World’s Fastest Car Review: Volvo Drive Me

drive me

In this episode, I mess up a guy’s name and even manage to mess up the title of my own video series, while being driven around Gothenburg, Sweden in a Volvo that drives itself.

Part of me thinks I should start scripting these things, while part of my thinks my blunders are kinda fun.

Used Volvo ad is the best copycat ad ever created

buy my volvo

On Sunday afternoon, I flew from Canada to Sweden to not drive Volvo’s self driving car. 23 hours after I arrived, I was on another plane, headed back to this continent. Obviously, there will be more on the Drive Me project later, but thanks to my buds at Car Crushing, I have something else to share.

While we were visiting the Volvo Museum (more on that later too), my handler, a wonderful gent named Bosse Handel, was telling me about a dramatic new television ad that Volvo had created. In said ad, a Swedish pro footballer named Zlatan Ibrahimovi?, recited a classic Swedish poem to a dramatic background track. The idea was to convey the Swedish-ness of the Volvo XC70 or something along those lines. The ad spot has become so popular that other ad agencies have copied the style to promote their clients products.
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Impatient Camaro driver clips oncoming Volvo


A number of years ago, I remember reading a Q & A with then Sgt. Cam Woolley, when someone asked when it was ok to pass on a rural road. The not so obvious answer was that on a single yellow line, one can pass provided it is safe to do so. Then there were the obvious dotted line discussions and the fact that you may never, ever pass on a double yellow line. Common sense that one.

When that double yellow is on a twisty canyon road, it shouldn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that you should stay in your own lane, even if there is a local turtle ahead of you. Last weekend in California, a current generation Chevy Camaro driver felt that the law and common sense didn’t apply to him. #becausecamara ya know.

Reddit user humanwire was out for a drive and had a couple of cameras on board.

Went out this Saturday to hit up my favorite canyon road with some friends, but it ended up being closed once we got there. Hesitantly, we decided to give a Malibu canyon road (Decker Canyon, aka Route 23) a try on the way back, so the whole day wasn’t a complete waste.
I was quickly reminded why I don’t like driving on Malibu canyon roads, and why I head out much further away from Los Angeles for some frisky driving.
A group of three cars came barreling up behind us; a black Comaro, a red Mazdaspeed 3, and a black M3, unable to wait a second for a turnout.

Completely ruined the fun mood of the trip, and my friends and I turned around almost immediately so we wouldn’t be associated with that group. Wouldn’t want a CHP call to go out including us with that group.
Too many dickhead drivers. Too much traffic. Too many police patrols. Less than stellar roads (not all of them).

Pony car boy gets fed up with idling along behind a slowpoke in a Ford Explorer, and decides to pull out and pass, on a blind corner. He actually clips a Volvo that was headed in the opposite direction. Things could have very easily been a deadly incident, so everyone involved were very lucky.

Here’s to hoping that the local police get hold of this and track the moron down.

Source: YouTube via Reddit

Review: 2014 Volvo S80

124370_1_5The Flagship. The most enviable position in any car company’s line up. It is the pinnacle of what you have to offer. The best of the best. Right? The Volvo S80 is the car that sits at the absolute top of the totem pole, yet it seems to sit there very quietly. No buzz, no ‘ooh or ahh’ factor. For a flagship car, the S80 leads what appears to be a low key existence. For 2014, Volvo gave the S80 a very mild refresh-so subtle it would take a Volvo fanatic to notice the slight exterior changes. It’s worth noting that this is actually the current S80’s second refresh. The current, second generation S80 has been around since 2006, and with a car that old, it is of little surprise it has dropped off the radar of luxury car buyers.

For such an old design, the S80 still looks great. Our test car arrived in a deep dark blue metallic that positively dripped with class and elegance. Styling is clean, and after two refreshes, looks timeless. If anything, Volvo has proven once again that a great design to start with can stand the test of time. In the luxury car class, the S80 is understated, exuding a cool Swede charm in contrast to its more brash German competitors. For some, that is the appeal of the S80; for others more intent on trying impress others, the subtle demeanor of the S80 would be a turn-off for the guy trying to fuel his ego.

