IT promises to be a clear day ahead with sunshine and blue skies. A perfect day for a road trip. My watch reads 9am but I’m still huddled in bed, trying to coax myself awake.
“It’s too early to go on a drive!” screams my subconscious. Yet one strong cappuccino later and I’m behind the wheels of the gleaming silver Volvo XC60 with my two colleagues in tow.
We’re certainly travelling in style all the way down south to Johor. A good enough reason to get out of bed this early on a Saturday morning, I reckon.
The car is cavernous, as my colleague El observes. “Eh, I can camp in here!” she exclaims.
Yes, the XC60 is a spacious beast. Ads on the car have proclaimed it can fit a family of five adults and a dog very comfortably, and you better believe it.
Today, she has decided that stretching out her five-foot frame across the back seat is the perfect position for the ride. That leaves only the capacious boot to hold three measly carry-ons and a pair of slippers.
Silently, the engine starts up and we’re on our way.
“Put on your seatbelt just in case you roll off the seat,” advises my editor Intan with a laugh right before the car gives out steady warning beeps.
The unfastened seatbelt indicator flashes almost reproachfully on the dashboard accompanying the rhythmic beeps. I watch my co-driver surreptitiously slipping on her seatbelt before I can utter a word.
The insistent beeps have certainly convinced all of us to duly slip our belts on, including ‘back seat driver’ El who’s sprawled at the back.
This Swedish car maker has always been synonymous with safety and it has a strong reputation for solidity and reliability.
Those first beeps of warning form one of the many array of safety features offered by this five-starred Euro NCAP SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle).
A friend once joked: “To list every safety feature in any Volvo would sound like you’re spouting a whole new language!”
Not many automotive makers have been able to achieve the elusive five-star distinction in this strict European rating system.
The ratings are given after carrying out extensive crash tests on every newly produced vehicle in Europe. This helps consumers compare and identify the safest choice of vehicle for their needs and Volvo has been consistently awarded full marks for most of its products.
Volvo’s certainly big on safety, and it’s this confidence that puts my heart (and that of my colleagues) at ease!
The highway down south of the country stretches almost straight and flat. The only things we need to watch out for are the occasional road works and fierce cross winds.
But that doesn’t faze the XC60 one bit, making it a relatively easy drive from Kuala Lumpur to Pontian.
Firing on all cylinders that’s churning out 306 horsepower and 400Nm of torque, the green hills and deep valleys pass us in a blur, soon making way for vast fields of pineapples after we turn off the highway route and into Pontian.
It takes us just four hours to reach the pineapple haven of Parit Sikom and snores emanating from the back tell me that the journey was smooth and uneventful.
Rows of pineapple crowns flank both sides of the road while a sweet fruity scent lingers in the air as my colleague winds down the window for a quick spot of video recording.
Unfortunately, the delicious smell doesn’t linger around long enough in the car for me to savour it.
The Volvo’s Interior Air Quality System (IAQS) with multi active filter and sensor works too well to ensure the air quality in the car stays clean, clear and crisp.
It also filters allergens out, keeping the interior of the car as hypoallergenic as possible. Couple that with the hypoallergenic treated leather that’s been approved by the EAACI (European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology) and this car is an immune-compromised person’s dream.
On the wide highway, the monstrous 18-inch wheels have a field day but not so much on the narrow single lanes of pineapple town Parit Sikom.
However, its tyre grip and weight come in handy as I slide over to the shoulder of the road to park. That also assures me that it’ll stay in its spot while we enjoy some fresh pineapples plucked straight from one of the farms that dot the periphery of the town.
The refreshing pick-me-up is just what the doctor ordered after a long drive. The green and lush landscape helps too.
After satiating ourselves with the exotic fruit, stretching our legs and storing a couple more pineapples in the spacious boot, we head off northwest to my little hometown of Batu Pahat.
This SUV may be large but it’s not that big of a challenge to manoeuvre it across lanes. Its height is advantageous too, making my job of overtaking trucks and lorries much easier.
The horn is distinctive and loud enough to be noticed — perfect for ensuring wayward motorcyclists swerving in and out of traffic to steer clear of this car!
In all honesty, what I love most about driving this car is the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Queue Assist and Distance Alert.
Adding that with the Collision Warning and Full Auto Brake safety feature, it makes driving the XC60 a thoroughly laid-back affair.
Driving at low speed on a one-lane village road is usually a boring and frustrating exercise. Even more so when it’s peppered with traffic lights at every couple of kilometres.
So, to give my feet some rest and liven up the mood with a mini karaoke session in the car, I just switch on the XC60’s intelligence.
The car would accelerate on its own to whatever speed you’ve set it on. But the magic comes when it detects an obstacle in front of it at a specific distance that’s adjustable on the driver’s console.
The brakes will then automatically engage and the car will slow down. Old-school El isn’t a fan of the feature for she believes that a car should be driven and not self-drive.
However, she does admit that the ride is much smoother when the car takes over, as compared to when I take over the wheel!
The XC60’s intellect got me pondering on how far AI (artificial intelligence) will take over our daily lives. They’ve already taken many menial jobs away from us, such as driving, washing clothes and even mopping our floors. What’s next? The possibility seems endless.
But one thing’s for sure, if everyone owns an XC60 and abides to every little ring, beep and assistance given by the vehicle, there’s bound to be fewer road accidents.
This truly safety-conscious car has only one mission — to bring you from point A to B in one piece.
The familiar Chinese High School building looms ahead and a smile spreads across my face. I’ve finally reached home. Traffic is slowly building up as we approach the town centre of Bandar Penggaram and a beautiful evening sun paints the sky a light pink hue. We’re just in time for dinner.
The built-for-family XC60 is the perfect companion for road trips although its large size isn’t the most conducive for the minute town car-park lots. It’s an awkward fit, with a good third of its rear sticking out rudely.
Nevertheless, I can’t help but admire how the gleaming silver of the car contrasts so beautifully against the stark white walls of the colonial-looking buildings at Old Street.
How will the new XC60, rumoured to arrive at our shores soon, fare against this trustworthy giant? Will it come together with an even more pedantic list of safety features? Will it be able to self-steer on top of its fine-tuned cruise control? More importantly, will I have the chance to test it out and take another unforgettable road trip again? Only time will tell.