Tag: Volvo South Africa

Volvo’s Pilot Assist in South Africa – Does It Work?

Volvo's Pilot Assist

We test out Volvo’s Pilot Assist on South African roads.

With autonomous driving being the latest technology craze to enter the automotive industry, many car manufacturers are jumping on the band wagon and giving it a go. In South Africa, the likes of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volvo all have vehicles on the road with semi-autonomous driving features.

I recently spend over 1 000 km behind the wheel of a Volvo S90, which has their semi-autonomous driving system called “Pilot Assist” fitted as standard.

Volvo’s Pilot Assist works in conjunction with the Adaptive Cruise Control and controls speed, braking, the distance from the vehicle in front and steering, with the latter being for 15 seconds before it requires human intervention.

As long as there are clear line markings on either side of the vehicle, Pilot Assist will work very well. The driver still needs to keep proper attention to the road and after 15 seconds, a hand needs to be placed on or touch the steering wheel for the system to remain active. The system also works on slight bends that one may encounter on the road, but it is best to keep the your hands steering wheel as on a slightly sharper bend the vehicle tends to drift wide.

The Pilot Assist system is very effective for long distance driving. I used it extensively on a road trip from Durban to JHB and found that the Adaptive Cruise Control, which works in conjunction with Pilot Assist, is probably one of the best I have used. For example, when using ACC and planning to overtake, enabling the indicator causes the vehicle to prepare itself for acceleration. As the move is made, the car begins to accelerate smoothly and efficiently . I’ve tested systems before that would not begin accelerating until the car has completed its move to the next lane with no obstruction ahead. This results in waiting for what seems like hours before the vehicle kicks down and gets going. If the road is busy, it also results in other drivers flying up behind, headlights flashing… you know the sort. So, this is a feature which I greatly appreciated.

Pilot Assist also excels when stuck in traffic – think of the commute to work in one of our busy cities. This system removes the obligation of constantly being on the accelerator or brake pedal while crawling along at 20 km/h. Pilot Assist will also make slight steering adjustments as the car creeps forward so one can sit back, relax and enjoy Swedish luxury.

It is not just a gadget, it’s something a driver can use everyday to make their journey that little bit easier. Adaptive Cruise Control works up to 200 km/h with Pilot Assist having a 130 km/h limit. The system isn’t perfect, but it definitely is a giant leap in the right direction.

 

Watch an animation of Volvo’s Pilot Assist below:

Volvo South Africa’s new S60 Polestar is here: Say hello to Superman.

Volvo South Africa’s new beast

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.

Verdict

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.