Review // Cruising Brittany in the Volvo XC60

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Back in May this year, our beloved workhorse estate car was written off following a bizarre motorway accident.  There were no injuries, but we’ve replaced the whale-sized car with a smaller more economical cross over car.  The new car is fantastic around town and for short trips away, but when Volvo asked us to take an XC60 on our next road trip, we asked for a roof box and raced to France (obeying all speed limits) to fill it with brocante finds, and sand.

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The soundtrack for this trip was undoubtedly David Bowie’s “Nothing has Changed” best of album.  The Harmon Kardon sound system is better than anything we have in the house, and I could almost imagine Bowie playing percussion on the back seat, were it not for the boys singing “Orangina” at the top of their voices in place of “Jean Genie”.

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We had the roof box packed with the Bell tent, the gas cooker, sleeping bags, cricket stuff, chairs, scooters and lilos, and the boot filled with too many clothes, and not enough kitchen equipment.  Some how we left the bag of cutlery at home, and spent our first night under canvas sharing a wooden spoon and a spatula.  We spent two weeks on the road, but I can’t recall a single occasion when any of us complained about having to ride in the car.

The XC60 is a cross over, and has a raised up position that allows you to see over more hedges and over the roofs of other cars on the road.  This one had AWD, and was so sure footed around the immaculate French roads, that all I wanted to do, was take it for a quick spin around the beach, but instead I just relished the time on rough farm tracks and grassy campsite fields.

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The car came fitted with BLIS and Cross Traffic Alert, so it beeped a warning when (for example) you back out of a parking space like you would in the UK, and fail to spot the traffic coming from the opposite direction.  Very handy on several occasions.

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Charlie wanted to look under the bonnet.  As you’d imagine, the engine was big and shiny and said Volvo on it in big letters.  We spotted the starter motor, and the battery, but everything else looked reassuringly like the domain of experts.

Its not often a young family drive a vehicle that turns heads.  At one point I was fairly sure the Brocante owner saw us coming as we parked up outside.

Family of four?  Yep.
Fold down seats for transporting furniture every now and then?  No problem.
Safe, comfortable?  Definitely.
Handsome?  Yeah, I reckon.
Holiday road trip?  Go for it.

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We’ve been lucky to drive some great cars in the last 12 months, and you might say that I’ve become a little gadget blind.  But modern cars are just amazing.  Parking cameras, Lane Departure warnings, Bluetooth, voice activated SatNav and large colour screen maps make driving much less tiring and much safer.  Back in my Uni days, I would drive from Bristol to West Wales in my £900 Rover 214, and I’d arrive 3 and a bit hours later, red eyed, exhausted and needing a hug.  In the past I’ve been cynical about vehicle extras, but the automatic gearbox and adaptive cruise control on the XC60 meant the car adjusted its speed to keep a safe distance from the car in front.  If the car in front were to break suddenly, our car would do the same.  On motorway journeys, that is just sensational.  I just hope that all cars will come with this feature in the future.

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I was sad for quite a few days when they came to take it away.  In fact I can barely stand to look at the pictures now that its gone.

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Collaboration Note:  This post was written in collaboration with Volvo UK, who kindly loaned us the XC60 to test drive.  All words and opinions are by Dan Taylor and images by Lou Archell.  Thank you for supporting the posts that make this blog possible.

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