Is the Rolls Royce Sweptail the future of real luxury cars?
Imagine a vehicle custom built just for you. A car designed with your taste in mind, featuring the items you desire whilst doing without the items which hold no value for your needs. Now imagine the manufacturer producing your personal masterpiece was non-other than Rolls-Royce – a company who build cars with a quality and luxury that is second to none.
This, for many, is the stuff of dreams. For one particular Rolls Royce client, its reality, and this reality holds the name “Sweptail”.
This idea started back in 2013 when a very special Rolls-Royce client approached the firm with a proposal to make a one-off luxury vehicle just for him. The client wanted a two- seater coach built coupe with a large panoramic roof and drew inspiration from yachts and golden era cars from the early 20th century. This really is a beautiful, pristine masterpiece using the finest materials on offer.
There are many features to swoon over but a personal favourite is the custom Carbon Fibre briefcase covered in matching Sweptail leather. This case won’t be sitting in the passenger footwell, it will fit into its own compartment located in the body of the vehicle behind the opening of the doors. Similar to that of the Umbrella storage which Rolls-Royces are renowned for.
Are vehicles like this the future of the luxury car?
It is just not good enough anymore to have a luxury vehicle such as a Phantom or Dawn. Over the past few years, we have seen manufacturers offering more levels of personalization and custom options. It was only a matter of time that a vehicle like the Rolls Royce Sweptail would appear on the scene. We could be seeing more custom built, one-off luxury Rolls Royces in the future as there is interest from other special clients to invest in this one-0ff idea. At $13 Million dollars or R167 Million Rand, the Rolls-Royce Sweptail is the most expensive car ever sold, this really is a vehicle for the very tiny percentage of the world.
Over the past few years, the Volvo brand has undergone a regeneration. Combining their reputation of driving safety with swedish luxury has seemed to be their main goal, making sure the vehicles they build are the last word in safety, as well as beautiful in every way. The first vehicle to receive that treatment was the XC90, a luxury SUV which quite frankly blew a lot of people away with its design, styling and technology.
The Volvo S90 is the next vehicle in Volvo’s line up to receive this treatment, a luxury sedan bringing the fight to the likes of BMW’s 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and having driven both of those vehicles, the Germans should be worried.
My first thoughts when entering the cabin of the Volvo S90 were how similar the it felt to the XC90. It has a very clean and elegant feel. High quality materials emphasise the crisp finishings and buttons which are all centered around the 9.3” Sensus Connect Touch Screen. There are few buttons in the S90 thanks to this system which controls everything from the colour of the interior lights to the A/C system and like the XC90, it works very well, it almost feels natural.
If the XC90 is the younger more beefy teenager, than the S90 must be the older man. It’s very elegant, a trait can be seen through the exterior design. It looks beautiful with its long and sleek style. The front end of the vehicle houses a large chrome grill which harkens back to that of the Volvo P1800, as well as the trademark Thor’s Hammer daytime running lights and while the rear end has received some criticism regarding its design, mainly that it looks sad, in the flesh it looks pretty good. A BMW 5 Series looks aggressive and sporty, whereas the S90 has an elegant and executive feel. It is very Harvey Specter – clean and crisp with nothing out of place.
There are various engines available in the Volvo S90 and this was the first of two variants I was testing, the D5 AWD Inscription. This is most powerful diesel engine currently available in the S90 and provides 173 kW and 480 N.m from its 2.0-litre Twin Turbocharged engine, which also features PowerPulse.
PowerPulse is a system currently exclusive to Volvo. It consists of a 2.0-litre canister which forces compressed air into the turbo to decrease spooling times dramatically, thus reducing and eliminating turbo-lag. This system seemed to work well when accelerating hard.
