Archive for Volvo S60

God is in the details – Volvo S60

Posted in Car conception, Desirable machines with tags , on 15/06/2016 by Alexander

Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, the German-American Modernist architect, once said God is in the details, referring to how a work of architecture isn’t just valuable as a whole, that delicious little mannerisms on a small scale. In my humble belief, this adage is applicable to cars, and even some cars that can be considered bland, insipid or just plain, might have funky little design minutiae that jump out as unexpected eye-candy. So that’s what this entry is all about – the emphasis on wonderful little details most people perhaps overlook on my own beloved Volvo S60.

Detail #1 – The way the roofline melds into the bootlid.
Contrary to what you might have read or think, the Mercedes CLS is not the forerunner of today’s so-called four-door coupés. Years before, Volvo introduced the S60, a sports saloon with lines do smooth it doesn’t even have protruding bits like radio antennae, and even the door handles aren’t salient as in most cars. This could be said of the car on which its styling was based on, the original S80, but the main difference was the swooping roofline, and the sleek shape which resulted. I’ve had my S60 for more than three years, and I’m not tired at gazing at its tail and the beautiful lines that compose it. It curves beautifully inwards, and it melds with flanks with a sharp corner that flows down and turns into a strong but curvy shoulderline. Exquisite.

Detail #2 – Wing mirrors
I don’t know why, but I’ve always been fascinated by wing-mirrors. When I was a very young boy and still learning to draw, The details I paid most attention to when drawing cars was the antenna on the roof and the mirrors on each side (even though, at that time, many cars only had a wing-mirror on the driver’s side, which violated my imagined perfect symmetry every car should have). And today, I still regard them one of the most important aesthetic traits of a car, as an ugly wing-mirror can ruin a car for me (e.g., the old Citroen C4). The S60’s mirrors are gorgeous, sculpted and balanced, in sync with the rest of the car. Here’s a confession: it was the first thing that made me want to get an S60.

Well, there are far more details I’d like to write about, but my fear is that it might come off as overtly sycophantic. I’ll leave more details for another time.



Posted in Alt-Fuel, Green Tech with tags , , , , , , on 17/01/2012 by Alexander

I love alternative fuels. I’m on my third LPG car, which is the perhaps the most widespread and cheapest alternative fuel in Europe, and I thank my stars every day for having converted my Volvo to run on it. Currently, fuel prices are so staggeringly high that I’d have to consider staying at home a lot more than I do. When I first started driving my first LPG-burning Citroen, diesel was around €0,88, while LPG was around €0.5. Money-wise, it was cheaper to run a diesel, since it got mileage that was good enough to offset the price difference between the two types of fuel. However, the considerable difference in price when buying the cars to start with made LPG the far more sensible choice, since the cost of buying a petrol car and pay for the conversion was far, far less than buying an equivalent diesel. For example, my S60 (2.3-litre five cylinder turbo, with 130,000km/80,000 miles on the odometer) cost €11,000 plus nearly €2,000 to get it converted, while an equivalent D5 version (2.4-litre five cylinder turbo, same mileage), would set me back €15,500+. And I’d have to drive a lot to compensate for those extra €2,500 price difference. In fact, I’d have to have driven round the clock as soon as I got it because not long after, diesel prices rose so steeply that since then diesel is no longer the less expensive way to get around. Especially in 2012.

Let’s crunch some quick numbers to you can get the idea. Diesel now costs around €1.49 a litre. LPG costs €0.75 (I’m rounding the numbers in favour of diesel, to drive the point home). Now, I get around 8.8l/100km (32.1mpg) on an average journey with a car full of people, luggage and air-conditioning. An equivalent diesel will do around 5l/100km (56.5mpg). LPG saves €0.90 per 100km, and though that might not sound like much, over the lifetime of a car that’s a lot of lolly.

