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"The new Volvo V70 is the safest wagon Volvo Car Corporation has ever made," declares Christer Gustafsson, Senior Engineer for the Volvo Cars Safety Centre. "Anything else would have been unthinkable."
But it's not just the pioneering safety technology like 'smart' airbags, Inflatable Curtain and Whiplash Protection System seats in the new Volvo V70 that makes it the new standard. It is the holistic approach to safety that integrates innovative features with the design of the car that has made the newest Volvo wagon into the new safety leader.
Of course, the list of those innovations is impressive.
Start with the new Dual Stage Airbag, which Gustafsson describes as a refinement of the interplay between the seat belt and the airbag. This 'smart' design uses a sensor to register the severity of an impact and adapts the airbag inflation accordingly while coordinating actions with the seat belt. For example, if the impact is severe, the airbag inflates to full capacity. At the same time, the seat belt tensioner eliminates any slack in the belt as effectively as possible. Then the belt gives slightly to restrain the occupant in a more gentle manner before the airbag takes over to complete the safety sequence.
In cases of less severe impact (impact still great enough to cause potential injury), the airbag inflates in two stages: initial inflation to 70 per cent of capacity followed by full inflation one-tenth of a second later. Occupants, particularly those sitting closer to the wheel or dashboard, are protected in a safer, gentler manner. The reduced inflation sequence is also used at lower speeds when the system determines that an occupant is not wearing a seat belt.
The new V70 is also the first automobile to have the ISO-FIX child safety seat attachment system. Standard in the new wagon, the system is an improved method of installing a child safety seat (in the rear seat area). At the same time, Volvo Cars is also introducing the world's first rearward-facing child safety seat with ISO-FIX attachment.
Also standard in the new V70 is the Inflatable Curtain (IC), first introduced in the Volvo S80 luxury sedan. This unique side-impact protection feature is installed in the headliner and inflates downward to protect the head and upper body of front- and rear-seat occupants. It is integrated with the Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) technology, which includes side airbags and a structural design which helps manage the forces of a side impact.
Like all new Volvo models, the new V70 features the Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS) front seats that restrain the upper body and head in rear-impact collisions to reduce the risk of whiplash injuries.
"But," says V70 project manager Lars-Erik Lundin, "although the V70 offers all the safety features that you'd expect from Volvo, we're not looking to win the airbag wars. A well-engineered body structure that can absorb crash forces in all kinds of accidents is also essential."
That starts with the car's platform -- in this case, the Volvo S80 platform which is the starting point for the V70. The S80 is the only car to have received the top score of five-plus-five stars in the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration side-impact tests.
"The purpose of our holistic approach is to build cars that can withstand all types of accidents," explains Gustafsson. "One might well find that there are cars that can do as well, or even better, in individual tests. However, I find it difficult to believe that any other car would do as well in the long series of tests covering head-on impacts from different angles, different types of side-impact, rear-impact, roll-over and other crashes."
"For maximum protection, everything must work together, from the crumple properties of structural members to the function of the belt tensioners," Gustafsson adds.
Then there's active safety, those systems that help drivers avoid dangerous collisions. Enhanced ABS brakes (with electronic brake distribution), suspension capable of delivering predictable handling (regardless of load) and available Dynamic Stability & Traction Control (DSTC) anti-skid technology first introduced on S80, all contribute to the inherent safety of the new V70.
Because personal security is also part of safety, significant attention was paid to integrating security systems into the new V70. These include the Approach Light (a touch of a button on the remote lock control illuminates the inside of the car and the area around it at night), Home Safe Lighting (which illuminates the area around the car for about 90 seconds after leaving) and available laminated anti-theft side windows (to reduce smash-and-grab robbery).
"Our ambition is to constantly develop our approach to safety," Gustafsson says. "For us, it's not legislation that governs development, but our own personal commitment. Caring for families is important to us. We believe we are unique in this respect. It's the combination of caring and of our knowledge of the risks of modern traffic that provides the impetus for our work and has resulted in Volvo Cars' in-house requirements often being more stringent than those of the law-makers."
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