Driving our V40 is a bit like playing Atari in the 1980s
We know the V40 Cross Country is more of an embellished hatchback than, say, a talented off-roader like the Subaru XV. The Cross Country rides only slightly higher off the ground than the standard V40, but this does give it a marginally softer ride, which is perfect for gravel travel. So that’s what we did.
On a rainy Friday we set off from Johannesburg to a cottage in the Vredefort Dome area, between Potch and Parys. I had planned to evade it, but thanks to my poor navigation skills we found ourselves on the dreaded N12 west. On a Friday afternoon this road is beset by cars, trucks, taxis and general lawlessness. To make it worse the roadworks were still going and the surface was wet. Adrenaline was running through my veins, and not in a pleasant way.
Every V40 is built with City Safety as standard, so the car will brake automatically if the driver doesn’t notice a vehicle suddenly stopping in front of him, at speeds below 50 km/h. Eight airbags are standard equipment too. These features definitely add peace of mind, but to our car Volvo South Africa had added extra driver aids for even more safety.
One of these reminds me of the first home video game, Atari Pong, which was a very basic arcade version of table tennis. Each player has a “ping-pong bat”, with player one’s on the left of the screen and player two’s on the right. The object was to hit the ball (a tiny square) past the other player’s bat. The bats were nothing more than tall rectangles in white, on a black background. Like broken lines on tar. To defend or hit you would simply place your bat in the way of the moving ball. When it reaches the bat, it bounces back towards the other player.
Now in Volvo’s version of Pong the car is the little white ball and the lines on either side of the lane are the bats. You might be wondering how the heck this will work. Well, the V40 has cameras that watch the lines. It knows when you’re moving too close. Crossing the line unintentionally could kill you and an oncoming occupant, so the car makes the steering wheel vibrate to warn you or it actually turns it to pilot the car back to the middle of the lane. This only happens if the driver doesn’t use his indicator.
This means you can literally let go of the steering wheel and the car will move from left to right or vice versa when the road curves gently. This function can be deactivated by pressing a button and it won’t ever fight with you if you have to perform an evasive manoeuvre. Also, it only works if the lines are there.
So I didn’t drive to Potchefstroom only occasionally touching the steering wheel, but this is another important arrow in the Volvo’s amazing safety quiver. And, thanks to its sure-footedness and good traction on wet gravel roads, we had a fun, relaxed weekend after all.
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