Anyway, this might not hold true tomorrow since LPG prices are set to go up in the near future, but either way, I stand by my logic. However, if you already own a diesel, you might be interested in something I found out yesterday (though it’s been around for yonks): dual-fuel LPG/diesel cars. In a nutshell, cars that inject 66% diesel and 34% LPG into the cylinder. From what I’ve read, the result is smoother running, more power and torque, and significant fuel economy (20-30%). The bottom line is a 5l/100km car now drinks some 2.5l of diesel plus a litre or so of LPG. That’s half the amount of normal fuel plus some half price fuel. Personally, I think it sounds great and I’d jump at the chance, if I had a diesel, except for one small snag. The cost of fitting an LPG kit to a diesel can be around €2000, and offsetting that value can take a jolly long time. Even if you save €1.50 per 100km, you’d have to do around 130,000km (80,000 mile)s to compensate the investment, and considering you’ll probably be converting a used car that’s clocked 150,000km (as most converted cars – no-one wants to tinker with a relatively new car), it might not even last that long. Compare that to LPG cars, where even an expensive conversion like mine paid off after 30,000km.

Either way, it’s an interesting alternative, and might be worth it given the right set of circumstances.

2012: The year of the demise of the mainstream car?

Posted in General opinions with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 12/01/2012 by Alexander

I recently read an article on Autocar on how Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne believes that European mainstream car manufacturers will experience “zero growth” up until 2014. This gloomy outlook rings true if you think about it. The average consumer, who buys the superminis and mid-range level cars will be the one hit hardest by the austerity measures being implemented across the Old Continent, while the average rich fatcat will sail through the recession unhindered. Proof? Stuff like Rolls Royce’s all-time record sales, the largest in their 107-year history.

So yes, things don’t look too bright for small car makers. And this opinion is especially noteworthy since it came from the head of Fiat, who would be in especially deep s**t if they hadn’t merged with Chrysler (as Sergio Marchionne says in his own words). 15 or 20 years ago, Fiat’s small and mid-range cars dominated the markets they were sold in. One out of every three cars I’d see on the road would be an Uno or Tipo or Punto. Today Fiat practically only sells 500’s in any significant number, but I digress. I want to talk about the future of all these brands that depend mostly on more affordable vehicles.

I’ve said before how car interiors get nicer as time goes by, but this recession will see an end to that tendency, because luxury in common items is proportional to the prosperity of the era they’re made in. In time, we’ll go back to the spartan interiors of shoddy plastics and zero trim, like in a Renault super 5 or Fiat Tipo. We’ll be back to two-spoke steering wheels and the absence of a central column, all in the name of making cars more affordable to the recession-stricken populace.

Or not. Early economics theory, which was the reflection of a 19th-century mindset, said that Man was a rational creature and would make economic decisions that would be in his best interest. We know today for a fact that people are incredibly irrational, and make terrible financial decisions all the time, and that’s especially blatant when it comes to cars. As I keep insisting in various instances all posted on this very blog, the average buyer is overly badge-conscious, and will get neck-deep into debt to go round with a 3-series or A4 (the cheapest one possible, of course) rather than spend less on an equally reliable, better-equipped and better-priced S60 or Mazda6. However, the same frame of mind gets people to buy spanking new cars, be it superminis or mid-range saloons, when a cheaper second-hand one would do, which makes me reckon that perhaps the mainstream market won’t be so f**ked after all.

So if you’re planning to buy a new car, get a nice economical mainstream one instead of a status-car. And get a non-German one, the Germans sell far too many cars and are well-off enough as it is. If it were me, I’d get myself a Citroen C3 or DS3, with a 1.6-litre e-Hdi diesel engine. They’re fab.

Too much space

Posted in General opinions with tags , , , , , on 06/09/2011 by Alexander

My late father’s favourite car was the Citroen CX Safari (the estate version of Citroen’s 70’s and 80’s flagship, pictured above). It was perfect for him because it could lug around a huge volume of the textile-based merchandise he had to carry around to different parts of London during the week (a function it performed as well as any van), and when emptied and the back seats propped upright, it was great family car. There was so much space in the back, me and my sister could brawl as if we were in an arena, and could avoid our dad’s outstretched hand when he wanted to smack us because we had driven him to the brink of sanity with our brawling. There was also its usage for our holidays to Portugal, when we’d brim-fill the boot with our stuff and drive 1,300 miles from Ilford to Porto. The CX was a perfect all-rounder for a man with my father’s needs, and he had four different CX Safaris, and I loved them, but the young autophile in me wished he had a saloon version instead.

