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Lowveld - Volvo's safety systems at the heart of things


VOLVO is the fastest-growing luxury brand in the world; I didn’t know this until a couple of days ago when I attended a Volvo Track Day at Zwartkops Raceway, just outside Pretoria.

Although the day’s focus was on the various safety technologies to be found in every Volvo, we did have the opportunity to drive the complete range of Volvos around the track, which was great fun! I was invited by Auto Baltic, Nelspruit, along with a small group of motoring enthusiasts.

We left Nelspruit (Mbombela) early in the morning and our mode of transport was a new XC90 Limited Edition and an XC60.

Have you ever driven through Schoemanskloof early in the morning? The air is crystal clear and the freshness of nature is all around. Have you perhaps visited the Gothenburg Concert Hall? No? Well you’ve probably seen the interior, or something similar, on television.

We are listening to a classic concert piece on the XC90’s Bowers & Wilken sound system with its 19 speakers, travelling at just about Autobahn speed and we’re in the groove - this is Gothenburg on the fly! The sound quality inside the car is just spectacular! The coffee at Alzu Petroport (About 154 kilometres from Nelspruit), grounded us all.

Soon after our arrival at Zwartkops Raceway, the driving instructors began to demonstrate the various safety systems in Volvo cars. The XC90 comes standard with 235mm ground clearance but the optional air suspension raises it by another 40mm, so it offered a comfortable ride through the 4x4 track at the rear-end of the racetrack. I am of the opinion that it will be brilliant on sand but of course the sheer size may be a bummer in serious off-road challenges. Then again, the XC90 does not claim a 4x4 heritage.

Next, we drove slalom (zig-zagging between obstacles) with the very capable and extra sharp V40 T5 - first with all safety systems off then, U-turn, all switched on again, to illustrate its capacity.

First run and we’re just about all over with the sidewalls of the tyres taking a serious beating - then, smooth sailing with all systems go. Serious food for thought!

Next was the City Safe collision avoidance system. The aim is to prevent those high-traffic bumper bashes - exiting slip roads and the car in front of you suddenly stopping after it did in fact drive off - seriously hectic stuff and often totally unnecessary.

The long and the short: it works pretty darn well; I still have safety-belt marks across my chest to prove it.

Roll stability control

The demonstration - which both shocked and impressed all of us - was the roll stability control (RSC) in the XC90.

RSC is a stabiliser system that minimises the risk of overturning, for example during sudden evasive manoeuvres or if the car skids. The system registers if and how much the car’s lateral inclination changes.

This information is used to calculate the risk of the car overturning. If it is at risk, its electronic stability control system engages, the engine torque is reduced and one or more wheels are braked until the car has regained its stability.

Again - close your eyes and picture this… we’re strapped in - doing 120km/h down the Zwartkops pit straight (slow for Zwartkops, but bear with me) - suddenly the instructor violently turns the steering right as if swerving to avoid a pothole or a kudu - releases the steering, while still keeping his foot on the accelerator - and we have total chaos!

At the rear, despite being strapped in and holding onto the grab handles above the doors, we’re thrown around like plastic Danville oranges in a tumble dryer! At the front, the driver and passenger are being sucked to their seats like they’ve been caught in a vacuum sealer... screeching tyres - an XC that wriggles like a headless chicken - and then suddenly, seconds later, there’s peace and joy and the car is back in control. Driving an XC90 is like being in paradise.

Any other vehicle would have rolled – I’m sure. Phew! Let’s do it one more time, I mean we are on a roll here (pun intended) just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke - we did and, it’s no fluke!

What’s the purpose of being exposed to these demonstrations and experiencing them first-hand? It’s a no-brainer. We spend so much time in our cars that we need to understand and trust the safety systems to do what manufacturers claim they’ll do. Having these systems at our disposal, is certainly not a licence to abuse the car because, the reality is… you can only do so much.

RSC will, of course, also be beneficial during normal cornering in that it will enhance the stability of the vehicle. Although most of us cannot afford an XC90, fact is, Volvo intends to build cars as safe as houses and the current technology in its cars illustrates its determination to do exactly that.

Before long it was time to hit the best road in Gauteng… the road back to Mbombela; what a symphony!

The fastest-growing luxury brand in the world, building the safest cars on the road - can you afford not to drive a Volvo?

I spoke to a number of Volvo owners who’ve been involved in write-off accidents on the Gauteng highways and they will not be convinced to drive anything other than a Volvo - not even if you pay them.

Here are some of the fantastic features: 

Active High Beam

Cross Traffic Alert

Pedestrian & Cyclist Detection System

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Article written by Matthys Ferreira
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