House and Leisure explores the Karoo in a Volvo XC40
A road trip into the heart of South Africa in the Volvo XC40 soon had us smitten with this compact yet surprisingly powerful new SUV
With more than 15 shoot locations between Cape Town and Colesberg confirmed, there was just one small problem – we had to leave in three days and still had no transport. Visions of us hitchhiking up the N1 into the Karoo haunted me but at the eleventh hour, as if some sort of god of travel had taken pity on us, Volvo came to the rescue and lent us the Volvo XC40 D4 AWD Momentum for the trip.
With 1688 kilometres ahead of us, we would have plenty of opportunities to put Volvo’s fearsome reputation to the test. We began at the very beginning, before setting off from our rendezvous point, the fourth floor of a Cape Town parking lot – where we figured we would need the 360-degree cameras and rear park assist pilot more than on the open roads of the Karoo. And so it proved as we whisked out of the parking lot in double-quick time and go the show on the road.
It also didn’t take long to realize they meant business when saying this little SUV had lane-keeping aid: the vehicle that had been instantly named ‘Betty Blue’ wasn’t going to let us get close to a solid line without a stiff nudge back into place. As I set the average cruising speed and safety following distance with the autonomous emergency breaking system, a mixed sense of fear and excitement came over me as I pondered briefly but skeptically – could I really trust this car's intuition better than my own?
Fast forward two days later as we arrived safely in Colesburg – where we produced our Escape issue’s Karoo house story and all I could think was that this car is probably smarter than I am. I was already completely smitten with it and all its features, neatly presented in a rather attractive Amazon Blue and Crystal White metallic finish.
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A panoramic sunroof, Apple car play, heatable power front driver and passenger seats with memory function – to name a few of the considered extras that mean the world to anybody 844km later – made the surprisingly spacious Volvo XC40 a place of peace and comfort at times when we were tired, hot or even just plain old lost (yes, a place called Rooinek actually exists and thank goodness for features like navigation pro). In order to capture elements of our November issue’s Meet the Maker production about designer Frances van Hasselt we had to venture deep into the hills surrounding Prince Albert where finally got a chance to experience how well the Volvo XC40 adapts to dirt- and off-road environments. The terrain was by no means easy to negotiate but the car gave a smooth performance, packing a powerful little punch despite being smaller and more compact than its predecessors.
I’d never before felt a need for my own Gone in 60 seconds moment, but then again, I’ve never been one to care much about cars in general – until I had to return the Volvo XC40 one week later, that is. After a lengthy inner dialogue between my ‘good’ and ‘bad’ selves, I reluctantly handed over the keys and said a sad farewell. Until next time Betty, until next time…
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