Posts tagged ‘volvo’

Text and photos by The Lenspeed Team

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The Volvo S80 has always had a soft spot for me. A family friend used to have one, and I always remembered how comfortable the seats felt and, for its time, how surprisingly luxurious it was too. The current S80 we sampled is still a lovely thing, but a lot subtler than the previous model and looks smaller too, despite its flagship status. The new S90 is set to change all that, but let’s revisit this outgoing model before ushering in the new…

If you do not mind something that looks safe and conservative, the S80 fits the bill to a tee. While having a clean and uncluttered design language, in the company of flashier competitors the car does seem to fade into the background a little. It’s still an attractive car, but not quite as bold as we’d like.

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The interior also echoes the exterior, with safe and solid design that appears to be able to last for generations, but is not particularly interesting. The fact that it is not that all dissimilar to a S60’s also means it begs to feel a lot more special given it should be a cut above its smaller sibling.

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The drivetrain is probably the most modern aspect of the car. In T5 guise, as in the previous versions we’ve tried in the S60 and XC60, the car is undeniably brisk. In purely quantifiable terms there is all the power you’d ever need, with lots of torque and an efficient gearbox to make the most out of it. It’s a pity then that the engine doesn’t sound particularly good and as a whole feels more utilitarian above all else.

The handling is cut from the same cloth as the S60, which is safe and predictable but isn’t all that fun to drive. The steering as we’ve noticed before is also as dull here as it is in the S60.

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So, with all that, are we ready for the S90? While the S80 has been a soldier for its time, and has aged gracefully, a tough competitor is needed for the segment. And oh yes, we cannot wait for the S90 to arrive. Especially in wagon form…

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By The Lenspeed Team

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Lenspeed recently took the Volvo S60 T5 out for a spin. It’s not by any measure a car that promotes the thrill of driving, but we decided to have a go because this is the most powerful variant of the S60 you can buy in Singapore. In fact, only the T6 and Polestar trumps the T5, both of which are not available in our market.

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More often than not, Volvos have surprisingly healthy outputs from under the bonnet, although you can hardly tell. The new 2.0-litre engine delivers 245bhp and 350Nm, roughly what you’d get in a Mk7 Golf GTI except the Volvo produces even more power. It is applied across the range in the XC60, V60 and S80, but finds the most benefit in the S60 – giving a 0-100km/h sprint time of only 6.3 seconds.

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On the move at city speeds, as in the XC60 we previously tried, the engine noise is gravelly and obvious, although one cannot fault its acceleration, with 350Nm delivered at only 1,500rpm all the way till 4,800rpm. You can feel it as the car propels forward rather effortlessly. At higher rpms, the engine never really graduates from its rough-edged nature, although the pull is relentless and more than enough to have fun with.

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Does the chassis match up, though? The S60, it must be said, drives virtually identically to the V60 previously sampled by Lenspeed (click here to read our past review). Despite the extra power, the car feels inert and slightly numb, ultimately stable but giving even less feel than an equivalent Volkswagen – if you ever regarded Volkswagens as efficient but slightly dull.

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The culprit is the steering, which has a larger turning radius than what one expects. It is slow to respond and is geared for relaxed driving rather than precision. One can imagine a man wearing triple layer jackets driving on slippery rice would appreciate the steering.

The suspension setup is leaning towards the sporty side of things, which does pay some dividends in handling but with a understeer-biased setup, you will soon rather just cruise along than carve corners. In fact, at low speed humps and undulations the suspension is surprisingly harsh and unforgiving.

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Thankfully, the plush and award-winning seats bear most of the burden. As in the V60, they were finished in a delicious brown/dark grey combination and with leather so soft you may think you are in your living room. I am without a doubt that these are probably the most comfortable seats in the automotive world. Well, for this segment anyway.

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The interior is predictable, somewhat high quality but feels dated. Although it has new-fangled tech like Sensus Connect (in-car Internet, etc), the screen size is a tad small and the hard plastic buttons are now a little old next to what Koreans (Kia!) can offer these days. The addition of paddle shifters is welcome, though – something that the V60 did not have.

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So is this a Lenspeed car? Unfortunately, while the V60 had the rapid wagon appeal, the S60 has to contend with very stiff competition from Germany that offer cars more stylish, modern and better-built inside and out. In this instance, the car’s supposed sporty addendum – black rims, paddle shifters, powerful engine, stiff suspension – raised the expectations a little too high.

