminent, the “city safety” technology will automatically brake the car to avoid a possible accident and will also wake the driver up from his or her daydream.

I have seen this technology in action and can happily vouch for its success, which makes me confident that this technology will become standard on all cars within the next 10 years or so.

Overall, I was mightily impressed with the Volvo over the test period. It really was a fantastic car; one that was as good to look at as it was to drive. My only suggestion to you would be to avoid the Lime Grass Green metallic paintwork where possible.

With regards to the safety features, I personally believe that they genuinely add to the overall driving experience and are there to assist the driver rather than interfere. However, I’m sure that, like politicians, many will intensely disagree with what I am saying and will now be campaigning for my head to be served on a plate.

Like I said … politicians: who would want to be one?

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