0-62mph 8.8 seconds
Top speed 127mph
My daughter failed her driving test last week. It was her first attempt and, though she was disappointed, she wasn’t too surprised. In fact, a month earlier she was all set to postpone as she’d done so little practice. Besides, more than half of those sitting their test fail the first time. What did cheer her up was the result of a recent study which showed that clever people are more likely to fail than those who are less academically, shall we say, competent. The researchers found it was all to do with over-thinking a challenge, compared to those who have a more practical and straightforward approach to a problem. Either that, or it was the pedestrian who at the last moment stepped off the kerb. My daughter didn’t spot her so the examiner had to grab the wheel and hit the brakes.
This week I’ve been giving the new Volvo XC60 a driving test, too. And at times it also seems a bit too clever to do the job at hand. Take its self-park feature, for example. It’s called Park Assist Pilot (PAP, for short). It’s a system that takes the aggravation out of parking and means you’ll no longer have to nonchalantly pretend you haven’t clipped the car next to you as you reverse.
All you do is engage the gear, fold your arms and marvel as the steering wheel spins back and forth as if being shaken by a possessed terrier. It’s marvellous, except for one thing: I couldn’t get it to work. In the interests of fairness I tried PAP in various places. I tried it 14 times, and not once did it park the car fully or properly. Volvo told me: “PAP does not work in all situations, but is designed merely as a supplementary aid.” It seems it’s more of a co-pilot than a pilot… On the upside, it was good to know my parking prowess outskilled the robot’s.
The issue is also one of trust. There are so many systems on a car, many designed to keep you safe, but how do you know they actually work? Were you lucky to get to the end of your journey, or did your car save you from some unseen peril? The greasy surface you didn’t lose traction on; the unfelt dab on the brakes…
Ultimately you have to believe the experts and, last month, the pointyheads at What Car? proclaimed that the Volvo XC60 is currently the safest car produced anywhere in the world. It gained the highest Euro NCAP test score of last year. What slam-dunked Volvo’s victory was its futuristic suite of driver-assistance systems which use camera and radar crash detection to prevent accidents with pedestrians. The system is also capable of bypassing cyclists and large animals (it was designed to deal with jaywalking moose and reindeer). Another exclusive feature is a monitoring system that will pull the car over if it detects you fall asleep or are taken ill.
The XC60 is Volvo’s bestselling car of all time and the bestselling SUV in Europe. Without being overly technical, it’s phenomenally nice to drive. Safe, clean, serene… If only my daughter had taken her test in an XC60. The car would have spotted that pedestrian, but she’d still have failed on the parking section.
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