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  • 2011 Volvo C70 Convertible

    Retractable hardtop adds four-season versatility

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Volvo C70

    2011 Volvo C70

    I doubt there’s a group of people in the western world who appreciate sunshine more than the Swedes. After a long, dark winter, the arrival of summer and the midnight sun is cause for celebration.

    By Swedish standards, a sunroof is a compromise. The only way to truly enjoy driving in the sun is to go topless.

    As much as convertibles appeal to the Swedish sensibility, soft tops are not practical in the harsh Scandinavian winter. The C70 is a coupe with a retractable hard top: a car with the versatility to function in both winter and summer.

    The steel hardtop adds a measure of safety by making the overall body structure more rigid. Volvo engineers found a way to incorporate both side and side curtain airbags in the car: something not found in competitive products.

    A standard five-cylinder turbocharged engine produces 227 horsepower. Peak torque of 236 foot-pounds comes on just off idle, enhancing the car’s performance on uphill grades. Turbocharging, which uses exhaust driven blowers to enhance airflow through the engine, reduces emissions as well as power loss at altitude.

    The C70 averaged 22.9 miles per gallon on the 130-mile test drive: about a mile-per-gallon better than the EPA estimate.

    A five-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection gives the driver more control on challenging roads. A fully independent suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars provides a comfortable ride, while keeping the chassis flat in the turns. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Volvo Supports Distracted Driver Laws

    Automaker supports federal legislation to control cell phone use in cars

    Volvo tests its new autobrake system

    Volvo tests its new autobrake system

    Within the past three years, two triathletes in my neighborhood were hit by cars. One almost died. In both cases, the cyclists were obeying the traffic laws, but the car drivers were temporarily distracted.

    This week, a two-day summit in Washington DC addresses distracted driving; specifically legislation that would control the way drivers can use cell phones in their cars. Although it is not a summit participant, Volvo is supporting federal legislation through full-page newspaper ads and a YouTube video.

    “With the proliferation of cell phone use and text messaging while behind the wheel, distracted driving is on the rise and is a leading cause of traffic accidents,” said Doug Speck, president and CEO of Volvo Cars North America. “Reasonable laws that help focus a driver’s attention on the road will help reduce collisions, just as laws to enforce seat belt use have helped save lives.”

    According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, seven states currently outlaw the use of cell phones without a hands-free device while driving: eighteen states prohibit text messaging. Both activities are barred in DC.

    Volvo is currently developing an auto-brake system specifically to protect pedestrians. To learn more about Volvo safety research, visit the company web site.

  • Volvo Tests Electric Car Safety

    Safety center tests battery protection in electric C30

    Volvo crash tests the electric C30

    Volvo crash tests the electric C30

    Electric cars have great potential in the market, since they are a viable alternative to gas-powered vehicles. But their large battery packs present some serious safety risks in the event of a collision.

    Following the reveal of its electric C30, Volvo describes how its safety lab is evaluating the battery pack’s integrity. Safety testing includes five scenarios: normal driving, changes in performance, accident avoidance, collision, and post collision.

    For normal driving, safety engineers determine if each battery cell maintains the correct voltage and operating temperature by regulating the cooling system. Since the battery pack weighs about 150 kilograms (330 pounds), it changes the vehicle’s front-to-rear weight balance. Engineers must make sure that the brakes, dynamic stability and traction control systems can handle the extra weight.

    Volvo uses accident avoidance technology including collision warning and city safety to prevent or reduce the severity of collisions. Volvo’s proprietary city safety system debuted on the new XC60. The system automatically applies the brakes if the driver is distracted in stop-and-go-traffic. It can prevent rear-end collisions at speeds under 19 miles-per-hour.

    To protect passengers if a collision occurs, the battery is encapsulated between the car’s wheel housings. Structural elements prevent intrusion to the area around the battery. If battery damage occurs, special ducts evacuate gas leaks away from the car and its occupants. At the point of impact, crash sensors signal the car’s on-board computer to shut off power, preventing a short circuit.

