Dancing in the dark

An unwelcome light show spoils an otherwise revealing ride

GED BULMER

THE sale of my father-in-law’s vineyard (sob!), and the need to help with the packup and clean-out of a weekender steeped in 35 years of memories, has meant several hundred kilometres of country driving since our last update.

This new driving environment has thrown up some interesting observations. For one, the V60 Luxury’s ride. In my view, it’s too firm for its family and urban orientation.

While those handsome, diamond-cut 18-inch alloys look the part, they pick up every lump, bump and ridge to be found when driving in town. But the discipline of the Euro-spec suspension suddenly makes sense on lumpy back roads, paying dividends in terms of roadholding and dynamics.

That’s not to say the V60 won’t still snot a sharp-edged pothole with all the gusto of an angry nightclub bouncer, but along the demanding, red-gum-fringed roads in question, it was pleasing to discover that ride comfort has at least been sacrificed for impressive grip and body control that keep things tidy when pressing on.

A not-so-positive revelation from the nocturnal component of these journeys is the distracting light show created by the V60’s clever headlights. For me, the jury is still out on the real driver benefits of what Volvo calls Active Bending Bi-Xenon Lights (ABL). Conceptually, active headlights make sense as they mean the driver doesn’t have to manually switch between high and low beam for oncoming traffic. Plus, the system compensates for load, braking and acceleration, all of which helps ensure fewer cranky drivers flashing you for blinding them with your dazzling peepers.

However, I’m yet to drive a car fitted with active headlights that gets beam selection right as often as you can manually. In the Volvo’s case, the system seems frustratingly hyper-inclined to dip to low beam more often than is absolutely necessary, while the active bending bit adds a motorised element that means the lamps follow the way you steer, turning up to 15 degrees in either direction.

As you might imagine, on ducking, diving and tree-lined country roads, with the ever-present threat of moving wildlife, the combination of headlights that dip automatically and follow your every steering move can be a tad distracting. In fact, downright bloody annoying might be more to the point.

In effect, the technology creates a shadowy, dancing light parade as the beams shift, shimmy and adjust to reflections from signage, oncoming traffic and what you’re doing with the steering wheel, meaning the headlights become a show unto themselves.

Fortunately, the Volvo’s driving position and seat comfort are both excellent, so while the dancing lights proved an unnecessary and unwelcome distraction, the overall comfort of the cockpit ensured it was a good space to spend a few night-time hours.

SPACE TO HIDE

Trademark floating centre console looks good, but the storage space it creates gets overlooked

Ghosts in my machine?

THE good wife reckons the Volvo’s Forward Collision Warning and Autobrake system has wrongly thrown the anchors out in emergency brake mode on at least one occasion. I’ve been unable to replicate the situation, but what I have experienced when driving down narrow streets with cars parked on either side, is that the visual alarm for the system can be triggered, flashing orange warning lights on the windscreen at eye level. That’s well short of an autobrake activation, but we’ll keep an eye on it.

VOLVO V60 D4 LUXURY

Date acquired: December 2014 Price as tested: $70,015 This month: 2243km @ 8.0L/100km Overall: 3926km @ 7.8L/100km Da Pri Th Ov