Feb 1 2010 Chris Russon
Dancing on ice the Volvo way
VOLVO has staged its own version of Dancing on Ice with its latest XC60 4x4 as the celebrity.
In freezing conditions high in the Austrian Tyrol the Scandinavian SUV has been put through its paces in zero grip conditions.
After the Arctic blast which gripped Britain in the past few weeks, all-wheel-drive vehicles have surged in popularity as those most likely to get around.
The latest generation of 4x4s use sophisticated electronics to aid traction in the slippiest of conditions and Volvo's XC60 is one of the most advanced.
On a test track cut out from a snow field to expose pure ice the XC60 proved the new technology can enable a car to be controlled on the most lethal of surfaces.
At speeds of up to 30mph the Volvo was able to negotiate a slalom track and twisty bends without breaking away.
It was a graphic demonstration of the safety benefits of stability and traction control in treacherous weather.
The latest XC60 is the R Design tuned for sporty performance and handling.
It is also aggressively styled, matching the striking looks of Volvo's other newcomers in the shape of the new C30 sports coupe and the C70 coupe convertible which are making their debut alongside the larger XC60.
While the primary purpose of the R Design tweaks is to improve the XC60's performance on the road, they also translate into better off-road characteristics.
The XC60 used in the ice driving exercise was fitted with snow tyres but apart from that was a regular UK specification model.
The R Design is priced from £29,495 - £3,000 more than the cheapest XC60, the eco-friendly two-wheel-drive DRIVe.
Four-wheel-drive versions are priced from £31,495 and use an automatic system to vary the power from wheel to wheel as necessary.
Sensors detect if a wheel is losing grip and react in milliseconds to ensure optimum traction is maintained.
Other electronics are used to sense if the car is about to skid and apply the brakes and power appropriately enabling the driver to steer the car in circumstances other vehicles would find impossible.
Volvo is currently enjoying something of a resurgence in popularity and last year was the only premium car maker to post a four per cent increase in sales during the credit crunch.
The new breed of Volvos feature angular front grilles, striking headlamps and air scoops - very different to the Volvos of old.
The latest C30 has a honeycomb grille and colour coded rear valance which further emphasise its radical design. It is also available in vivid paint jobs including red and green finishes with matching interior trims.
Priced from £14,995 the C30 is the cheapest of the current Volvo line up and the high economy DRIVe versions are also the most frugal averaging 74.3mpg with tax free emissions of 99g/km.
The new C70 - which was the world's first four seat convertible with a retractable metal roof - has also been reworked at the front and on the inside with changes made to the instrumentation and trim.
It costs from £26,995 for the two-litre diesel to £34,695 for the high performance T5 it is a full blown rival to the likes of Audi and BMW convertibles.
The Swedish car maker has always had a reputation for robust construction but now it is turning on the style with its latest models - but as the ice driving showed safety is still number one priority.