    After the collision, the battery has a security cut-out that works like a circuit breaker. It shuts down and isolates the battery if current travels in the wrong direction. This could occur if the battery leads are pressed together as a result of the collision.

  • Volvo Unveils New Safety Initiative

    Crash test dummies focus on pedestrian safety

    Volvo Crash Test Dummies

    Volvo Crash Test Dummies

    Volvo has added two new members to its family of crash test dummies. Bob and his son, Bob Junior are pedestrians that Volvo is using to find new ways to protect people outside the car.

    The pedestrian dummies are suspended from a crane. The machine can propel them into the driver’s line of vision: they may appear from behind a parked car or around a corner. Volvo engineers want to see if new technology that uses both radar and cameras can register the pedestrians, and respond before an accident occurs.

    “We have a lot of faith in Bob when it comes to the development of our active safety systems, and it would have been even more exciting to develop a dummy that could move by itself,” said Anders Eugensson, a safety expert at Volvo.

    Volvo will be adding a female dummy soon, to complete the pedestrian group.

  • 2010 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD

    Volvo hits a home run with its new mid-sized crossover vehicle

    By Nina Russin

    2010 Volvo XC60

    2010 Volvo XC60

    Volvo may not be the biggest player in the sport-utility segment, but as of this year, it’s an important one. The new XC60 is one of the best luxury crossover vehicles on the market, combining innovative safety and ergonomic features in a stylish package.

    I realize that saying this sets me up for a collective eye-roll from colleagues who know that my perspective on Swedish cars isn’t completely objective. The fact is: I love all things Swedish. Gravlax, pannkakor, Orrefors glass, clogs, and the midnight sun are among my many favorite Swedish things. On a good, day, I even enjoy a little Abba.

    My husband and I have owned three Volvos: our current car is a C30. But I will remain glued to my soapbox, proclaiming to anyone willing to listen that the XC60 is a near-perfect car. It’s beautiful to look at, a dream to drive, and has standard City Safety: a technology that could make rush-hour fender benders a thing of the past. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Does This Surfboard Have Airbags?

    Volvo PR guru pursues his surfing passion on both coasts

    Blind Dog Surf Boards

    Blind Dog Surf Boards

    My buddy Dan Johnston and I have two things in common: our love of Volvos, and our pigheaded determination not to grow old gracefully. Recently Johnston, a long-time member of the Volvo public relations group, moved from company headquarters in New Jersey to North Carolina. Back at the beach, he can pursue his life-long loves: building boards and surfing.

    “I started surfing in California around 1962, grew up in Torrance and Hermosa Beach,” said Johnston. “Life was easy back then. We loaded up our old Ford, would drive to San Diego on Friday night, surf at Cardif or head up to Santa Barbara to surf Hammond’s Reef if SD was flat. No internet in those days, surf hunting was a crap shoot.”

    Johnston lived in Hawaii for short time, during his enlistment in the US Navy.

    “Surfed Sunset Beach with some mainland friends, must have been 10′ out there,” he recalled. “No leashes and nasty swims. “I learned my limit that day.”

    Recently, Johnston and fellow surfing buddy, Tom Allen, started Blind Dog Surf Boards, producing custom hollow wooden surfboards. All of the wood comes from managed sustainable forests in the area or pieces they have harvested. Each hollow wooden board takes about 90 hours to craft.

    To learn more about Blind Dog’s custom surfboards, visit Dan’s blog site.

  • Volvo Exec Awarded Top NHTSA Honor

    Jan Ivarrson receives the US Government Special Award of Appreciation for pioneering safety technology

    Jan Ivarsson

    Jan Ivarsson

    Jan Ivarsson, Volvo’s senior manager of safety strategy and requirements, has received the US government’s special award of appreciation for his work in safety technology. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration picks the award winner.

    Ivarsson’s career at Volvo spans two decades: he has been senior manager of safety and strategy requirements since 1988. Beginning with the introduction of Volvo’s side impact protection system in 1991, he has been the project leader for many important active and passive safety features.

    Most recently, Ivarsson oversaw the development of Volvo’s City Safety system, featured on the 2010 XC60 crossover vehicle. The purpose of City Safety is to prevent or mitigate low-speed collisions due to driver distraction.

