Smart gizmos? Volvo's latest has got it in the bag
The grocery-bag holder. Now there's an important part of a car. There's something you can use every day. It means you don't have to repack the tins, bottles, packets and bread rolls that have been scattered to the four corners of the boot.
Simple thought; practical application. Flap folds up from flat boot floor, has two hooks for bag handles and thick elastic band to embrace the shopping. I'm puzzled, though, why it only comes with the higher (SE) spec version of this Volvo XC60. It should be standard surely?
I often wonder if carmakers get so preoccupied with their heated seats, leather upholstery and 'greener' engines that they overlook little items that make a real difference in our everyday lives.
I know I would rather use a few extra drops of fuel than have to change clothes on a wet, windy day because the shopping was all over the place and my rear end was exposed to the elements in retrieving them.
To be fair to Volvo it at least has a shopping bag holder option; many a one doesn't – regardless of trim level.
Using the device also splits the boot space so you can corral bottles and tall bits into a confined area – rolls of kitchen paper are the worst offenders – to stop them being flung around like dollar bills in a casino.
In fairness to Volvo too it makes sure the animated objects – passengers – are well protected as well. That is its way isn't it?
It built its reputation on safety first, driving later. These days that is an unfair generalisation. Some of its newer cars, such as the V40, are excellent drivers. And this older, but revised XC60, remains one of my favourites of 'executive' soft-roaders. My test version had two-wheel-drive. You can call it an SUV if you like; it is a 'soft-roader' to me.
It looks so well (bits and pieces have been redesigned; the front looks sharper). Is there a better looking car of its size and genre?
It doesn't have the wonderfully taut, power machine feel of an Audi Q5 but there's a lot of style about it. However, the dark brown colour of my test motor detracted from it badly. All who travelled with me contrasted that with the smart interior – I question Volvo's judgment and taste.
Anyway, the main purpose of the drive was to assess the new four-cylinder D4 diesel engine (181bhp) from its Drive-E family.
It went a long way on little diesel (Portlaoise, Ferns, etc). I don't believe official consumption figures any more because they are achieved under such highly-controlled conditions.
But I'll say this: it was a lot smoother than the old one and pulled brilliantly through the gears. It makes a real difference to the XC60 because some of Volvo's previous engines were noisy and throaty. It also worked well with a decent six-speed manual gearbox.
There was good room in the cabin and a sense of luxury with my test version – bathed in (optional) leather upholstery.
I liked the dash and the colourful, clever way information was presented and delivered; no scratching around for buttons for this and that.
The driving position was excellent. And for a big motor – four/five adults– it was noticeably easy to park. That was thanks, in part, to the parking-assist system which again, I think, should be on all models in a car of this class. I think, like the shopping-bag holder, it has become one of motoring's everyday blessings and I bet people wouldn't mind paying extra to have it.
I also know there are lots of other things that would make the every day easier for us.
By all means, let's have the super new engines, designs and technology. But let's not overlook the bit of commonsense either.