Here’s the thing with the S90 D5, it didn’t make me feel like I wanted to accelerate hard or drive progressively at all. The Volvo made me feel very relaxed behind the wheel, I sort of pottered around everywhere, taking it nice and easy. The calm and quiet D5 gave of a very relaxing aura
At times I felt like a chauffeur, trying to give my passengers the most comfortable ride possible, even though most of the time I was the only person in the car. It was a fantastic feeling, as though I had escaped the South African road rush – I was in my own little luxury bubble and felt like I had all the time in the world. I could not even hear the chaos that usually consumes South African roads, but that probably had something to do with the 19 speaker Bowers and Wilkins sound system (Short video on the system here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSd5KcR0qf4)
Add this to Volvo’s Pilot Assist, which needs an article for itself (find it here), and you have a fantastic vehicle. Driving a car for long distances can add to one’s stress and tension, but driving the Volvo S90 does the exact opposite.
The S90 D5 AWD isn’t badly priced either at R821,200 and also comes with some very good features as standard. One will find features as LED Headlights, Electric seats, Adaptive cruise control with Pilot Assist, climate control and Navigation. For an extra R65,000 a buyer can add the Premium Pack, which offers the following:
o Heated front seats with power-adjustable side supports
o Powered boot lid
o Power-folding rear seats
o Auto-dimming side and interior mirrors
o Visual Park Assist incl. 360-degree HD camera
o Bowers & Wilkins premium audio, 19-speaker
o Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert
o Park Assist Pilot incl. Park Out function
o Keyless entry and starting, incl. hands-free boot lid opening & closing
Other options I would recommend are the smartphone Integration with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto – a R4 000 option. The Volvo I tested also had a Head Up Display (R14 500) and Air suspension with the Active Chassis system( R17 500) expensive extras, but are most likely worth it and notably cheaper than equivalent options from competitor manufacturers. Spec an E-Class or 5 Series to the same level as this car and you’ll be truly shocked at the price difference. In terms of value for money, the S90 rules this segment.
The Volvo S90 is a wonderful machine and there isn’t much I can fault. The key could perhaps be made with higher quality materials , but that is the only item that felt a little cheap on this car.
Then there is the issue of who this car appeals to. Have Volvo done enough to attract a younger audience? Maybe. I still feel many buyers around 35 years of age and looking for a vehicle in this segment would still opt for a BMW 5 Series. This does not necessarily mean it’s a better car, because it isn’t. Everything about the S90 would appeal to a younger person, but the brand itself still has to work off its older appeal. Time will tell how this works out. For me, I would take an XC90 everyday of the week because it just has that younger feel.
How does the S90 D5 compare to it’s more powerful sibling, the fiery, 235 kW S90 T6. Find out here:
Semi-autonomous Driving In The New Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Autonomous driving is a technology which is rapidly growing in the automotive industry. On the road today, we have semi-autonomous driving vehicles which are able to accelerate, brake and steer, for short periods of time, without any human input. One doesn’t even need to turn to the upper echelon of motoring to find this sort of technology as vehicles such as the Volvo S90 and BMW 5 Series are able to tootle along all by themselves.
Even Though fully autonomous driving is still a way off for mainstream car makers, more and more vehicle manufacturers are spending increasing amounts of money and time developing technologies this field, making their cars more intelligent and less dependent on the driver. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has always stood at the forefront of automotive technological advancements, so the updated S-Class promises to be a bit of a spaceship, due in South Africa later this year.
Mercedes-Benz claim that the updated S-Class will be able to support its driver considerably better than all systems which have been available to date, but whether this means all systems currently on the market, such as Volvo’s Pilot Assist or just Mercedes-Benz’s systems remains a mystery. Anyway, let’s take a look at the details of Mercedes Semi-Autonomous driving systems.
Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC
This system uses the route ahead to increase or decrease speed. For example, if the vehicle detects a bend, junction, roundabout or toll both in its path, it will slow the vehicle down accordingly.
The S-Class will also use information from the driver’s navigation input. If the route informs the driver to leave a highway and the car is in the slow lane, the vehicle will automatically reduce speed for the off-ramp. This also applies to junctions.