Nonetheless, we see potential with this car. If the S60 T5 is this competent, gifted with a better engine it could well be the sporty Volvo we are dreaming of. Like the Polestar.

 

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By The Lenspeed Team

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There are a few brands out there known for building desirable wagons. One is Audi for their Avants, which are often more desirable than their sedan counterparts. Another is Volvo, thanks to its family-friendly image and focus on safety. Although not immediately apparent as a Lenspeed candidate, Volvo claims that its V60 will blend the versatility of an estate with the dynamic handling of a sports sedan. And that has piqued our interest. Let’s see if that claim holds any water.

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There is much to admire about the looks of the V60. Every angle you turn, the car is effortlessly stylish, compact and svelte. On this test car, the rims don’t quite bring out the best in the car and neither does its black paintwork, but I cannot deny that this is truly one handsome car. My favourite design line runs across the belt line, curving every so slightly above the wheel arches and tapering off beautifully at the rear. It’s organic, and in a way almost modeled after a living thing. The twin tailpipes and daytime running lights also elevate its appeal among the style conscious. For those who like attention to detail, Volvo has also relocated its previously visible washer nozzles on its bonnet to underneath it to add to its aesthetic appeal.

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Step inside and the first striking thing are the leather seats. Lovingly sewn together with fine stitches, the stupendously soft nappa-like leather wraps you in warmth as you place yourself inside the oasis of calm. I would go so far to say that the seats are the main highlight of this particular V60! They have to be tried. Here are more photos of the sumptuous leather seats:

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The two-tone colour is also very appealing!

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Some parts of the seat make it feel like a carefully made baseball glove.

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The other details are typically Volvo, from the big buttons on the steering wheel (seemingly built as such to be pressed with thick winter gloves) and the delicate buttons on the centre console. Although everything is quite highly quality it does seem to lack the last edge of finesse in finish that you’d find in the latest German rivals.

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One thing that we did like very much is the brushed metal accents around the interior, which just feels very expensive.

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If you’re curious, the boot space is also practical (430L, 1241L with seats folded) although the wonderful exterior profile does mean you have quite a low ceiling that can sometimes catch out large items and also taller people sitting in the car.

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So how does it drive? It’s worth pointing out that the car came with a host of safety features, including the ingenious City Safety. This works up to speeds of 50km/h and will brake for you if it senses that the driver fails to react in time to a vehicle/object in front. It’s usually passive, but it activated on my drive when I was entering a car park, at the gantry barrier. Because I usually approach the barrier quite quickly and closely, the car sensed its presence and braked hard to ensure that I did not proceed further. Although I was confident I wouldn’t hit the barrier, it made doubly sure I wouldn’t anyway. A nifty feature, especially for people like my dad who may not pay that much attention to the road.

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The T4 engine in the test car is the only petrol variant you can choose from and the only other available option is the highly frugal D2. In numbers, it compares as how you’d expect with the diesel – less torque, higher bhp, higher FC and CO2 emissions. The T4 won’t get the $15,000 CEVS rebate that the D2 would enjoy too.

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But the upside is that you do get a smoother, quieter engine. I’ve tried the D2 engine, albeit in the V40, and it proved to be quite gruff and unrefined. The T4 on the other hand feels very well sorted, delivering a good pace in the low-end and aiding in spirited driving. It’s worth revving the engine out to its top end as it does have a good spread of power, though you may just not bother because the car doesn’t have any paddle shifters to make it easy for you to play when you want. Thankfully, the engine is happy if you just allow it to sit in the background and do its business. Unfortunately, it doesn’t return really good fuel consumption although it just about hits the mark for its capacity and output.

Interestingly, if you walk into the showroom now and order a new V60, you can only get the D2 as the T4 has been phased out for the Singapore market…

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In the handling stakes, the V60 will be a bit of a surprise for a Volvo. Riding stiffer than any other Volvo I can remember driving, the damping feels more sporty than school run. It’ll allow you to drive the car quite hard and not feel like you’re making a fool of yourself hauling an estate around corners. It’s a understeer-biased handler, but this is no bad thing as it is highly predictable in its responses. The thing that lets down this potential sportiness is its steering, which feels slow-witted and a bit too lazily geared to make the best use of the car’s chassis.

So, does this estate live up to its maker’s claims of being both versatile and sporty at the same time? We think it does above average in both respects, but it’s not a class leader by any means. What it is, however, is a highly competent and accomplished wagon if assessed independently of any other car. We’d go for a diesel though, but with a quieter engine than the D2!