In my young, superhero comic book-reading mind, all that empty space behind me when I travelled in the back seat was a perfect place for a children-eating ghoul to materialise and chomp bits of me off. It felt like I was in a long windowed corridor, with a lot of ominous empty space to my rear. I preferred the snugness of my dad’s various saloon CX’s, with the feeling that nothing could get behind me.

I still feel more or less like that today. When I bought my Volvo S60, I could have bought a cheaper, larger V70 with the same trim and same engine for around €1000 less than I did. From a purely logical standpoint I should’ve done, since it was more car for less lolly, and on top of that, more practical and multi-purpose. So on the face of it, I did a silly thing, yet I haven’t regretted my decision for a single minute in the three years I’ve had my car. Now to be perfectly blunt and shallow, I don’t appreciate driving a brick-like version of a fantastically good-looking car. Yes, looks mean a lot to me (I’ve never said otherwise) and if you walk away from your car without looking back as if it were to check out your hot girlfriend, something’s wrong. Either your car’s ugly or you don’t care. I couldn’t stand having to look at a four-wheeled box instead of the swooping, looking-fast-while-standing-still silhouette of my S60.

Let’s get to the practical side of the argument. If I had bought the estate version of my car, I’d have spent most of the time lugging around a lot of empty space by myself, and I’d have felt pretty stupid for doing so. When I see lone drivers in big estates and people carriers it seems like an awful waste with all those unoccupied seats and headroom. Let’s face it, how many times a year do you really need that extra cargo area? Twice? Probably, unless you carry a lot of stuff around like my dad or own big dogs. An argument can be made that those with children need that extra boot volume, but this summer I transported my daughter and nephew all over the place and I didn’t miss having some more room to put their crap in the back of the car. And why do estates have that horrid square grid behind the rear passengers? Is it mandatory? Doesn’t it impair vision? How does it feel driving and feeling like you’re in a cage every time you look in the rear view mirror?

To back up my view, there’s a small fact that speaks volumes. When new, most (if not all) estates are more expensive than their saloon counterparts, yet on the second-hand market, they’re considerably cheaper. It’s the simple market rule of supply and demand in action. Lot’s of people want to get rid of their estates because they realise it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Advertising shows hip young families loading up their station wagons with dogs and surfboards with huge smiles on their faces before embarking on a sun-drenched road trip. But when it dawns on estate owners that those adventure weekends don’t materialise and that they’re only good for the first and last day of the holidays, and they’ve spent a wad of extra cash on a car that’s main feature is useless for 363 days of the year, it’s time to downsize and get rid of the thing.

If I need additional stowing area for my saloon, I’ll get a roof rack and one of those torpedo-like cargo cases. I can take it off if when I don’t need it so I won’t feel like a wally.

2010 is gone. Welcome 2011

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Crap cars, Desirable machines, General opinions, Green Tech, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , on 03/01/2011 by Alexander

2010 was another automotive year with all the usual ups and downs, and there was nothing Earth-shaking about it. But there were some moments worth remembering:

Top 5 good things from 2010:

  • The spread of green technology
    Until recently, either having a hybrid or running your diesel on vegetable oil were the only ways to be green (driving a GPL car has been for yonks, but let’s not delve into that right now). This year saw the significant spread of cleaner engine technology, with more brands churning out more efficient engines, like PSA’s e-HDi or Fiat’s Twin-Air. It saw the introduction of all-electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, and Renault’s ZE cars. Even Porsche and other traditionally anti-eco brands dreamed up their own hybrid concepts. We’re on the right track.
  • Formula 1 goes barebones
    I’ve never been one to talk about Formula 1, because it’s been a sport for the likes of Ferrari and big engine-producing to show off their crap. But no more. Next year sees the goodbye of the 2.4-litre V8 engine, and the exclusive use of 1.6l turbo flat fours. This will attract more car manufacturers and bring Formula 1 closer to what it should be: a laboratory for car-makers to test solutions in extreme conditions. With this, the solutions they’ll have to dream up for F1 cars will be more easily transposed to the cars you and me buy. That’ll mean more power and efficiency from piddly little four-cylinder power-plants. Ferrari are really pissed off by this, because they don’t use straight-fours in their road-going ostentation-mobiles, and are refusing to use them. Good riddance, shit-heads.
  • Cars keep getting nicer
    Unfortunately, the world’s recession stems from people living beyond their means, and that includes buying too many new cars. Here in Portugal, it’s heinous. Everyone complains how deep in the shit they are, but 2010 was unprecedented in terms of car sales. The upshot is that the automotive market is battling it out to make the best cars they can to attract the expanding market. Cars keep getting safer, better equipped, technologically more advanced, and even cheaper cars look nicer and nicer, as opposed to looking like coloured washing machines that they used to up until the mid-2000’s. Just sitting in recent cars makes me gawp, due to the simple fact that interiors just keep improving. A modern day supermini is just as nice to sit in as top-of-the-range four-doors of 20-odd years ago.
  • Volvo S60
    The coolest release of the year, topping the Peugeot RC Z, the Honda CR-Z and the Citroen DS3. The shape, the look, the gorgeous interior and instrument panel… wow.
  • Hummer went belly up
    Need I say more?

