Wednesday, 10 August 2022

‘Safety first’ is the intelligent choice

THE third road accident of the night was the worst — starkly revealed on a dual

THE third road accident of the night was the worst — starkly revealed on a dual carriageway during a sudden snowstorm.

You didn’t have to rubberneck to see it. There it was in all its disturbing detail — a car on its side, skewed across the inside lane.

As we passed through a throng of cars we saw the victim’s underside — grey and muddy in contrast to the pure white of the driving snow that had engulfed us.

What was extraordinary about this incident was that two others had preceded it in barely an hour’s driving from Reading to Gloucestershire.

It was Friday night and M4 traffic was naturally heavy. Yet when the snowstorm hit, many drivers ploughed on at the same breakneck speeds.

The two earlier collisions were shunts each comprising three or four cars. But you have to ask yourself, even at 70mph how can you stop safely in an emergency such as a snowstorm if you are tailgating — getting much too close to — the car in front?

Tailgating is in fact illegal, but so too is using a hand-held mobile and not wearing a seatbelt.

An increasing number of drivers simply ignore these laws and put everyone else in danger. And I have to say that even after Friday’s experience I do not see them mending their kamikaze driving habits.

Luckily for us, we were in a car that exemplifies safety on the road. I was glad to be at the wheel of this week’s drive — the Volvo XC70 D4 AWD.

This is a car that bulges with safety features — all under a system Volvo calls IntelliSafe. This is the Swedish carmaker’s “blanket name for all active safety systems” and is an important part of the whole ethos of its new models, including the XC70.

Volvo entered a new segment with the V70 Cross Country in 1997. It says its “main focus during the continuous development of XC models has been to maintain the aura of a very comfortable on-road car with capable, off-road potential”.

I think as a driver you are aware in the XC70 that this is a car that has great strength, which you may or may not choose to use off-road.

That’s a bit beside the point, for that off-road “potential” had real on-road significance for us.

There is no question the car was comfortable — it is a prestige vehicle, after all — but, more than that, during our hazardous drive home it was reassuring to be in it and not in a car less safe.

There is some aspect of “heaviness” about the XC70 that reminds me of Volvos of old, but this never impedes progress.

In fact, part of the XC70’s attraction is that it is a swift and sure performer when and if you need it.

In sport mode you can satisfy any urge for performance, but I don’t think that is what the XC70 is about.

I liked the all-round power of this car, which was nicely balanced. The D4 Drive-E engine comes with 181hp and 400Nm* of torque.

The engine features something called i-ART technology that helps to cut fuel consumption.

Fuel consumption in an XC70 D4 with manual gearbox is up to 64.2mpg, which translates into CO2 emissions of 115 g/km.

Fuel consumption with the eight-speed automatic is 58.9mpg (127 g/km) in the XC70.

The D5 engine with 220 hp is an upgraded five-cylinder D5 turbo diesel coupled to an automatic gearbox.

All-wheel drive is standard. Fuel consumption for the D5 AWD with automatic is 48.7mpg (153 g/km).

For 2016 there are new wheels up to 18 inches in diameter. The car also features — for added off-road protection — skidplates employed for uneven surfaces.

I especially liked the premium sound system by Harman Kardon, which after all these days is a must for long motorway drives.

The XC70 would get you out of trouble on the roughest of roads or prove a reassuring presence on a motorway crowded with some of those desperate drivers who, to put it charitably, seem to entertain a death wish while at the wheel.

*Newton metre.

Fact File:

THE all-new Volvo XC70 is priced from £31,035 on-the-road (D5 SE, geartronic).

The XC70 offers 575 litres of load space.

Rear seats can be folded down in three 40/20/40 segments, giving more options.

With all of the rear seats folded flat, the load space grows to 1,600 litres.

Power-operated tailgate, operated remotely via the key fob or the dashboard.

Rear seat can integrate double two-stage child seats.

Booster cushions pop up from the seat. giving a safe ride height for children from the age of three and upwards.

Bold front grille, with details such as the daytime running lights and matte silver touches.

Now available with wheels up to 18 inches in diameter.

All-wheel drive and the optional hill descent control are a further boost to the XC70’s go-anywhere promise.

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