‘It turns out, I’ve been road tripping wrong this whole time’
24th Aug 2021
"Packing the whole family into the car, arguing over the right way to go, and trying to keep the kids from fussing – road trips used to be an anxiety-ridden nightmare. But it turns out, I've been doing them all wrong," writes Lizzie Gore-Grimes.
I have tears in my eyes as I hand back The Smarter Volvo XC60 that we have had the use of for the last four days. Whether the tears are from sadness or the half bottle of Dettol Surface Spray I am currently using to try and remove the grime of my three children from the car is hard to tell. How they manage to do this much damage in four short days is beyond me!
But I am also genuinely sad to be returning the vehicle that has made our last few family outings a joy by comparison to our usual fraught flits around the place. The new Volvo XC60 is a mid-size SUV, with all of the good bits of Volvo’s super popular XC90 (bar the third row of seats) and all sorts of new safety and tech bells and whistles. So what makes it so special?
When you first step into the car, whether as driver or passenger, without a doubt one of the first impressions you get is one of solidity and safety. For anyone else, like me, used to driving a regular hatchback style car, the higher ride of the XC60 really makes an impression.
The way the cabin is designed also makes you feel like you are literally ‘cocooned’ by the car, the seats seem to be a bit lower than other SUVs so that you feel the car comes up around you. The crew in the back also commented on this. My nine-year-old put her finger on it when she declared that the car felt “very cushiony”. I have to agree.
The fact that the XC60 has loads of additional safety features comes as no surprise as Volvo literally invented car safety back in 1959 when Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin developed the modern three-point seat belt. Volvo Cars has been a leader in the field of car safety for decades with a vision that no one should be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo car.
Today, the new model XC60 Intellisafe pack comes with Volvo’s steer assist which guides the car away from an overtaking vehicle, cross-traffic alert with auto brake for when you’re pulling out and don’t spot a car coming, and a rear collision mitigation system. Now, that I could do with!
Another key safety feature of the car, for me anyway, was the level of hand-free tech support. The XC60 now comes with Google fully integrated in the car, so you have Google maps ready to go and hands-free voice control enabled by Google Assistant (activated by simply saying “Hey Google”).
Once you get over the initial excitement of the cacophony of voices from the back shouting “Hey Google, why does Patrick smell?”, “Hey Google, where’s the nearest McDonald’s”, with the assistant’s help you can change the music, make a phone call, turn up the heat, ask for directions without touching a button or taking your eyes off the road. Your Google Maps display also appears in your driver’s display right above the steering wheel, so again no awkward trying to look out your side eye at the map displayed on a screen off to your left.
The car also features a big touchscreen tablet in the central dashboard and the functionality is a masterclass in intuitive design: the home-screen offers regularly used functions – satnav, phone, media, Apple CarPlay – while a swipe left shows all the possible entertainment functions (Spotify, apps etc), and a swipe right offers all the car functions with simple on-off buttons.
Adding to the safety and smart-tech features of the new XC60, there’s also the bonus of the car’s classy, Scandi design touches, where you sense quality is constantly to the fore. Details such as the soft-touch leather dashboard with subtle stitching and blond wood trim throughout really add an organic, elegant feel to the cabin. Lending it the air of a luxury lounge on wheels.
A lot of time and design brain cells have also clearly been dedicated to the small details, such as the buttons and controls. I’m not sure I have ever enjoyed using an indicator quite so much. Not only does the wand move into place with an incredibly satisfying “thunk”, but the correlating sound I found quite addictively delicious.
My daughter has this ASMR app that she loves listening to – the ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response and is defined as “a relaxing, often sedative sensation that begins on the scalp and moves down the body. Also known as ‘brain massage’, it’s triggered by placid sights and sounds such as whispers, accents, and crackles”. Well, I’m adding the XC60’s indicator to my ASMR trigger list.
It’s this level of satisfaction that you get from the most basic feature (the indicator) right up to the most cutting edge safety features (that’s less face it you may never even know are there, they just quietly do their work in the background) that make driving a Volvo XC60 such a pleasure.
Designed for our connected world, The Smarter Volvo XC60 gives you best-in-class navigation and hands-free help with Google built in, immersive audio, enhanced safety features, cleaner cabin air and much more – making it the perfect vehicle for your next family trip. Contact your local Volvo retailer or see here for more information.