 

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By The Lenspeed Team

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Volvo isn’t the first brand that comes to mind at Lenspeed when we talk about driver’s cars, but the surprising proliferation of efficient and powerful turbocharged engines (and some twincharged!), plus the addition of an Aisin 8-speed transmission in new Drive-E models, have made us sit up and pay more attention.

Under Chinese ownership, Volvo has seemed to have lost none of its Scandinavian roots, betraying none of the source of its new-found lease of life. Like how Tata has managed Jaguar Land Rover, Geely has largely kept its hands off the operations at Volvo, providing only the funds that have allowed Volvo to innovate and modernise.  The new XC90 is the first car Volvo has launched since being bought by Geely, and from first impressions it looks fantastic inside and out. It’s the same story with the technology we find in Volvos nowadays, which can surprise even Wall-E.

We’re curious to know how all of this new tech underneath has translated to the driving experience, so we took a XC60 T5 Drive-E to find out.

The XC60 was always a handsome looking SUV, and those charmed by Twilight may remember Edward Cullen driving one (I had to Google his name, by the way. Definitely not a Twilight type). Its lines are clean and yet captivating, which is an achievement – how this is done is perhaps the reason why it all seems so right: the designer of the XC60 was inspired by flowing water in a river near his home. Naturally-inspired design never age, as they are made to last a lifetime!

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One slightly disappointing change, to my eyes, from the pre-facelift to the current car, is the front cosmetic change which now feature single headlights instead of the more interesting two-part design in place before. Now this looks like a simplification that removed a little sophistication (see below for the old headlights).

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Moving inside, the interior is a slightly off-beat mix of durability and luxury. Everything feels like it’s built to last the triplets and their growing up battles (dropping ice cream, soiling, etc) but yet the soft leather and well-judged materials are definitely a step above what you may find in, say, a Volkswagen. This juxtaposition extends to the centre console and instrumentation, where the former feels decidedly aged next to its rivals with its myriad of buttons and a slightly frivolous ‘manikin’, while the latter is a super high-tech switchable digital gauge that is frankly a bit pointless. I just stuck to my favourite gauge and didn’t bother about it anymore. I doubt any owner would be changing his gauge designs very often, if at all. Taken as a package the interior feels like a mix of old and new, comfortable but not quite luxurious. Of course all of this does fade into the background once you sample the seats – which are very supple and soothing – and start driving, as everything does work perfectly intuitively.

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You sit pretty high in the XC60, but Volvo has made it easy to get in and out of, which wasn’t a problem at all for the parents. In fact, driving around urban areas was a cinch thanks to great visibility all-round. However, you do feel the size of the car when it comes to parking, although with a reverse camera it helps to make sure you don’t back up too far. Also, while the XC60 feels more car-like than MPV, its slow-witted steering is ponderous and feels as if it is hampering the rest of the car, which is eager to be driven more spiritedly.

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Now on to the major changes of the Drive-E model: with a brand-new 2.0-litre four-cylinder developed in-house at Volvo, the engine is good for 245bhp and 350Nm. It features friction reduction measures such as ball bearings on the camshaft and high-speed continuous variable valve timing. Admittedly, it’s as good a turbocharged engine as the best out there, with a strong and linear delivery that can shove this SUV to pace with ease. Because it is FWD only, the engine can efficiently pull the XC60 along without any weight and drivetrain debt of a AWD vehicle, giving commendable fuel economy for a car of its size. A win-win in Singapore really, if you insist on having an SUV. One thing I rather dislike about the engine though, is the sound it makes – more vacuum cleaner than cutting-edge engineering, it is at times as noisy as a diesel on idle and maybe even more so on load. Not a pleasant workhorse to hear by any means, but at least it does an exceptionally good job while at it.

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There is also little to fault about the Aisin gearbox. It is fast, seems to be wired directly to my brain and exceptionally efficient. Although not strictly a Volvo engineered device, it is at least very well-paired to the engine. Interestingly enough, you can at the same time also get a XC60 R-Design with an older 4-cylinder turbo engine equipped with a 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox dubbed powershift, but having experienced both gearboxes we’d much rather have the Aisin box.