124400_1_5Stepping inside the S80, the car does show its age against the competition. Groups of tiny buttons and a navigation system that seems hopelessly trapped in the past are clear indicators the S80 is no spring chicken. But, it is a great cabin in spite of its age. The vertical gauges flanking the tach are LCD but offer a clear nod to Volvo’s of yore, and no other manufacturer offers anything like it. I love the back lit transmission selector, and I don’t know why other car companies have not followed in Volvo’s foot steps. The seats are supremely comfortable. I appreciated the warm luster of wood accents and highly polished metal decorating the interior. But again, the S80’s age is tough to ignore. For some. Sure, I could get another car with a more up to date interior, but after spending a week with the S80, I concluded this car was so comfortable I put it on my short list of cars I could drive across the US in.

The S80 is available in two flavors. The base model is front wheel drive with a 3.2 inline six rated at 240hp. Our test car was the S80 T6, equipped with a 3.0L turbocharged inline six rated at 300hp, with all-wheel drive. Both models share a six-speed automatic. The EPA pages fuel economy at 18/25 MPG city/highway, hardly stellar figures despite being an all-wheel drive luxury car. The Volvo provided plenty of power when needed, and positively excels in cruise mode. This is not a sports sedan however-everything has been tuned to comfort and isolation. No, it’s not exciting to drive, but what it lacks in driving excitement, it makes up for in complete comfort.

47858_1_5A base S80 starts at a modest $39,900USD. Step up to our T6 AWD, and the starting prices is raised to a still reasonable $43,950. Standard equipment includes an eight speaker stereo with satellite radio, Bluetooth, power moonroof, leather interior, power front seats and walnut wood inlays. Our heavily optioned test car added the Platinum Package (Navigation, Premium sound, rear view camera), Climate Package (heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel), Inscription Package (Sovereign Hide leather, ventilated front seats, leather covered dash),Technology Package (Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning with full auto brake, Pedestrian/Cyclist Detection with auto brake, Distance Alert, Driver Alert, Lane Departure Warning), and active xenon headlights. All in, including destination charges, our S80 stickers at $55,765. It’s hardly inexpensive, but compared to the competition, the Volvo is priced far below similarly equipped cars.

The S80 reminds me of how Volvo once used to be. You crank out a solid, well designed car, and make modest updates over time, like the iconic 240. The Volvo of yore was never a slave to fads or fashion, and their buyers appreciated that, and repaid that mentality with a fierce loyalty. Unfortunately in today’s luxury car market, that mentality is overlooked. While the competition is grabbing headlines and the attention of the media and buyers alike, the S80 quietly soldiers on with little or no fanfare at all. And that is a shame, because Volvo has built a fundamentally excellent luxury car. Yes, she is showing her age, but the greatest compliment I can pay the S80 is that it would be the perfect cross-country cruiser.

Review: 2013 Volvo XC60


Quick! Flash back to the last time you parked at the mall by a high-end department store. What did you see? Lexus RX’s, BMW X3, X5’s. Maybe an Audi Q5 or Mercedes GLK. Without a doubt, the market for premium compact CUV’s has a plethora of options, yet the Volvo XC60 is rarely discussed. Why is this? For one, and I blame Volvo, they simply are not promoting or marketing the car. If you don’t raise product awareness that this car exists, you are not going to get much showroom traffic. The Lexus RX reigns supreme in this segment, and through no fault of their own, it appears image conscious McMansion inhabitants feel better about themselves if they can brag about buying a Lexus than a Volvo.

And that is a shame, because the Volvo XC60 is a fine car that seriously deserves some recognition that car buyers and news media have not been giving. The XC60 is certainly a handsome, even classy CUV, but like any other crossover, it won’t turn heads. Cool and understated, our Volvo wears its Swedish design philosophy proudly. If bling is your thing, this may not be the car for you, but our test car’s optional 19″ wheels were a nice touch.


Let’s face it though-if you’re buying a crossover, you want utility and comfort, so the interior matters. Again, simple, clean elegant design prevails, but the quality of materials were exceptional. Leather, aluminum, soft touch plastics, every tactile feature of the XC60 reeked of excellent quality and workmanship. Volvo has a well earned reputation for constructing exceptionally comfortable seats. Coming from someone who drives a different new car every week, I can honestly say the XC60 has some of the best seats in the business. You actually feel better once you climb into the car. The gauges are clear and easy to read, and most controls are simple enough to understand. While the overall architecture of the interior is gorgeous to touch and look at, a huge grouping of tiny, small and largely inconsequential buttons clutter the center console, which unfortunately ages the otherwise gorgeous interior by about ten years. And while packed with the latest tech features, the navigation/entertainment systems also feel, well, old in comparison to the competition. It’s sort of like whipping out a flip phone at a party when all your friends have Androids and iPhones . Yes, it works, but is it cool?

