To start off with, this hybrid has a charging cable on board. This is called a 'Plug-In'. A full battery charge is sufficient for 40 kms when using electric power only. Unfortunately, there is no quick-charging function, just the connection to a household wall-plug. The battery and the electric motor by the way, are installed in the rear, which is why the luggage-floor is slightly raised. In view of the engine-weight up front, this is favourable for the weight distribution and the all-wheel drive is also made possible. Indeed, the 2,1 tons still have to be moved.
The operating instructions begin with the warning, that there are no engine noises, which could pose a danger for children, pedestrians and animals. Following this, there is the, no less important reference, to the orange-coloured cable, which belongs in the category of high-voltage technology and is about as dangerous as household voltage. By the way, motor mechanics also have to complete a two-day course before they can even touch the motor.
We'll be coming back later to the various driving modes. Only this much in advance: In this case, the electric motor is combined with a Diesel engine. The car is assembled in exactly the same place as the same type without the electric motor. There are only additional stations, where the modules fof the rear-axle, the battery and the charging port are installed. This is why the instrument cluster shows the additional information concerning the respective operating modes, the charging status and the degree of energy-recovering.
When tapping the brakes lightly they are not actually activated, rather, through a generator circuit, energy is recalled for the hybrid battery. An interesting point in the operating manual, is that the battery should neither be too hot nor too cold, whatever that means. After that, the manual drops the subject of hybrids and goes on with the 'normal' user handbook. It's nice to see how much trouble they have taken to advise pregnant women, so that they, during their pregnancy, set the correct seat position, which makes sure that there is always enough distance between them and the steering wheel. The pictures of the various expansion of the airbags, both on the driver's- and on the passenger side are also interesting.
The permanently recurring warning symbol is probably a part of every user's manual. It irritates more than it serves to increase the feeling of being secure. It probably originates directly from the law-courts, e.g., in the USA, where the cars are plastered with stickers. An interesting feature in this Volvo, is the automatic, slightly reclining of the front seat back rests in the event that someone drives into the rear of your car in a certain way. One may ask oneself, what happens to the legs of the passengers in the rear. There's nothing in the manual about a recognition of how many are on board. The front passenger seat reacts already, if one lays the owners handbook on it.
There then follow 12 pages concerning 'child-safety'. It's not simply about the mounting of children's safety seats, but also the specifications of where children of different sizes should sit, and the locking mechanism of the rear doors. On the right and on the left, Volvo has hassocks, which can be folded out in two stages and are suitable, without further accessories, for children weighing between 15 and 36 kgs and are smaller than a certain height. Another important piece of advice: if children are left in the car, to prevent undesirable functions from being triggered, one should never leave the car keys in the car when leaving the vehicle.
In the chapter 'transponder', you'll note that there are two variations. The more expensive model carries information that can be called up through a light signal. Up to a distance of 100 meters, one can check whether one really did lock the car. Indeed, if not, then one has to walk back to the car to do it. Even more depressing is, if it shows that the alarm system has been triggered. Under the title 'Secret locking' it gets really complicated, e.g., when handing the car over to the hotel staff for parking, if one doesn't want others looking into the glove- or luggage compartment.
At least the handbook does show how one can change the batteries in the remote control oneself. The keyless procedure appears to be even more simple. One simply has to carry the transponder-key somewhere on one's person. At least a warning does appear in the display, if the person carrying the transponder leaves the vicinity of the car and someone else tries to drive away with the car. Although the tailgate is electrically locked, it doesn't yet have a
function to open electrically, if one has his/her hands full. Remarkably, all the systems are delivered with an emergency key-blade.
Not only do the seats look good, they also have multiple adjustment possibilities. E.g., the front edge of the seat, which is interesting, in particular for taller people. Indeed, the length and the adjustment angle of the steering wheel is rather limited. The fact that the back-rest of the passenger front seat can be folded to the front, is a good idea, although because of the noble interior, lengthy or bulky objects probably won't be transported that often. Unfortunately, the basic seat-adjustment is electric and the buttons are right at the bottom, under the seat.
There are buttons for changing the various types of interior lighting. The display illumination is also changeable, unfortunately, so is the headlamp range control, it can be had with automatic adjustment but only in combination with xenon-lights, an optional extra. If one goes even futher into the list of extras, to the automatic high-beam activation, one has to accustom oneself to the new Active High Beam symbol, which lights up in the event of a fault. In addition, active xenon-headlamps, which follow the curve of the road, can also be had.
