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Volvo Winter Testing Part 2 - driving the XC70

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Amyot Bachand
Riksgränsen, Sweden. Today, we travelled over 400 kilometers on snow- and ice-covered roads. This time, our vehicle was a new XC70 with all-wheel drive. Right from the start, we took a detour through Norway on Road E6. During the first section, we had no other choice but to follow a snowplow because violent squalls were blowing huge amounts of snow in the middle of the road. Our Spanish and Italian colleagues wisely complied.

Once this 26-km stretch was completed, we headed toward Norway's famous fjords. Despite the lack of light at this time of the year, we were still able to enjoy the landscape. As Quebecers, we felt in familiar territory: it was kind of like driving in the Laurentides or Abitibi regions.

Our car was equipped with Nokian studded tires -- a prerequisite in the area, even for trucks -- which allowed us to tackle the tough road conditions. It has to be said that the people here don't use salt to melt ice; they simply spread sand from time to time.

The goal of these winter tests

We are here not only to evaluate takeoffs and other maneuvers but also, much to my surprise, to find ways to address noise problems. Anders Polheimer, Volvo's Test Manager, explained to us that noise represents the main problem with today's vehicles because components rub against each other and, in cold temperatures, screeching and cracking noises are often heard.

"In the summer, we test our cars in Arizona, he said. Come wintertime, we move to South Africa and Australia to assess their limits in extreme heat conditions. Here, in Kiruna, we perform cold-weather tests. We use pre-production vehicles that are not yet manufactured. We drive the equivalent of five times the circle of the Earth to uncover the final problems before going into production and delivering the vehicles to customers."

Power is a bit shy
Our all-wheel drive XC70 with 3.2L inline 6-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic transmission handled quite well given the circumstances. This large midsize wagon is fairly heavy, which hampers its velocity. For lack of torque, the autobox has to downshift to meet acceleration needs. Considering the harsh road conditions we had to face, I preferred to use the manual mode and benefit from good engine braking. It also allowed me to maintain a steady speed when going uphill.
Amyot Bachand
Amyot Bachand
Automotive expert