Volvo XC60 buyers have three engine choices to suit their needs. The base model is equipped with a 3.2L inline six rated at 240hp, with the option of front or all-wheel drive. Our test car was the mid-level T6, which is powered by a 3.0L turbocharged inline six rated at 300hp, and all-wheel drive is standard. At the top of the food chain is the T6 R-Design, which has the same engine but is tuned to 325hp. Our XC60 T6 has EPA fuel economy figures of 17/23 MPG city/highway. Interestingly, Volvo claims the more powerful R-Design will return the same numbers. However, few people in this market are looking for sports car like acceleration, and I found the turbocharged six to have plenty of power. Even with the optional 19″ alloys the Volvo was very comfortable to drive. If Volvo’s mission was to deliver a comfortable, easy to live with CUV, they succeeded. Though not offered in North America, European buyers have the option of a diesel engine, and even the choice of a manual transmission. I know, it hurts me too.


Our Volvo XC60 T6 has a base MSRP of $40, 450USD. As you’d expect, Volvo has thrown in numerous safety features, and boasts a five star rating from IIHS, the best rating you can get. Standard features include a leather interior, 7″ color screen, panoramic sunroof, power seats with memory, push button start, dual zone auto climate control, and Bluetooth. Our test car had the optional Platinum Package, which added navigation, rear park assist, rear view camera, power liftgate and active xenon headlights, the Climate Package which includes heated heated front and rear seats, and heated windshield wiper nozzles. Special paint, optional 19″ alloys and destination charges bring the tally to $46,146. In the premium crossover market, this actually represent a pretty decent value.

The Volvo XC60 is a perfectly competent vehicle for families seeking a premium crossover, and until the V60 wagon arrives, is the true iteration of the Volvo wagon Americans have embraced for decades. Flashy? No. Pretentious? No. But that’s not what Volvo has ever been about. Quietly producing vehicles that offer unprecedented safety, quality, and comfort are the hallmarks of Volvo, and in that respect, Volvo has succeeded with the XC60.


Review: 2013 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design


In the Volvo family of cars, the S60 T6 R-Design sits at the top of the performance food chain-in other words, this is as hot as it gets. Even today, most people rarely think of Volvo’s as quick or entertaining cars, with safety being the first thing that comes to mind when Volvo is mentioned. But the truth is, Volvo has been dabbling with hot rod versions of their cars for years. As an awkward fifteen year old, I have fond memories of being catapulted down the scenic Merritt Parkway by my neighbor, and boss on our way to work in mega-wealthy Old Greenwich, Connecticut in his 1984 Volvo 240 Turbo wagon. Well, I’m 40 now, not quite as awkward, and I do the driving now, thank you. So it was time to sample Volvo’s current hot rod.

Not that The Garage is any stranger to the Volvo S60. Last fall we reviewed the base T5 AWD, and came away very impressed. The S60 is arguably one of the most handsome luxury sedans on the market, and without a doubt the sexiest Volvo ever built. It will, however, take a true Volvo fanatic to recognize you are piloting the R-Design. Unique 18″ wheels, front and rear spoilers, rear diffuser and polished exhaust pipes. In other words, the changes are very subtle. Not so subtle was our test car finished in Rebel Blue, a color nearly every person I asked disliked. Color is a personal choice, but since the R-Design is so subtle against its less powerful S60 siblings, a milder color would make this the ultimate Q-Ship.


If the changes to the exterior are subtle, then the interior is even more so. Special sport seats, steering wheel, shift knob, blue watch dial gauges and aluminum pedals are all that differentiate the R-Design from other S60’s. And that is not a bad thing, as the S60 has an open, airy cabin that is exceptionally comfortable, especially over long distances. As before, most controls are fairly intuitive, but the S60 seems to be a step behind the competition with its infotainment interface. Even so, the S60 R-Design sports some of the best seats in the business.

