Volvo by Richard Webb
designed around you specs
Safety and security were the concepts around which Volvo built its reputation. Richard Webb looks at the quintessentially Swedish brand and its evolution.
Volvo C30 D2 Power: 84kW Peak Torque: 270nM Speed 0 – 100 km/h: 11.3 sec CO2: 114g/100km Price: R236 100
The C30 raises a few eyebrows with its unique style and personality
Brands that have been around for a long time tend to have entrenched
intentions, be prepared to change your entrenched view of what the
Volvo still enjoys a loyal band of followers. Many Volvo owners
China surged by 36% to 21 000 units in the first six months of 2011
meanings in their customers’ minds. For example, Volvo used to be
Volvo brand means to you. Volvo has a long heritage of building safe
considered their older models to be slow and heavy, thus earning the
compared to the same period the previous year. Furthermore, the Chi-
synonymous with safety and overly cautious drivers. These entrenched
and dependable cars, but now you can safely say ‘Volvo’, ‘sportiness’
nickname ‘brick’ for the classic, block-shaped Volvo. You may not think
nese manufacturing plant in Chengdu has started construction and
meanings are often difficult to change quickly but Volvo knew that it could no
and ‘luxury’ in the same sentence without fear of contradiction.
that a brick is a term of endearment, but it really is in this case. Still, in
Volvo are said to be considering a second plant in China. But how do
Their modern cars do still draw upon their substantial heritage though.
the late 1980’s Volvo moved away from the boxy styles to more sporty
their cars fare in a South African environment? I was invited to drive
Volvo is about safety, sure. But if you take a look at the set of values
The company traces its origins back to Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1927. (The
models, including the factory-supported Volvo 240 Turbo, which won
both the Volvo C30 D2 and the Volvo V60 T4 to find out.
that drive people to buy a premium car, safety is in there, but it’s not
same year the Strathclyde whisky distillery was founded by Seager Evans.)
the 1985 European Touring Car Championship and the 1986 Australian
always the highest on the list of ‘must haves’. Of course people want safe
From day one, Volvo’s two founders, Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson
Touring Car Championship. They also stunned the British motor racing
The C30 D2
cars, but it’s become an expected feature for premium cars nowadays. So
built safe cars that withstood Sweden’s harsh climate and poor road condi-
scene in 1994 when they entered a pair of 850 estates in the British
The C30 is a very sporty-looking car. It shares a fair amount with the S40
Volvo had to do something radically different for its cars to get the
tions of the time. Their overriding principle? Safety should always be the
Touring car Championships. Suddenly, Volvo was cool again.
it’s derived from, but is lighter and more responsive to drive. The car
attention of their market and challenge set perceptions of the brand.
basic tenet in all their design work. Their focus on safety, durability and
Volvo cars are now owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, follow-
corners sharply and only understeers when really pushed hard. Whilst
longer use its commitment to safe design as its unique selling proposition.
They have recently re-imagined the brand, placing what they call
quality has remained central to the business that now produces sports utility
ing their sale by Ford Motor Company’s Premier Automotive Group.
other rivals like the Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series may seem to be the
‘the human factor’ at the centre of their future development. If the
vehicles (SUV’s), station wagons, coupes and saloon cars, with global sales
The agreement was worth $1.8 billion and is the largest overseas acqui-
default choice, this Volvo will appeal to those who want some some-
latest two Volvo’s I’ve driven locally are any indication of their
of 373 525 cars annually. (An increase of 11.2% when compared to 2009 sales.)
sition by a Chinese carmaker. Perhaps unsurprisingly, sales volume in
thing different. I drove the 1.6 litre diesel, which impressed me with its
Typical V60 customers like the extra flexibility offered without compromising sporty design
Volvo V60 T4 Power: 132kW Peak Torque: 240nM Speed 0 – 100 km/h: 8.5 sec CO2: 155g/100km Price: R320 800
refinement and smooth power delivery. Low down in the rev range, it may lack a little punch, but is fast through the gears and has a distinctive feel not seen in others cars in this sector. Volvo claims the C30 is aimed at younger buyers who put style high on their list of priorities alongside driver appeal - so it’s no wonder sales have been healthy from the start.
I tried the small capacity 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol version but I’d
Viewed from the front, it bears a resemblance to all Volvo models
never have guessed it had such a small cubic capacity. On the road, it’s
and wears the corporate face well. It’s at the back end that the design-
very well behaved, yet can be provoked if you fancy some spirited driving.
ers have been very daring and the car really stands out amongst Ger-
It may be true that long-established brands find it tricky to shift con-
man competition. Think Volvo 1800ES and Simon Templar in ‘The Saint’
sumer attitudes. But Volvo have managed to retain the core promise of
with its unique proportions and angles. The unusual u-shaped glass
safe, well engineered cars and have added more than a ‘wee dram’ of
hatch is framed by arty tail light clusters. It really is a welcome change
luxury whilst drawing upon sporting prowess from their motor sport
from the ordinary hatchbacks we’ve become used to in this sector. This
premium hatch is also now available in the R-Design variants, with bespoke sporty trim and some neat detailing. It actually has a large boot, but in reality seems smaller than the statistics would suggest. Yes, the two rear seats are comfortable but it’s the driving environment that will sell this car. With elements like the stunning floating centre console, excellent seating position with plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel, it’s a superb car for the money. I reckon resale values look fairly promising too.
The Swedish whisky connection Whilst most brands may need time to mature, sometimes the exception disproves the rule. An example would be Mackmyra, a Swedish whisky distiller which only registered as a business in 1999. Mackmyra is a very young distillery indeed. Founded by eight civil engineers who had previously attended university. One skiing trip at the Swedish resort, Sälen resulted in an inspired idea.
Volvo V60 T4 When I first clapped eyes on the S60 saloon I knew it was a completely new type of Volvo. Sportier and more stylish than the staid Swedish motors of old. It was a refreshing change to rivals like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C Class and Audi A4. The V60 is the estate car version of the S60 and is certainly easily good enough to hold its own in the premium sector in which it competes. The V60 shows just how far-reaching Vol-
Soon after arriving, they realised that they had all brought a bottle of whisky. This lead, as it surely would, to some spirited whisky tasting. That, in turn lead to them wondering why there was no Swedish distillery. The rest is history. A very short history. The First Edition is a very light gold and the nose carries notes of seductive malt and
vo’s revitalized strategy has been. This is the first time that Volvo’s
with it a hint of smoke, honey, vanilla, pear
offered a five-door car in this size and it doesn’t follow the established
and marzipan. The palate is indeed very
Volvo template for estate cars at all. Its design emphasises sleek good
similar to the nose and quite fruity.
looks more than carrying capacity. Don’t think of it as an estate: think of it as a sporty and practical alternative to the competition.
Eye: Light golden. Nose: Malty, light smoke, vanilla, marzipan and pear. Palate:
The rising waistline and coupe-esque sloping rear roof gives rise to
Full flavoured and well balanced; lightly
the smallest third rear side window of any Volvo estate in history. Yet
smoked malt, fruity (pear, dried apricots),
the car still manages to feel bright and airy. The overall effect is
honey, vanilla and once again, marzipan.
extremely impressive. 66 www.whiskymag.co.za