Motoring: A turn-up among Swedes
Tank goodness for the Volvo estate, admits David Bowen
Saturday 31 May 1997
I, of course, am inner-directed - which is why when it comes to cars I would be quite happy in a new Skoda or Ford Escort, or even a BMW (but only because it is a very good car). And when it became increasingly clear that a Volvo estate was the car for me and my family, I could hardly handle the thought.
If you happen to be one of those people born with wheel-shaped DNA, the sort who knows every model car before you can read, you are not allowed to like Volvos. They are tanks, they are boring, they are for people who believe cars are for getting from A to B. It is difficult to curl your lip when saying a word so full of Vs, but I used to manage it.
Commercials of Volvos scorching across the desert, the launch of the reputedly sophisticated 800 series, made no difference. Nothing to do with image, of course, just that I could not possibly drive a car that was so square (in the geometric sense), so heavy, so full of middle-class mothers driving their children to school ... All right, it was a lot to do with image.
So why is a metallic blue Volvo Wentworth Estate sitting outside my gate? Why does my wife drive the children to school in it? Because I realised that the image of the Volvo fitted the reality of the Volvo, and that was what we needed.
I accepted that the slinky Audi coupe would have to go when our first child was on the way. There was some muttering of the V word but I managed to postpone the day of reckoning by persuading my wife that a Renault Espace was the thing, yet as its mileage ticked towards six figures, I realised Volvoness was creeping up.
All those negatives about the Volvo - squareness, tankness - were turning themselves into positives. The relentless drumbeat of 30 years' advertising - "Volvo, safe, Volvo, safe" - was playing more loudly in my mind. My wife's subtle hints ("I want a Volvo") had their effect, too. It was she who caused my conversion, though not with anything she said. As a musician, she regularly drives back from gigs late at night. I found it increasingly difficult to get to sleep until she came back - visions of fiery infernos on the M1 came into my head, and would not leave.
It was after she came back from Leicester (on the M1) that I said that I would not mind just looking at a Volvo estate, and 15 seconds later we were on our way to a garage. Within a month we had one. The Wentworth is a 940 turbo, but has air-conditioning and other such goodies.
I have since become immensely comfortable with the car. It is reassuringly solid - it feels like a quality car, and is full of thoughtful touches. Its boot is not as big as our five-seater Espace's, but dogs, cellos and children somehow cram in.
Interesting, though, it is not. When I first tried it, I felt as though I had driven it a thousand times before. It is relaxing rather than stimulating. I do not know how to open the bonnet - a sad state of affairs for someone who used to sleep with a socket set.
Oddly, I have decided it may not be that safe. Sure, it is a good place to be if you are going to have a crash - but, as with most luxury cars, you feel so insulated from the outside world that you could easily lose touch with it. We were sitting in ours when we heard a burglar alarm go off; it was a while before we realised it was our own.
But that is irrelevant. I have now become Volvo Man. I have a wife, a dog and two children, and I am middle-aged. I will probably join the National Trust soon. I am, of course, still inner-directed - I like the Volvo because of what it is, not what it says about me. In fact I dislike what it says about me. Not that I care, of course, because I am inner-directed.
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