Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Cars, describes Volvo's Vision 2020 thusly: "By 2020, no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo." That's a big promise. But with the automaker's latest vehicle, the XC60, Volvo is proving that it's already very close to that vision.
When it comes to the 2018 Volvo XC60, there are many things we could talk about—sportier looks (mostly thanks to tighter proportions); improved handling (largely thanks to a shorter wheelbase); the optional T6 powertrain, a turbo- and supercharged four-cylinder that delivers 316 very linear horsepower; or the cabin that's just as comforting as Volvo's flagship S90 sedan. For sure, all of these are that starts at $42,495.
Yet the XC60's main selling point is the promise of uncompromised safety, something Volvo better have on offer with less than three years to go before the Vision 2020 deadline the company set for itself.
The Swedish don't joke around. They call aluminum "too soft," instead opting for tons of rather expensive, but very strong and lightweight boron-enhanced steels. The result is a passenger cell resists intrusions the way a T-72 tank would, with an army of cameras and sensors looking to sense impacts before they occur.
These new materials represent a big leap in improving crash survivability, and Volvo isn't the only manufacturer taking advantage of the technology. But the Swedish go further, comparing seemingly endless streams of real life crash databases with computer simulations and thousands of physical crash tests.
After that work is done, products like the XC60 roll out featuring semi-autonomous guardians such as Oncoming Lane Mitigation, seen here:
In layman's terms, the car will steer itself back to the correct side of the road if you start drifting into the oncoming lane. Then, there's Blind Spot Information, "BLIS," with Steer Assist, a similar technical suite keeping an eye on your merging.
Last but not least, Large Animal Detection gets upgraded with City Safety with Steering Support, which will take evasive action in case you're about to hit an unexpected obstacle, be it animal, vegetable or mineral.
If a crash turns out to be inevitable, Volvo's front seats have integrated shock absorbers to minimize the vertical impact on your spine. And the car will stop itself automatically, to avoid careening from one impact toward a second.
Having a semi-autonomous Pilot Assist robot onboard might make your daily highway commute less stressful, but it's these additional systems that make the XC60 feel like the most human-focused product currently on sale. And it's not like you can't override the interference either. A strong steering input or hard acceleration cancels all of Volvo's nannies, after which the car trusts the driver to do the right thing.
Talk about a win-win.