    Volvo City Safety System

    Volvo City Safety System

    The system is active at speeds up to 19 miles-per-hour. If the vehicle in front brakes suddenly and sensors in the XC60 determine a collision is likely, it pre-charges the brakes. If the driver fails to respond, the car applies the brakes automatically. If the relative speed between the two vehicles is less than nine miles-per-hour, City Safety may help the driver avoid the collision entirely.

    Ivarsson sees his honor as reinforcement of Volvo’s leadership position in the field of automotive safety.

    “Just a few years ago, we felt that the competition was beginning to catch up with us in the sphere of safety,” he said. “However, over the past few years we have demonstrated the sheer extent of the expertise in our company. Our new passive and active safety systems which are now being rolled out to customers are of absolute first class.”

  • Volvo Design Teams Observe Global Trends

    Camarillo and Barcelona design centers give the automaker a wider perspective

    Volvo C30 Concept Car

    Volvo C30 Concept Car

    Volvo designers understand the importance of maintaining a wide footprint. Design teams in southern California and Spain are on alert for emerging trends that need to be on the company’s radar.

    Volvo’s Monitoring and Concept Center in Camarillo, California uses a cross-functional approach. Designers and engineers work side by side in the wind tunnel. Their efforts produced the Environmental Concept Car that became the first S80, and the first safety concept car that evolved into the current C30.

    The Strategic Design Center in Barcelona is the yin to Southern California’s yang. While roads in the western US are wide and straight, Europe’s streets are narrow and winding. Many of Volvo’s small car concepts originate in Barcelona. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Volvo releases R-Design Package

    Styling enhancements give the C30, S40 and V50 extra attitude

    Volvo R-Design package

    Volvo R-Design package

    When designer, Peter Horbury, first came  to Volvo in the early 1990s, he gave the brand a much-needed facelift. Boxy sedans and wagons gave way to elegant cars that combined Volvo’s humanism with Horbury’s post-modern panache.

    It’s kismet that Volvo introduces its R-style kit for the C30, S40 and V50, just as Horbury prepares for his return to the mother ship. “R” is Volvo’s designation for performance-tuning. In this case, R connotes styling enhancements that also boost performance.

    Customers can choose from ten exterior colors. On the outside, the R-Design package includes front and rear spoilers, ground effects, a larger exhaust pipe, seventeen-inch Serapis alloy wheels, special door and mirror trim.

    Interior upgrades include special upholstery with R-Design inserts, R-Design center stack and panel inlays, special gauges, aluminum sport pedals, leather sport steering wheel, and a leather and aluminum shift lever.

    For more information on Volvo’s current model line-up, visit the consumer web site.

  • Volvo Launches Three New Child Restraints

    Infant, convertible and booster seats protect children from birth to age ten

    Volvo Infant Seat

    Volvo Infant Seat

    Volvo is taking child safety beyond the automobile with three new seats, developed in conjunction with Britax Romer. A rear-facing infant seat protects newborns up to about a year: a handle makes it easy to carry to and from the car. A convertible seat allows children to face rearward or forward, and is comfortable for the child to sit or sleep in. The booster seat fits children between ages four and ten: it ensures correct positioning of the car’s safety belts over the child’s thighs and shoulder.

    “With our new rearward facing child restraints, children can travel rearward for far longer than before, something that may save many lives,” says Jessika Andreasson, product manager at Volvo. Volvo recommends that children travel facing rearward as long as possible, preferably up to age four or more.

    At this age, the child’s neck is still growing and the head is proportionately larger than an adult’s. If the child is facing rearward, collision forces from a frontal impact spread across the back and the head, reducing the load on the neck.

    The booster seat protects an older child’s underdeveloped hips and the abdomen by positioning the belt correctly across the thigh. All three of the safety seats have undergone thorough evaluation, including crash testing. All of the fabrics are allergy free: the covers are removable and machine washable.

    Volvo will sell the new child seats at its dealerships in Europe and Asia, beginning this summer. No word yet as to when or if the automaker will bring its child safety seats to the United States.