By on March 1, 2010

Oh deer. Picture courtesy

Ask a non gearhead on the street (or pub, restaurant, clubs, etc) “who builds the most reliable cars?” and names like “Toyota”, “Hyundai”, “Ford” and “Honda” will crop up. Ask who builds the safest cars on the road and almost certainly, the name “Volvo” will be said.

The thing is Volvo lost their safety crown a long time ago to those 35 hour a week working, industrial action initiating, part government owned Frenchies. Renault. Renault consistently set new standards in safety and crash tests, lapping up praise from Euro NCAP. Some of this technical know-how has even trickled into Renault’s partner, Nissan. The Nissan Qashqai (thankfully renamed Rogue in the U.S., although it wasn’t a big improvement) achieved the highest ever Euro NCAP score. But now, it seems, Volvo is fighting back to regain the coveted safety title.

Germany’s ADAC, the world’s largest automotive organization, has performed a comparison of different automatic speed and distance control systems, commonly called “ACC” – No, that’s not “ACCessory,” it stands for “Adaptive Cruise Control,” get with the program.

Formerly the realm of luxobarges, the frontal RADAR or laser systems that allow you to text in the thickest of traffic, now become common for the middle class. As a pricey optional ACCessory, of course

ADAC tested usability, added comfort, and avoidance of ACCidents.

The Volvo XC60 bested 6 other models (the other models being, the Audi A4, Volkswagen Passat CC, the Lexus IS, the Ford Mondeo and the Honda Accord). In their laudation, ADAC praise that “the Volvo system scores above all due to the fact that it consistently puts its emphasis on accident avoidance. The driver is informed about a danger by a red flashing warning lamp, which is projected onto the windscreen. At low speeds, below 30 km/h, the additional, integrated laser technology called City Safety also recognizes stationary vehicles and in a potential accident situation, brakes in time to stop the car.”

ADAC even heaped ACClaim on a mysterious feature of Volvo’s system, “with the ACC switched off, the driver is efficiently but not disturbingly warned, if below the safety distance.”

Volvo will ACCelerate their quest for beneficial gadgetry. The new S60, which is being premiered at the Geneva Motor Show, will of course have ACC, along with a “world first:”. Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake (snappy name – PDFAB?). This system will brake automatically for pedestrians and can avoid a collision at speeds up to 35kph (nearly 22mph).

Watch out, Renault, the Swedes are in your rear view mirror, but don’t worry, they won’t crash into you. Now, should that deal with Geely ever get completed …

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11 Comments on “Volvo: The Safe Choice, Again?...”

  • avatar

    The proof will be in the pudding – or should I say insurance claims. I’d certainly consider it possible that such a system will significantly reduce “fender benders” i.e. low speed accidents.

  • avatar

    the French know how to live well

  • avatar

    Yet the various “real world” studies still seem to always show Volvo and Saab as better. I can’t help to think that the mid-price brands like Renault and Ford are designing specifically to do very well on the tests, possibly at the expense of the real world. But that is just the cynic in me talking.

    Passive safety plays relatively little role in my choice of cars – I buy them to drive, not to crash. If I truly wanted to buy a car to crash, I would look no farther than an S-class Benz. I actually do know someone who tried to move a bridge pier with one at highway speed, and walked away.

    • 0 avatar

      You should spend some time with the trauma team. The worst part isn’t the ones who die, it’s the traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries that really devastate individuals and their families.

  • avatar
    Alex Dykes

    This is a very tricky area, but I would agree with Krhodes that Volvo and Saab at least claim to design their cars for real world experiences rather than government tests. Honestly we may never know if this is true or not, because we would need a great deal of real-world crash test information that is just not available to us. I do know that Volvo spends a great deal of research time on crash tests unrelated to the Euro NCAP or NHTSA or IIHS tests. Whether this means anything is anyone’s guess. Volvo’s recent focus on accident prevention is interesting, but I have long felt that Volvo fails to cash in on their reputation properly. I think a slightly more edgy campaign in the USA would work well for them. If they can’t stomach that, just import some of the Euro commercials to the USA, that would turn some heads, and probably in a good way.

  • avatar

    “The proof will be in the pudding – or should I say insurance claims.”

    Maybe not. The most important aspect of insurance claims is the driver. Marketing, perception, and trends all affect which kinds of consumers buy which kinds of vehicles.

    • 0 avatar


      Do you think the buyers of the 2009 S60 are going to be that different from the buyers of the 2011 – demographically speaking?

      The insurance claim numbers I’d be looking at are the number of fender benders in 2009 among buyers of 2009 S60 vs. the number of fender benders in 2011 with buyers of 2011 S60s.

  • avatar

    Usually, I neither drive drunk nor blinded, so I can’t see the point in having such a device. I’m in “alarm mode”, already, when I drive.

    But I do not doubt that thanks to the usual alliance between useless busy bodies and fearful whiners this feature will become mandatory, sooner or later.

    Waiting for the “unintended braking” incidents I’m saving money to buy a decent old car.

    • 0 avatar

      I neither drive drunk nor blinded, so I can’t see the point in having such a device. I’m in “alarm mode”, already, when I drive.

      How exactly does that helps you deal with the woman behind you putting on makeup?

      I was rear ended at a stop light by a woman reaching back to beat her kids – how exactly was paying more attention going to help me?

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, jmo. I am a very cautious driver, but was rear-ended pretty hard at a stoplight by a drunk woman. It was around 4PM on a Tuesday, and I never saw it coming. Thankfully I was not injured.

  • avatar

    “The Nissan Qashqai (thankfully renamed Rogue in the U.S., although it wasn’t a big improvement) achieved the highest ever Euro NCAP score.”

    Whoa, be careful with big statements like that. Post 2009 ENCAP tests use a different protocol to derive the score. The Qashqai was rated in 2007 and would not neccessarily score as highly if rated by the new protocol.

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