Active Lane Change Assist
Hitting the Indicator stalk when driving at speeds between 80 – 180 km/h actives this system. The vehicle’s sensors use the next 10 seconds to check all the vehicle safety zones and whether or not the relevant lane is clear. It also monitors the speed of other vehicles to see that all is ok, and if so, the S-Class will change lanes.
Active Speed Limit Assist
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class will pick up on road signs and temporary speed limit signs such as one would find when approaching road works. It also knows recorded limits from the navigation system.
Following vehicles in a tailback
This feature is perfect for the road users in Johannesburg. The new S-Class is able to stop and then restart and follow vehicles in traffic if the stops are shorter than 30 seconds. No more on and off the brake and accelerator in stop/start traffic, then!
Active Emergency Stop Assist
One to put your mind at ease if you are an easy sleeper! If the S-Class detects no response from the driver while using Active Steering Assist, the vehicle prompts the driver to take action. If no action is taken ( because you are dreaming peacefully or in a medical emergency) the vehicle will then slowly bring itself to a stop in its current lane. Once stopped, the parking brake is engaged, Mercedes-Benz Emergency Call System is activated and the doors are unlocked.
Active Brake Assist & Evasive Steering Assist
This features aids the driver in avoiding collisions with other vehicles and pedestrians. It first starts with warning the driver if there is adequate distance to do so. If not, the vehicle will apply the brakes.
Further to this, Evasive Steering Assist will support the driver and apply extra steering torque when taking evasive action because a pedestrian is in the vehicle danger zone. The vehicle will then stabilize itself after the maneuver has taken place.
Active Keep Lane Assist
Between speeds of 60 and 200 km/h, the S-Class will warn the driver via vibrations if the vehicle drifts out of its lane and can apply vehicle brakes on one side to bring the driver back into its lane. If this happens on a road with broken white lines, the vehicle will only take action if there is a chance of collision with another vehicle (for all you lazy non indicator types).
Active Blind Spot Assist
A system found on many new vehicles today and similar to that above – the Mercedes-Benz S-Class will apply brakes on one side of the vehicle to avoid an impending side collision.
Traffic Sign Assist
This system, which works along with Active Speed Limit Assist using image recognition and information from the road map in the navigation system, displays road signs on the instrument cluster.
It will bring up any overtaking restrictions for the route, such as zebra crossings, and will provide a warning if pedestrians are found in said crossing. “No entry” signs are also recognized and the vehicle will prompt you to check your direction of travel.
This is basically talking cars! A technology first seen in the form of Volvo’s Vehicle-to-vehicle communication, if a vehicle ahead has detected a hazardous condition, this information is then relayed back to other vehicles to provide an early warning. A voice warning may also be given to the driver depending on the situation.
Developers are currently trying to get this system in use with as many vehicle manufacturers as possible, thus creating a very effective system. A car plus kit will also be available for drivers whose vehicles do not support Car-to-X so they can also benefit from this system.
Active Parking Assist
Cars that park themselves are no longer a big surprise, and this system is very similar to others. The S-Class can also apply braking automatically when parking if it has noticed a hazard or possible collision.
Remote Parking Assist
A system we first witnessed on the new BMW 5 Series, the S-Class can now be parked into spaces or even driven out of spaces when the driver is outside the vehicle. The BMW 5 Series uses the vehicle key for this, whereas the Mercedes system will be controlled using an app on a smartphone.
The major benefit of this is being able to park the vehicle in tight spaces without having the issue of the driver trying to exit the vehicle afterwards. This system also works well if the driver has been parked in. The system will allow manoeuvrability of the vehicle by up to 15 metres and will also avoid obstacles, for those who were never good at R/C cars as a child or adult. So there you have it, another step in the right direction for autonomous driving for Mercedes-Benz. No news yet on whether these features will be standard or optional extras, but if you can afford an S-Class, chances are it won’t matter much either way.