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An interesting thing about the ECO+ mode in the XC60 that sets it apart from other Start-Stop systems is that it cuts off the engine even before the car comes to a complete stop. Although I’m unsure how much more fuel this will save as compared to a conventional Start-Stop, it does work pretty unobtrusively and is slightly unnerving, in a good way.

Another feature in the Drive-E model is Volvo Sensus Connect, which taps onto your mobile phone to activate web surfing and internet radio in the car, the former limited to only up to 7 km/h. We didn’t get to try this feature when we had the car, although we got a demonstration of an engine remote start, which might come in handy to get the interior frosty before actually stepping in!

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When we returned the car, we were a bit sad to give back a car that balances utilitarian and style in a way that only Volvo can manage. It’s certainly an appealing proposition for families, and in our view there are really no direct competitors in Volvo’s segment that is not quite mass yet not quite luxury. And maybe for that reason alone, the XC60 would find its niche of buyers. Yet, because of its stellar drivetrain that brings the XC60 up to speed with its German and Japanese rivals, it might even attract a clientele beyond that niche…

 

 

 

 

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By The Lenspeed Team

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With a big banner saying ‘Muzium Pengangkutan Melaka’, we weren’t sure if we understood what it meant when we passed by it, careening along the A-road leading into Melaka. However, quick glances at the building housing the banner stole glimpses of cars on display, one of which was a Bentley prominently placed on the centre-stage, plus a couple of other classics.  Just our good fortune to chance upon a motor museum – just when we were just planning to make the trip purely for food! We decided that after filling up our tummies, we had to give this one a proper look. Capturing the museum’s location, we traced back our steps again to look for probably what no one else in Singapore has ever seen (or bothered) to see: Melaka’s very own autocity.

There is scant information about this promisingly-named area, but from what we gather it is meant to be an agglomeration of workshops, dealerships, authorised servicing centres and auto suppliers in one central location. Unfortunately from our visit on a weekend it seems like 90% of the area is unoccupied, and Proton is pretty much the only major active tenant there. Its placing nearby to the Melaka International Trade Centre (MITC) seems to serve no purpose but for the fact that car park lots are aplenty.

While it may be somewhat of a ghost town, its Transportation Museum does offer some reason for a visit if, for one reason or another, other attractions in Melaka just don’t appeal to you. If, at this point, you would probably not visit this place again ever in your life, count on us to show you how it is like anyway!

The Transportation Museum was, reportedly, opened on 2 January 2010 “as an adjunct” to Malaysia’s (booming) car industry – HICOM (Heavy Industries Corporation of Malaysia), Proton, Perodua and MODENAS (National Motor-cycles and Engines, not the place in Italy, mind!). We like the idea, but we can’t help but be a bit curious when we were just about the only visitors when we dropped by. Fans had to be turned on and legs lifted off tables as we – alas! – paid the entry fees to visit the museum! Enjoy our photo tour.

Luxury cars were a dime a dozen in the museum, like this 1960s BMW saloon…

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And this stretched W114 Merc. Best of all, most them were unlocked so if you wanted (and if you risked getting security onto you), you could get a seat in these which you probably can’t do in most other ‘proper’ museums.

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There were a couple of Mercs. Either the museum loved them a lot, or their donors did! Here’s another W114.

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There’s even a W220 S500, although we’re unsure why it’s held up by jack stands. We reckon it’s to prevent the AIRMATIC suspension from seizing up.

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There were beauties, like our personal favourite, the Volvo P1800…

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And the rear-engined Kharmann Ghia (related to the Beetle).

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There were also rarities, like this unidentified Volkswagen vehicle…

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Complete with Wolfsburg logos and Mk3/Mk4 Golf seats! We suspect it’s based on the Beetle, because of its central twin exhausts.

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But also oddities, like this crumbling horse-drawn cart.

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For our JDM fans, a Datsun! (Sorry we haven’t got a clue what model this is.) Oh, and yes that’s a jet plane you see at the back.

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We understand the museum is a ‘rare gem’, so the cars may not be in their best condition (yes that’s mould in the E32 7er’s interior)…

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But hey, at least the coach line on the Bentley remains well intact.

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Interestingly enough, this Bentley Eight’s interior reminds us of both the interiors of a modern Rolls-Royce (door design) and a modern Bentley (dashboard, especially the top one-piece leather).

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That’s all folks! If you want to find this place for yourself, here is the address:

Address: Melaka Autocity, Taman Tasik Utama, 75350 Melaka
GPS coordinates: N 2.283982, E 102.270656

 

 

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