Lady Ella

This isn't the best way to start a piece about such a well-rounded vehicle, but if you read on, you'll see that I'm driving to a point. Three months ago our beloved secretary and all-around lady, Carmela passed away suddenly after battling a sickness that had to do with complications in her heart and her lungs. My family and I were devastated with her loss. You see, Ella as she is fondly called, was more than just my mother's secretary and catering staff. She was the daughter of our driver, Manong Sumague as he is known to our family (his name is Antonio Sumague), who was already my sister's driver before I was even born. He was also the very first person who taught me how to drive.

I used to secretly drive myself from our little condominium in Annapolis Street to La Salle Greenhills when I was in 4th grade. In hindsight, that wasn't a very smart idea. Nonetheless, that is the truth about my first taste behind the wheel and no amount of apologies for recklessness on our part could ever alter the past. Eventually, Manong's wife would join our company as a staff member and occasionally our household help. One of their sons, Bong also joined our company at one point to assume a post at our old restaurant, Cucina Victoria. So you can already tell by now that when Ella passed away, we didn't lose a staff member - we lost a part of our family. 

Onto our shoot on August 12. Typically, the weather didn't cooperate. I hopped on the ultra-Swedish XC60 to head down south. The moment you set off for less than a kilometer, you already get a sense that the crossover was solidly built. Everything felt tightly bolted and placed with great precision. The moment I arrived on the highway, the rain decided to pour its heart out. The Volvo dealt with that situation with the ease it takes an Algebra professor to solve for X.

In these conditions, the Volvo was completely unaffected. The seats were perfect. I loved how snug it was without squeezing the daylights out of me. I still really do think that Volvo have some of the best seats in the business, which means that you must forgive your passengers for dozing off quicker than usual. That's fine, because when they do, you can turn up the stereo which is always epic from Volvo. Why can't other manufacturers do audio like them?

"The XC60 has one of the best diesel engines I've ever experienced."

While I would have preferred for the XC60 to have a larger set of shoes, I could no longer fault it. It was like butter. It doesn't float over road bumps and potholes like an S-Class would, but it is also never jarring. It doesn't give you the sense that everything is going to fall apart after a terrible set of roads. In fact, when we got to the mild off-road bit of Villa Escudero, the XC60 was moving at a rate that the BMW driven by Miguel couldn't keep up with. After we switched cars, I realized why. The Volvo seemed to iron out all the bumps, while the BMW handed them over on a silver platter. Amazing stuff. 

The XC60 has one of the best diesel engines I've ever experienced. For starters, it's silent. Yes, the Volvo has wonderful sound insulation, but even outside, you don't hear much of it. The standard D4 has 181 horses in its stable, but since this is the Polestar, it's been bumped up to a naughty 200. More importantly, it's pushing 440 Newton Meters of torque, which is only 25 short from a Ferrari F430. Think about that for a moment. It devours German cars for breakfast and spits them out only to have them again for lunch.

"Everything is always, always under control."

The engine is masterful, but it is only as good as its transmission. It has an ultra smooth 8-speed automatic. It isn't anywhere as quick as a dual clutch, but who cares when you can't even feel it has a transmission to begin with. It's like air, you know it's there but more often than not, you're oblivious to it.

"It's like all of these fun-killing features are kept in a box where you don't see it."

They have also gotten the gear ratios perfectly on this one. Usually, I struggle with downshifting in a car that has 8 gears, like a BMW, simply because there are too many cogs to pass through. By the time you've gotten to the correct gear, you would've already smashed into the truck in front of you. Yet somehow in the Volvo, it's perfect. They are so beautifully spread out that when you downshift, it feels like a 6-speed tranny. You always find yourself in the correct gear. How they've achieved this, I have no clue - but that's Volvo for you.

The whole vibe that you get with the XC60, as well as the rest of the Volvo models is that somehow, they've over-engineered all the bits and pieces so that the dirty work has been ironed out long before it's passed on to you. 

If you were taking a math exam and you had 4 points for the solution and 1 point for the answer - Volvo does the solution bit to perfection. Your only job is to simply encircle the final answer. It is a techno fest of safety features and advanced technology, yet it doesn't overpower the experience. It's like all of these fun-killing features are kept in a box where you don't see it. It is brilliant.

The XC60 is no different from a stellar member of your organisation or company. As the boss, you are probably unaware of how many useless appointments, meetings, and issues lay before you. However, once in a blue moon there is a superstar in your roster that manages to steer you away from pulling all of your hair out of your scalp. Suddenly, issues are solved before you even hear about them. Someone pro active. The Volvo XC60 is what Ella was to our family. She was a troubleshooter that may have shooed stress and sickness away from my mother long before she even knew it.

She would even secretly solve my problems too when I was younger, like advancing me some cash from my mom's stash when I'd be broke. Often times we take for granted the real hard work that some do just to make our lives a tad bit more bearable. The XC60 is that. Everything is always, always under control. So all you need to do is sit back, enjoy the drive, and attend to the things that are of real essence in this world, like hearing your niece crack a really good joke. And I believe that the Swedish carmaker believes so too. 

There is more to life than a Volvo, that's why you drive one.

2016 Volvo XC60 D4 Polestar

Engine: 1,969 cc, DOHC 16V, Inline-4, Turbocharged
Fuel: Diesel
Power: 200 bhp @ 4,250 rpm
Torque: 400 Nm @ 1,750-2,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic, FWD
0-100 km/h: 8.0 seconds
Top Speed: 209 km/h
Fuel Economy: 10.4 km/L Overall
Price: POA
+: Intuitive, smooth, economical, and luxurious
-: Needs bigger wheels and a more vibrant interior
Verdict: A great all-rounder
Rating: 8.5/10

Thank you, Ella for all the years of service and love. It was completely coincidental that we shot this car on your birthday and in your home. We miss you. May you rest in peace.

Ex-Automotive Executive

Instagram: @enzoteodoro