Monday, 04 July 2022

When it comes to brand loyalty, Volvo’s still King

BRAND loyalty among motorists is notorious for its often-blind devotion to one particular car manufacturer.

BRAND loyalty among motorists is notorious for its often-blind devotion to one particular car manufacturer.

Maybe not so much today, but once upon a time owners “wore” a particular make of car like a badge of honour.

Which, of course, is music to the ears of car salespeople. Nothing pleases them more than to hook and land a customer for years to come.

Volvo, the Swedish carmaker, has had legions of devotees down the years and for good reason. These safe and soundly made cars have only got better in the last decade or so, making the new Volvo model range well worth exploring.

This week’s drive, the Volvo S60 D2, has proved its worth during a time when Volvo has evolved to meet the huge demands of a 21st century global car market.

Introduced in 2000, the S60 has been a steady performer.

In 2014, for example, the S60 was named best premium car of the year by business sales publication Fleet News, beating a host of prestigious rivals.

The 2016 version of the S60 has all the qualities that to me define brand loyalty. When you consider this car you consider buying into the very core of what Volvo stands for — solidity, dependability, safety, comfort and with this new D2 model, extraordinary economy.

Fuel consumption in the S60 D2 with 120 hp and manual is 74.3mpg — translating into CO2 emissions at 99 g/km. The S60 D2 is available with a full range of engines from Volvo Cars’ four-cylinder Drive-E powertrain family.

So let’s take a look at what makes a Volvo such as the S60 an attractive buy.

On safety — which I rate as my number one consideration when it comes to cars — the S60, as you would expect, excels.

The car has a “city safety” system that is active at speeds up to 31mph. This means the car automatically brakes if the driver fails to react in time when the vehicle in front slows down or stops — or if the car is approaching a stationary vehicle too fast.

New software has made it possible for detection and auto brake technology to cover certain situations where cyclists are present.

The pedestrian and cyclist detection with full auto brake is equipped with an advanced sensor system that scans the area ahead.

If a cyclist heading in the same direction as the car swerves in front of the car as it approaches from behind, there is an instant warning and full braking power is applied.

This technology also detects if a pedestrian steps out in front of the car. If the driver does not respond, the car can warn and automatically activate the brakes.

Actually driving the S60 is made easier by Electrical Power Assist Steering (EPAS), available with the Drive-E engines.

This uses an electrical motor to support the steering rack, with the driver able to choose between three levels of power assistance.

The technology marches on. The Active High Beam Control eliminates the need to switch between low and high beam.

Instead, this makes it possible to keep the headlights on high beam continuously. When another car approaches from the opposite direction, the system helps to prevent dazzling the oncoming driver by shading out only as much of the beam as necessary.

In the comfort zone, which I find I am more and more attracted to these days, three-spoke steering wheels can be specified with electric heating.

That may not sound like something you need — but, believe me, warm hands (and a warm behind from heated seats) are becoming a must for me during frosty winter drives.

Another must is music. That or the spoken word, that is, whether from CDs or via connectivity with a smartphone.

Here the modest-looking S60 — this is not a flash-Harry type of car by a long chalk — again scores highly.

The top-of-the-line Premium Sound system with a 5x130W amplifier, next-generation sound enhancement software Dirac Live and up to 12 loudspeakers is a joy to behold — even if that lot is a bit of a mouthful.

Actually, there’s more. This superlative sound system includes “a long-throw woofer for enhanced bass, soft dome tweeters for soft highs and large mid-range centre and door speakers”. Magic sound, to you and me.

Volvo says that with the “Premium Sound system by Harman Kardon the driver can enjoy an immersive sound stage with improved bass performance”.

I can tell you that Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (album title: If I Can Dream), never sounded better than on this system.

So with Elvis and the RPO belting out Burning Love, warm hands and seat (in those lovely wintry conditions we know and love) and a knowledge that this car is probably as safe as it gets, the brand Volvo is king.

VOLVO S60 D2 Fact File:

• Price range: £21,490 to £35,340

• Model year 2016 updates include new wheels (17in, 18in and 19in) and three new exterior colours: Magic Blue, Osmium Grey and Onyx Black

• The S60 features a City Safety system that is active at speeds up to 31mph

• The 2016 S60 is  available with full range of engines from Volvo’s four-cylinder Drive-E powertrain family

• Fuel consumption in an S60 D2 with 120 hp and manual is 74.3 mpg, translating into CO2 emissions at 99 g/km

• The buyer of the S60 can specify a sport seat

• The S60 R-Design  features a unique face with a dynamic,  expressive nose. At the rear, there are high-tech R-Design tailpipes

• The R-Design version is available with 19in wheels

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