Sunday, April 11, 2010

I can't believe it, but I bought another Volvo

Having owned sports cars for the majority of my life, I was amazed that the car I eventually ended up with was a Volvo.

Now before you say, "well, you just never had a 'real' sports car," let me just mention the laundry list of vehicles I had the privilege of owning (you can find my reviews of them scattered throughout this blog): BMW M Roadster, BMW M3 Convertible, Honda S2000, Porsche 911 Carrera 2.  As you can see, I had pretty much owned, driven, and tracked a good demographic of some of the top non-exotic sports cars out there.  I personally have never owned a Nissan 350Z or Mitsubishi Lancer Evo (although they are great cars) because by the time they finally made it to the US market I was already in the 911.

The downside of owning vehicles that push the envelope of technology is they break.  My M Roadster and M3 constantly had issues.  In fact, my M3 engine detonated and the whole engine had to be replaced.  The Porsche required constant maintenance and if you're not prepared to spend anywhere from $1,000-$3,000 on average per year on that car, you're probably not ready to own one.  Unfortunately, one of my friends failed to listen to my advice and ended up buying an old 911 that for 2-years almost bankrupted him.  Fortunately, he sold it and now drives a much more sensible, and reliable Prius.

I love sports cars, and I always will.  Someday, I hope I will be fortunate enough to own another Porsche or more likely the Aston Martin Vantage.  Until then, I had to consider one very important factor in my car purchase as I reach that big 3-0 mark: practicality.

One vehicle my family always had around was this maroon 1996 Volvo 850 Turbo.  That vehicle has served faithfully as my "in between" vehicle or back up vehicle for a good 14-years.  My family purchase the vehicle new.

That vehicle was the car my parents donated to me when I first graduated from college as well as the car I drove around town when ever one of my sports cars broke.  In fact, when a 70-pound Doberman became a member of my family and accelerated the replacement of my 911, that Volvo served faithfully as my only car until the radiator fell off over 9-month later.  I would like to point out that the radiator was cracked and eventually fell off the car because my mother was not paying attention and rear ended a SUV (something City Safety could have prevented) prior to giving me the vehicle, and is not from the construction and/or design of the Volvo itself.

Fortunately, I had been passively looking at replacement vehicles during the 9-month period.  As my only car, practicality has factored in greatly in my purchase decisions.  Having the Doberman both in my Porsche as well as the faithful Volvo 850, I realized I need a separate compartment, ideally a wagon type trunk, to segregate the dog.  Otherwise, the dog has an amazing ability of rubbing off and leaving his fur all over the car.   I also did not like big cars, and always preferred vehicles that had a lower center of gravity.  Lastly, I have been spoiled by all of my European vehicles -- I wanted a vehicle with a luxurious interior.

Oh, and all that had to be packaged in a vehicle around the $30,000 range.  The only car that fit the bill was this new crossover that Volvo recently came out with, the XC60, or a station wagon.  Guess which one I chose?

Having had the car for only 3-weeks, my overall impressions of the car has generally been positive.  The car isn't a Porsche in handling or performance but it is very luxurious and comfortable.  The ride is firm but compared to my 911 as plush as riding on pillows.  As long as you're not a lead foot, the car drives very smoothly and the vehicle probably has some of the most massive breaks I have ever seen.  I am amused at the pet divider being sturdy enough to possibly hold zoo animals (maybe some bobcats), but it does do an excellent job of keep my Doberman where he should be, in the back.  With my previous cars I would of had to fight with him when I needed to shift gears.  I am also proud to say I have not yet had to utilize the City Safety feature (though my mom could have used this feature in the 850 to prevent her accident).  A couple of things that are annoying about the XC60 are the City Safety feature and the tire pressure monitor.  The City Safety feature is guaranteed to set off your radar detector's LIDAR function.  The Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) will error randomly while driving at highway speeds for no reason what-so-ever.  I already took my car to the dealer once and they had not fixed the problem, so far I have been too lazy to take it back again, but will need to eventually.  With a 5-year/60,000 mile free maintenance and warranty, I should have plenty of time.

I did not get the vehicle with any silly "sports package" or the "more powerful" engine.  I may be condescending with what I'm going to say next, but I really don't think any sedan, SUV, or minivan really needs a "sports package", 19 inch rims, or 300+ horsepower engine.  If you really want an automobile that handles well and goes fast, get a real sports car.  I am getting a lot of grief from my girlfriend for not getting the climate package that would have included heated seats.  This could be a guy thing, but I never really understood a girl's fascination with seats that keep your butt warm.

Here is a pretty funny review of the Volvo XC60's new City Safety feature on 5TH Gear.  One of the announcers actually jumped out of the car... and the car still automatically stopped.  Yay to technology!

I would highly recommend the XC60 to young couples (and young newlyweds) that need something safe and stylish as their primary car. If your family is as well endowed as the Brady Bunch, maybe you should consider the 3-row seated XC90, Suburban, or that really cool Mercedes Benz SUV.

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