Top 5 let-downs of 2010:

  • The Peugeot 508
    Early in the year Peugeot treated us to two exciting new concept cars: the SR-1 and the RC Hybrid4. The former was a mouth-watering coupé and the latter seemed to show what the 407’s successor would look like. Instead of that, we got a knock-off of the Renault Fluence.
  • Citroen
    The 2000’s saw a spectacular return to form for Citroen. The C3 Pluriel, the C4, the C5 II and the glorious C6. This year, they decided to be run by the corporate morons and killed off the lovely C3 Pluriel, and introduced stuff like the Metropolis and the new C4, which both look like they were plagiarised from Audi. Awful.
  • Toyota
    I think the recalls speak for themselves. Never did I think to see this Japanese behemoth of reliability and sense be so mired by crass mistakes such as these. Amazing.
  • Fisker
    I was hoping to see the absolutely luscious Karma showing off its lines live in the metal and setting new automotive standards at the same time. Alas, ’twas not to be, with Fisker pushing its delivery dates further and further…
  • Ferrari 458
    “You-a-drive it, it-a-catches de fire!” The menstruation-coloured prancing hossie from Italy finally made a car that didn’t look crap for a “supercar”. Downside is, it goes up in flames of its own accord.

Latest on the S60

Posted in Desirable machines, News, Upcoming cars with tags , , , on 10/02/2010 by Alexander

Autocar has posted some novelties regarding the upcoming incarnation of the Volvo S60, namely some interior shots and a list of engines. Portuguese site Autoportal has some additional information, namely the engine’s designations, which are rather interesting. Volvo’s T5, T6 and D5 were always cool (though I am biased, I have a T5), and this new power plant line-up expands to such designations as D3 and T4. Here’s the list of the initial range to choose from:

2.0T – turbocharged 2-litre straight-4, 203bhp (One could initially assume that te 2.0T was straight-5 like the old one, but alas, Autocar reports it’s not so).
T6 – turbocharged 3-litre straight-6, 304bhp and 4WD.

D3 – turbocharged 2-litre straight-5, 163bhp.
D5 – turbocharged 2.4-litre straight-5, 205bhp (already available on the latest S80).

Apart from these, later on there’ll be more petrol units added to the range. Autocar and Autoportal diverge on the number, with the British mag saying it’ll be two, and the Portuguese portal saying it’s three. Also, Autocar says the new ones will be straight-4’s, while Autoportal say one of these will be a straight-5 and two other straight-4’s.

Those who have accompanied S60 news will recognise the 1.6-litre, straight-4, turbocharged, direct injection, 180bhp unit, first called the 1.6 GTDi. Autoportal calls it the T4. This will sit in between the T3 (a 1.6-litre, 150bhp engine, probably a detuned version of the T4) and the latest incarnation of the T5 (2.0-litre, 240bhp – again, a retuned variation of an existing engine).

I’d be very interested to know the consumption figures, since all I can find is a 5,9l/100km (48mpg) for the D5. The D3 sounds especially miserly, and a DRIVe version would be spectacular.

The official production Volvo S60

Posted in Desirable machines, Upcoming cars with tags on 11/11/2009 by Alexander

Volvo have lifted the curtain (not that people have constantly peeked through it) on the production version of the S60. Its resemblance to the concept is very close, which is good because cars usually are awfully watered down from concept to production.