Although there are many features that are important in a car, the top priority for me in any vehicle is safety. So when I received an invitation to visit Santa Monica for a test drive of the Volvo XC90, the first thing Jai said was: “That’s great, Volvo make very safe cars!” I’d heard a lot about Volvo’s reputation for safety but had never driven one personally, so I was excited to see what they were like.
I arrived at LAX and made my way to the Shore Hotel across from the Santa Monica Pier. I dropped my bags, had a bite to eat and headed to our first briefing and test drive. We were paired off into teams for the drive, and my first driving partner was Dave from Everyman Driver. We got behind the wheel of the XC90 T8, which is the hybrid edition of this vehicle.
The T8 is a beautiful vehicle, complete with a unique hand-crafted crystal gear shift knob. You can switch between the electric motor and gas engine using five different drive modes, including the custom “Individual” mode. It was a smooth, lovely drive around Santa Monica – click here to watch Dave’s video of our first drive to see the vehicle in action and my initial impressions.
After our first quick drive, we headed down to the beach for a clam bake. My dining companions included members of the Volvo engineering and safety team who had flown in from Sweden to talk about the development of the XC90 and answer our questions. It was a unique opportunity for me to learn about the research that goes into creating new safety features and how Volvo tries to anticipate and address some of the most common road dangers. Hearing firsthand the attention to detail that goes into making these cars, it doesn’t surprise me at all that Volvo is such a leader in vehicle safety, boasting 16 world firsts in car safety including the first child safety booster cushion.
The next day, we headed off for a longer road trip in the XC90 T6, the standard edition of this model. This time, my driving partners were Tabatha from The Motor Mistress and Kaitlin from Surf and Sunshine. We set off down the road and enjoyed the stunning scenery on our way to Ojai for a lunch at Twin Peaks Ranch.
The road trip was a blast – the car was so comfortable to drive. I liked the size of the vehicle; although it’s an SUV, it was easy to handle with good visibility, so I didn’t get that feeling of it being too huge as I do in some SUVs. The XC90’s impressive list of safety features were a huge help during the drive. The XC90 starts out with a steel body and optimized seats and safety belts, and then adds a number of safety assists inside the vehicle such as:
- Pilot assist that adjusts the steering if you start to veer out of your lane
- Alerts to warn you about getting too close to other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians or crossing a lane marking
- Blind spot information
- 360 degree camera to help with backing up and parking
Los Angeles is a notoriously challenging place to drive, and being in the XC90 gave me a lot more peace of mind than I would usually have. From cruising by the Santa Monica Pier and heading down the Pacific Coast Highway to getting stuck behind construction and crossing multiple lanes on the freeway, having all of the safety options made it that much easier to navigate the roads and enjoy my trip. There were also a lot of fun features in the XC90, with a Bowers & Wilkins sound system that had an amazing amount of controls to create a concert-style surround sound experience. We turned on the Sirius Satellite Radio and enjoyed the tunes as we cruised along the beautiful California coastline!
After we returned from our jaunt, we headed to Austere in downtown LA for a rooftop dinner, where they also gave a live demonstration of the XC90’s Park Assist Pilot and other features:
Now that I have driven the XC90, it’s made me a big Volvo fan!