Advanced driving: We attended the BMW Driving Experience to brush up on our skills.
The holiday season brings about many great things, family time, a relaxed atmosphere and of course for many, time spent behind the wheel. With many families utilising the motor vehicle as their primary use of transport to and from their holiday, this presents potential dangers on the road. The saying “there is power in numbers” can be altered to “there is danger in numbers” when it comes to cars.
As a result, being most alert, most sober and most rested can bring about positive results in your road trip experience. That is why participating in an advanced driving course is so important because alertness is essential when it comes to pre-empting a situation and taking the right steps to avoid it. With regards to soberness and being well rested, that is up to you as the driver. No amount of time spent on a track and a skid pan can increase common sense and respect for life when it comes to driving under the influence.
We recently attended the BMW Driving Experience, which is a comprehensive course meant to sharpen your skills as a driver and give you the practical knowledge of dealing with different scenarios. The course is a day long one which consists of track driving and skid pan activities which help a driver know the limits of a car. This is especially the case when it comes to the skid pan part because we all drive in different weather conditions. For instance, our cars can lose control in wet weather, and we need to know how to control the vehicle should that happen. The skid pan teaches you just that, how to deal with both understeer, over-steer and high-speed braking.
For a more visual representation of how the BMW Driving Experience is set up, take a look at the video below. We highly recommend any individual to attend such a course; the BMW course is educational, thought provoking and of course, fun.
Clark Kent is the character that most people forget about in the Superman story, with good reason too. He doesn’t do anything that makes you say “wow that is amazing”. All he does is unbutton his shirt, revealing a large “S” logo and then the real action happens. Off with the glasses and the boring suit, and on with the red and blue spandex and out comes a superhero.
The thing is, poor Clark Kent is probably a good person, we just never get to hear about him because he blends into humanity like everybody else. He is likely to be an excellent employee that pays his taxes and helps old ladies cross the street. If the creators of Superman had focused on Clark Kent, though, the story of Superman would have probably not been so famous. People want action, drama and a hero to look up to.
The Volvo S60 finds itself in a Clark Kent-like scenario; it is a good quality sedan with a brand fixated on safety behind it. The car is comfortable, the engines in the range are good, and reliability is not a problem. So why isn’t the S60 the car everybody talks about?
Well like Clark Kent, the car doesn’t do anything spectacular, it doesn’t “wow” you. It’s conservative, understated and if it were a human, it would probably pay its taxes too. So what would Volvo need to do to make the S60 exciting? A small company in Sweden called Polestar have recently been bought by Volvo to officially add spice to the S60. The result? Volvo’s very own Superman. Say hello to the Volvo S60 Polestar edition.
What has changed?
To jump right into the meaty part, the Polestar edition Volvo S60 produces 258 kW and 500 Nm from a 3.0 litre turbocharged in-line six cylinder engine. Yes, the glasses are off, and it’s time to save the world. The new Volvo S60 Polestar is really good. Polestar has gone through a tremendous effort to turn a safety focused sedan into a high-performance vehicle that is usable in almost every scenario. It comes as no surprise then that the Polestar is running a 4WD Haldex suspension system. That same system also has 80% stiffer springs than the standard Volvo S60. That being said, the vehicle is no back breaker, it’s firm but comfortable.
To stop all that power very quickly, the brakes on the Polestar have been upgraded to a Brembo/Polestar set and the 20-inch wheels wear sleek Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. Visually the Volvo S60 Polestar is easy to differentiate between the standard S60, partly because it is Smurf blue in colour. The other reason being that the car has different bumpers, wheels and aero, making it look more in tune with its superhero theme. It looks fantastic. Without even starting up that mighty powerplant in the front, the S60 Polestar sits quietly in the pits of Red Star Raceway, waiting to be opened up like a piece of bright blue candy.
How does it drive?
The power delivery from that sonorous six cylinder engine is linear and exciting. The twin-scroll turbocharging has made a great impact on the responsiveness of the engine. The gearbox in the Polestar is a six-speed automatic which allows you to hold a gear in manual mode. This has proved useful on the race track, and even though the gearbox is not the fastest unit out there, it gets the job done.
In a normal driving scenario, the transmission in the Polestar will be more than adequate, keeping true to Volvo’s goal of creating a car that can be used 365 days a year. With weather conditions changing so frequently, the use of a 4WD system in the car further adds to that sentiment. On the race track, the system worked very well under heavy pressure, allowing the vehicle to grip immensely through tight corners and chicanes. Understeer was very minimal in the car, instead, the S60 Polestar is very predictable and light on its feet on the road. So the modifications can clearly be seen and felt on the Polestar compared to the normal S60.
This Volvo is still an S60 at the end of the day, and Polestar has not sacrificed comfort or practicality while developing this car. If anything, they have created something that can be used in the real world, something that makes sense.
The interior has a premium feel to it with nubuck leather and silver and chrome bits placed here and there. The vehicle is also spacious enough to drive the family along in it when you’re in Clark Kent mode.
Surprisingly, the Volvo S60 Polestar costs R735 000, which is cheaper than a BMW 340i with some spec on it. It doesn’t matter though because Volvo South Africa is only bringing in 28 units, and there are already sold.
The real question is, who would this car appeal to? That is always something to think about when a brand not known for something decides to explore a different side to their usual persona. The Polestar seems to be the car for the conservative who has a wild side to him/her. The kind of person who is calculated and precise. If Clark Kent were real, he would probably drive a Volvo S60 Polestar. For everyday life, the car is a normal S60, but when the time comes, and it’s time to unbutton that shirt, the S60 can quickly transform from Clark Kent to Superman.
Since Opel’s transformation, they have released some great and innovative cars. One of those cars being the ever so fun Opel Adam, a car that has been a big hit for Opel South Africa. The slick and hip city car which is unique to the driver. The Adam has done fantastically well in a short period, selling over 1200 cars in South Africa. Everyone likes their cars to be personable to them, and Opel hit the nail on the head in that respect. The Adam can be customised in so many different ways that it’s possible not to find another Adam like yours on the road.
So we have the Adam, Adam Jam and Adam Glam but now it’s time for these current cool cats to welcome their new sibling to the world, The Adam Rocks. The car does rock, and it boasts the same three-cylinder turbo engine found in the Jam and Glam which is perfect for city driving. It’s also packed full of useful features such as Blind Spot Assist, Advanced Park Assist 2, auto-wipers and City steering. What separates the Adam rocks from its brothers and sisters, is very much a difference in its visual appearance. For starters, the vehicle has been raised by 15mm, and there is added exterior cladding to the wheel arches, fenders and bumpers. This immediately gives the Rocks a more bold, tough, off-road crossover look, which I think is great.
Another standout feature of the Adam Rocks is its canvas roof which opens up with the touch of a button, giving you that airy feeling. This is one very cool car; it has got the whole “image is everything” look just right.
After driving the Rocks, you realise that nothing has changed regarding the ride quality. You still get the feeling that this is a very well built car, small and nimble for city streets but with enough oomph for highways and longer drives. The 7-inch Intelli-Link system is simple but smart; you can even set the rear wiper to flick once when you select reverse gear.
The Adam Rocks start at R270 000. We know, it’s not cheap, but you’re not buying something cheap when you buy any Opel Adam. You’re buying a stylish, unique, German engineered vehicle packed full of features and fun. If the Adam Rocks is out of your price range, don’t fret too much, you can check out the other Adams in the range with prices starting at R190,000. If the small 1.0-litre engine is too soft for you and you’re looking for the Adam style but with a bit more performance, don’t worry the Adam S is just around the corner with Opel South Africa launching it soon. Stay tuned.