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ALL THE RIGHT CURVES

Castle Volvo’s ‘princess’ is a sporty crossover

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Everyone who drives a Volvo would have had a feel of what the Scandinavian carmaker’s headquarters are like.

11. PHOTOS BY TESSA R. SALAZAR

The marble-corridored Volvo offices outside Gothenburg in Sweden have often been called “Castle Volvo,” because it sits isolated atop a rocky, rainy outcrop. The simple, low-rise buildings on the sprawling grounds belie the technology that lies within.

The security system of the building is quite remarkable, as well. Investigative journalist Jonathan Mantle once talked to visitors to the headquarters, who said it would have been “easier to get into the Kremlin.” Mantle then wrote, “If the car was the company, then it was no wonder that Volvo built their cars like tanks.”

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Mantle wrote this in the ’90s, when Volvo was still into designing boxy sedans. Now, nearly two decades since, Volvo still makes cars and SUVs like tanks, but with a distinct aesthetic difference.

To celebrate March as the month for women of all ages, shapes and sizes, Volvo allowed its “princess” to be taken out for a spin. We’re referring to the Volvo XC60 T5, powered by a 2-liter gasoline-powered turbocharged direct injection engine with six-speed powershift. (If this was the “princess,” then the “queen” would have to be the XC90).

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This sexy crossover SUV shows all the right curves for all the life-saving moves. It has a collision warning system with full auto brake, which initially warns the driver and pre-charges the brakes. The automatically dimmed rear-view mirror prevents the driver from the harsh glare of headlights by the vehicles behind.

Such has been Volvo’s departure from “boring” designs that this writer’s mother, a senior citizen who has trusted the brand’s safety reputation for decades, even remarked at how “different” the XC60 looked compared to Volvo of decades past. I had to remind her that sexy as XC60 might seem, with its big headlights, well-sculpted side lines, and the stylish, pronounced tail lamps (with micro-optics and LED technology), this bold-looking compact crossover was still a tank, seemingly impenetrable from all sides.

The XC60 comes just in time to capitalize on the growing market of urban professionals with active lifestyles. With this crowd, one never knows what sporting equipment, or companions even, an individual can be tagging along. That’s why this SUV has adopted an exceptionally broad, stable stance. And we wouldn’t know what swagger these owners could be wearing, so the 17-inch alloy wheels (with 235/65R17 tires), bold wheel arches and darker livery of the body’s lower section further enhance that confident air.

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The ride is enhanced by the extra torsional rigidity and the sporty chassis setup which brings precise control and minimizes roll tendencies. Volvo engineers explained the XC60’s weight as optimally distributed between the front and rear axles, which contributes to good balance and traction.

Here are more of the notable points of the XC60, as illustrated:

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1. Not too low, or too steep. The door frame is wide enough, the vehicle not too high for this writer’s petite mom.

2. Multitaskers’ delight. You don’t lose focus when you tinker with world-class audio. I still vote for button controls.

3. The vaunted floating center console, slightly angled toward the driver.

4. The load area has a lockable load floor covering two storage areas. The cargo cover extends over the entire load area. The rear door prevents the floor hatch from being opened when the car is closed and locked.

5. Powered by a 2-liter gasoline turbocharged direct injection T5 engine producing 240 hp and torque of 320 Nm, the XC60’s fuel consumption is rated at between 11 and 12 km per liter (our best, during the drive, was 14 kilometers per liter).

6. VIP treatment. Cup holders and tray, a booster cushion integrated in the rear seat that can be set at two heights (allowing children of different sizes to sit sufficiently high to see out through the windows), are all included for passengers’ convenience and safety.

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7. “Adjustment Bureau.” The power-adjustable “seat of power” has 3-memory settings, and flexible enough to adjust to this 5-foot driver.

8. Dual-zone electronic climate control for both driver and front passenger, plus air-con vents for back seat passengers.

9. Sexy on the side. We can stare at the sculpted side lines all day.

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10. Visibility is key, especially in remote locations. The pronounced tail lamps and the curvy “L” configuration.

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11. 2-step ignition. Put the key in the slot and push the start or stop button.

Verdict: The only regret I had driving the XC60 T5 was in not having the panoramic sunroof enjoyed by the XC60 T6 owners. Other than that, I am mighty proud to be part of a third of XC60 owners all over the world who are women—at least for the four days I had it in our garage. Not all power women will opt to buy a P3.545-million XC60, but for those who do, be at ease when you drive and ride in this beautiful, athletic princess. And don’t be surprised when it turns into a tank in your most vulnerable moments.


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