An excerpt from the subject Mood-Lighting: 'Once the customary interior lighting has gone off and the engine is still running, a few LEDs light up, e.g., there's one in the overhead light, which gives out a weak light to improve your mood during the trip'. The car will also light your way to the house-door, all you have to do, is flash the high-beam after removing the ignition key. In the model with active xenon-lights, one can change the headlamps from right hand traffic to left. Indeed, if you need to do this with the standard headlamps, extensive masking is necessary.
All this automation can sometimes be tiresome. Just imagine, you drive into the car-wash with windscreen wipers which are controlled by a rain-sensor. The sensor will suddenly switch on the wipers and you can watch, how your wiper-blades and -arms are deformed, you could call yourself lucky if the windscreen isn't scratched. A similar problem can occur though the wipers colliding with the bonnet if it has to be opened. The overheating protection for the rear wiper is however, a nice touch.
That Volvo is still a product from way up in the north, can be seen by the fact that below 9°C, if the windows fog up or if ice up, the rear window heating is automatically switched on. Unfortunately, when the ignition is switched on, so is the complete low-beam. More economical and sensible day-time driving lights, appear to be unknown. In addition, the fact that the compass in the rear-view mirror, should be re-calibrated after leaving one of the earth's magnetic zones, is of course ridiculous.
Sorry, but it's a little too early for resignation. What still follows, is the alcohol lockout. We already know about the fatigue sensor. In this case, the question may well be posed, whether we need something, that we feel anyhow, to be shown on the display. The alcohol lock-out has a more powerful effect. If one blows into the mouthpiece of the portable part, which is about the size of a remote control, it's possible that you will be prevented from driving at all. However, the device must first be calibrated to the respective legal blood/alcohol limit.
To set your minds at ease, the Alcoguard is an optional extra. Of course, one can pose the question, of who actually orders a car with an Alcoguard, the endangered person themselves or his/her partner? Indeed, what's the resale value like, of a car with an alcoguard? Can the insurance companies soon offer a lower premium on cars with this feature? They won't be easy to sell. After all, once a year it has to be recalibrated in the workshop. If this is not done, it carries on in the usual manner.
These are only a few of the problems which can arise when a permanent monitoring takes place. At least there is the so-called emergency situation, in which case the Alcoguard can be overridden. The price for this overriding, is that it is shown in the display and can only be removed by a workshop. What we haven't mentioned, is the problem of passengers. Could parents possibly find a way to outwit the system by having their children do the breathalyzer-test? Whatever the case may be, it would definitely not set a good example.
A rather touchy subject with hybrid vehicles, is jump-starting. Like in 'normal' cars, after reading the respective warnings, it can be done. In this case, the Diesel engine is really started, which is not the case when starting with a fairly full hybrid battery. Precisely this is the advantage of a hybrid, to be able to pull off using electric power. One should indeed, take particular care when working in the engine compartment or in closed-in spaces when the system is activated. The engine may automatically start at any time.
The most fascinating point, of course, has to be the purely electric propulsion (PURE). If not otherwise desired, everything that could reduce the electric range, is switched off. The air-conditioning however, is electrically powered, this can be seen by the fact that also in the PURE-mode, it can be switched on. The manufacturer promises a maximum speed of 125 km/h and if driven gently, a range of 50 kms. Then however, problems with the hybrid, which one never had before or were much more seldom, are revealed.
Imagine the following situation: It's deep into winter and you're driving through the town on a perfectly cleared motorway. This is where the Diesel engine has to prove itself, even though it hasn't yet had the chance of being adequately warmed up. In addition, this type of engine has a fuel problem. Summer Diesel, because of it's tendency to precipitate paraffin, is actually pretty unsuitable for winter operation. Apart from that, Diesel fuel ages. Indeed, this the target of plug-in hybrids, to keep the fuel in the tank for as long as possible.
The result is, that with five month old Diesel in the tank, the PURE-mode is no longer possible. Also in the hybrid-mode, the system will ensure that this old fuel is used up as quickly as possible. One can say goodbye to the option of reaching modest destinations for years on end, only using the Diesel fuel for longer trips in summer. Perhaps one should have bought a petrol-hybrid. Does petrol also age similarly, or is Volvo simply being very cautious? 06/13