So while we all agree the R-Design does not do a lot to distinguish itself from outside/inside, the biggest difference is what lies in the engine bay, where you will find a 3.0L turbocharged inline six rated at 325hp, paired to a six-speed automatic. All R-Design S60’s are all-wheel drive. Sadly, no manual transmission is offered. The R has 75 more horsepower than the five cylinder T5, and Volvo claims a 0-60mph of 5.5 seconds, which is over a second quicker. Suspension and steering have also been tightened up for the R-Design. Yes, it is quick and tight, but as I drove the R-Design, I kept thinking back to the sublime Audi S4. Boasting only eight more horsepower, the S4 will toast the S60 1.1 seconds to 60. While the S4 is intense and engaging, the R-Design has the goods but the speed is delivered in a far smoother, relaxed manner.


But where the R-Design trumps its competitors is price. And not because it is lacks features or suffers from inferior build quality and materials-far from it. The Volvo S60 easily matches its Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz rivals. This top-spec S60 has a starting MSRP of $43,900. Our test car included the Platinum package (navigation, premium sound, rear view camera), and Climate package (heated front seats, interior air quality system, heated windshield washer nozzles). Including delivery, our S60 T6 R-Design had a cost of $48,195, which is about $12,000 less than the Audi S4 we tested with similar content. If you don’t demand a manual tranny, and for normal daily driving, the R-Design is by far the better buy.

If you view Volvo owners as New England types working at prestigious universities, well, you would not be far off. Owning a Volvo is not to show off your car to brag to your friends about, that’s what BMW’s are for. And despite Volvo’s heritage in turbocharging cars, public perception still perceives Volvo has a brand that places safety above all else, and that is true. What most do not know is that you can be enveloped in an extremely safe Volvo, and have some fun as well. If your perception of Volvo owners is the college professor, then the S60 T6 R-Design is the cool college professor you had that played in a blues band on weekends. Fun, passionate, yet mellow. In other words, a long term friend, for which Volvo’s have a strong reputation for.

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Review: 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD

I would forgive you in an instant if you hadn’t noticed the changes happening at the entry-level side of Volvo’s offerings in North America. The compact S40/V50 sedan and wagon quietly departed here two years ago, replaced with the sublime V40, which is not available here. Now comes news the two door hatch C30, which had hoped to steal sales away from the MINI Cooper but barely made a ripple here will also be exiting the stage. So, what then is the entry-level Volvo?

Well, that leaves the S60, which for many years was comfortably positioned as Volvo’s mid-level, bread and butter sedan, positioned above the smaller S40 and luxurious S80. The Garage reviewed a 2011 Volvo S60 T6, and we came away impressed. That was the sole S60 for 2011, but in 2012, Volvo added the S60 T5. A less powerful S60 that would ultimately wear the dubious crown of being the ‘starter’ Volvo. Was any luster lost? Read on…

I’ve been staring at my pics of the T5 and T6, and I cannot tell any difference between the two. Apart from the T5 badge on the rear, no one will know you went with the base model. Two years on, the S60 still looks fantastic. Volvo still marches to the beat of their own drum while other competitors relentlessly chase the German marques. In place of our T6’s eye searing copper paint, our T5 was finished in a soothing Ice White. All S60’s come standard with 17″ alloys, but our test car was equipped with an alternative, optional Kjord Design, which look far better than the stock wheels for only a little extra money. Style-wise, this is one sophisticated looking car, handsome, contemporary, and in a class of its own.

I confess, on my first encounter with the S60 the Beechwood leather seating surfaces left me cold. Second time around, I was warming up to them. Yes, it is a bold color, but without the copper exterior, it was much easier to swallow. After a 500 mile round trip from Connecticut to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I actually started to like it. The seats offer comfort that are best in class. Controls are easy to use, gauges simple and elegant to look at. I relished attention to details, such as an illuminated shift knob showing your gear. Offered a choice between an S60 or BMW 3-series for a long distance tourer, I would pick the Volvo in a heartbeat. The only downside was a smallish trunk. We’re a family of three, so we could fit items in the back seat, but a larger family would find the S60 a challenge for long trips.

For the gearheads, the real question is what is the trade-off by going with the base engine? The T5 is powered by a 2.5L inline-five cylinder rated at 250hp, paired to a six-speed automatic. That’s down 50hp from the T6 we last reviewed. The T5 is offered in front or all-wheel drive. Our car was all-wheel drive, and Volvo claims a 0-60mph time of 6.6 seconds. That’s about a half second slower than the T6, while delivering 20/29 MPG city/highway mileage. Bombing down the interstate at 80mpg the S60 T5 was showing 27MPG on the trip computer.  It’s no scorcher, but the power is always there when you need it, and passing is done with ease. The T5 is the smoothest five cylinder car I have driven to date.

The ride quality is exceptionally comfortable. Steering is direct, with just enough feel to keep me happy. I found the handling to be confidence inspiring. It’s these Connecticut-Pennsylvania trips that really tell me the story of a car, especially when my son and wife doze away, it is just the car, the road and me where I truly get a feel of the car, and in this case, the S60 was positively one of the most stand-out cars of the year. That I can point the S60 at rapid pace without disturbing my passengers as they nap is the mark of an excellent automobile.

The Volvo S60 T5 starts at $31,900USD. Our test car added all-wheel drive, the Premier Package (power moonroof, leather seating, auto dimming rearview mirror, power passenger seat, keyless entry), Climate Package (heated front seats, air quality system, heated windshield washer nozzles), rear spoiler and upgraded wheels, with an as delivered charge of $38, 178. Yes, I scoffed at the price of the car with the absence of of GPS navigation (which is available), but reminded myself the four banger BMW we reviewed cost over $50,000 which offered only a few extra bells and whistles. In that light, the Volvo is a virtual bargain.

In the world of cars, entry-level and base model often provoke fears of decontented, weakly powered cars, but with the Volvo S60 T5, that is hardly the case. Odds are, if you are a potential buyer, you have a phone with GPS. If you demand a stick shift and slightly sharper handling, the BMW is your car. But again, if long distance touring is your thing, and you prize a roomier interior and a calmer demeanor with a distinct Swedish flair without giving up anything in speed and handling composure, a look at the Volvo S60 T5 is worth a look, and will never leave you with the impression of driving a base model.

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Robb Holland joins Compass360 Racing for World Challenge opener in St. Pete

Popular Denver, Colorado racer Robb Holland finished off the 2011 Pirelli World Challenge season with a third place in the championship, but that didn’t mean he had a ride for 2012. The problem was that the Volvo C30 program being run by K-Pax racing came to an end at the close of the season.

Earlier this week, Karl Thomson of Compass360 Racing announced that Holland would be returning to the Toronto based team to drive the #70 Civic at the season opening race in Florida. The St. Petersburg race is a support event for the Indycar season opener. While the deal is currently just for the one race, it sounds like there is a possibility that there might be more news soon.

Check out a gallery of Holland in action at the 2011 Mosport round of WC, along with the team press release after the jump.
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2011 VARAC Festival is in the books

It was a busy weekend here in The Garage, as Jay Tomchuck headed to MIS to cover the NASCAR race, while I stayed closer to home and shot bits and pieces of the VARAC Festival at Mosport. Saturday morning I even took in a preview screening of Cars 2! As a result of the busy weekend, I only got to shoot a bit on Friday afternoon and then most of the afternoon on Sunday. This meant that I spent next to no time socializing in the paddock and didn’t get any stories from the racers. I did however get some great shots of the on track action.
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Volvo ‘Thins the Herd’

If the notion of a compact Volvo sedan or wagon sounds appealing to you and you live in the USA-you’d better hurry up and head to your local Volvo dealer. In a post from Kicking Tires, it is reported that the S40 sedan and V50 wagon are being dropped from the US Volvo line for 2012 (no mention of these car’s fate in Canada is mentioned), but it appears the cars will continue to be available in Europe. The S40/V50 have never been strong sellers in the US. The current S40 debuted as a 2004 model, and Volvo has done little in the way of revisions since. The S40 was a bit of an odd duck in the US market. Priced within a grand between the larger and more practical, albeit also long in the tooth Saab 9-3, the case for this car was thin, and counter to what it seems most Americans desire from Volvo today.

Volvo’s push in the US is to focus on its volume markets, with the S60, S80 and rugged XC’s. Kicking Tires points out the Volvo V70 wagon was dropped for 2011 here, hard to believe since Volvo is so well known for its wagons. For 2012, the XC70 is the sole station wagon available in the US. It comes as some surprise then that the C30, which is based on the S40/V50 platform will be offered here in 2012, as will the C70 hardtop convertible-both slow-sellers here in the US. My opinion is Volvo is willing to hang onto these models-for now-as youthful, or aspirational halo cars. My experiences in both those cars merit that reasoning. In the C30, this was Edward Cullen’s whip from the first ‘Twilight’ movie, and the sexy, sophisticated C70 drew compliments aplenty.