Swedes in Denver: We Drive the 2018 Volvo XC60, V70, and S90 T8 Hybrid

EVERGREEN, Colorado — The solar eclipse occurred as we ended the morning’s drive from Denver to Evergreen. Most people watched the celestial event through special glasses, but one woman on the shore of Evergreen Lake wore a welder’s mask. Better yet, a lucky few climbed into the cushy backseat of a 2018 Volvo XC60 to look through the laminated panoramic roof with a special filter.

Volvo was happily showing off its all-new XC60, which replaces the previous-generation model after nine years. Malin Ekholm, vice president of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre, had even come all the way from Sweden to share her passion for the XC60’s class-leading suite of standard and optional safety features. But Ekholm had neglected to mention eclipse-viewing protection. It could probably have been claimed as an industry first: “blind spot” protection par excellence.

We had arrived at this scene in an XC60 T6 AWD R-Design, ours since the midmorning coffee break. The R-Design is the obvious choice for enthusiasts. Equipped with paddle shifters, it allows the desired amount of driver interaction on sweeping, swooping mountain roads. We often kept the eight-speed automatic transmission in third gear for bursts on short straightaways as well as the engine-braking effect when approaching turns. Yes, the morning had begun with a technical presentation, and we heard how autonomous driving is a pursuit of Volvo’s. No, we weren’t interested just now.

Setting the driving mode in Dynamic gave us the right amount of steering assist. The suspension—double-wishbone front and an integral-link rear—and optional 21-inch R-Design Wheels with summer tires made this 4,045-pound crossover into a multi-sport athlete. With all-wheel drive, it excels at the steeplechase but won’t fall too far behind in a road race. In fact, at 184.6 inches, it’s just 1.3 inches longer than the Ferrari 812 Superfast, so be ready for some fun.

Under the hood, there’s the turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine we know from the larger XC90. This direct-injection DOHC 16-valve unit produces 316 hp at 5,700 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque in a flat curve through the midrange. If we could only tell our uncle, who always dressed in a white T-shirt and bluejeans and believed so fervently in cubic inches, that the R-Design will sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, we know he would say, “Yer dreamin’!”

This second-generation crossover is good-looking, too. The R-Design features dramatic LED running lights, a black mesh grille, and bladelike lower fascia elements. The flanks have obviously benefited from Crossfit training, and the tail has nicely integrated pipes and a tidy “body control” lower insert.

Inside the XC60 R-Design, we found the upholstery and trim to be a trite rehash of performance-car norms. It was serious to a fault with black leather and Nubuck seats, black headliner, and aluminum inlays. It just didn’t seem like a Volvo; Swedes don’t think like this. Nevertheless, it’s all included in the $3,300 R-Design package (the big wheels are another $1,000).

The 2018 XC60 has a base price of $45,895, but our tester climbed the price ladder with a Convenience Package ($2,000) adding Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving and power-folding second-row seats with electric-folding headrests; a Vision Package ($1,100) adding numerous driver assistance features; Advanced Package ($1,900) for whiz-bangery like 360-degree-view camera, head-up display, and LED headlights that peek around corners. Heated front seats and heated steering wheel, pleasing metallic blue paint, and a sound system that at $3,200 is more expensive than starting your own band brought the final tab to $59,740.

Starting out from Denver, after the early technical presentation, we had driven the even more expensive XC60 T8 E-AWD Inscription. This Apollonian chariot—a leader of Volvo’s ballyhooed strategy that will find all models offered with electrification by next year—incorporates an 87 hp electric motor and 10.4 kWh battery in the most unobtrusive way. We never noticed any pausing or hesitation after pressing the accelerator, nor did we hear the annoying street-railway whine of Toyota’s Synergy Drive under braking. The combined output is 400 hp and 472 lb-ft, so the T8 shows plenty of eagerness despite weighing in at 4,599 lb. It sprints from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds, yet the EPA combined rating, which is still being determined, is sure to exceed the T6’s 27 highway mpg.

The one major knock against this hybrid is the lack of any powertrain resistance on long downhill sections. The gearshift, which has a lovely Orrefors crystal element, lacks a sport shift feature for downshifting, and there are no paddle shifters, so we rode the brakes and cringed. It also sacrifices towing capacity (5,291 lb versus 4,409 lb) compared to the non-hybrids. Otherwise, with the optional air suspension, the driving was excellent.

In top-of-the-line Inscription trim ($71,590 as tested), the T8 E-AWD has a stately look with touches of elegance, and the interior is glorious, with a beautiful sculpted dashboard. Volvo could have told us the driftwood inlays had been gathered on skerries of the Stockholm archipelago by Ole Larsson and Lars Olsson during fishing bans. Or maybe the Swedes just tricked Finns into doing it. Whatever the sourcing, a unique storytelling opportunity is being wasted.

Malin Labecker, the engineer who leads the digital user-experience effort, had also come from Sweden, in her case to demonstrate the infotainment system. Yes, there were two Malins, and they explained the name was popular for baby girls in the 1970s because of a character in Astrid Lindgren’s 1964 TV series Vi på Saltkråkan, or We on Seacrow Island. While Malin Ekholm leads the safety effort, Malin Labecker and her team deserve credit for the crackerjack infotainment system and its 9.0-inch touchscreen. The home display presents four “tiles” for the major departments, and obscure functions are never more than a few swipes away. Meanwhile, it and the 12.3-inch driver instrument display look beautiful. Other automakers should be jealous of Volvo’s achievement.

Volvo also brought the latest 90-series cars, and after the eclipse (and lunch), we sampled the V90 T6 AWD Inscription. Loving station wagons as we do, it was only natural to open the tailgate first, admiring the 69.0 cubic feet of cargo volume and 78.3 inches of Goldendoodle stretch-out space with second row seats folded. A flip-up grocery bag holder is part of the $1,900 convenience package.

The V90 is 9.7 inches longer than the XC60, and its liftover height of 24.0 inches is 6.6 inches lower. With the same super- and turbocharged 2.0-liter engine making 316 hp, it was quite responsive (0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds). Yet, because of excellent aerodynamic efficiency, it will return 31 highway mpg. Cloaked in dark brown with a cream-colored interior, the V90 T6 AWD Inscription fired us up. It’s sensible like a Swede, sleek without straining, and scrumptious with its tailored dash and other appointments. This one stickered for $69,340. Placing the V90 on the shopping list would lead to a hard decision for those also considering a Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate.

Please note: Volvo is not stocking the V90 in dealerships and is offering the car only as a special order. Searching for a more efficient method of retailing, senior vice president Lex Kerssemakers said he would rather not overload dealerships with inventory. “We just want to see how it works,” he said.

The return leg to Denver was completed in a 2018 S90 T8 E-AWD Inscription. The sedan enjoys a 4.5-inch increase in rear legroom, has a panoramic sunroof, and incorporates hybrid propulsion. The tradeoffs from having the electric drive components behind the rear seat are lack of space for a spare tire and a slightly smaller fuel tank. This is the car the successful executive, entrepreneur, or professional will purchase after receiving a phone reminder to “Reward Yourself.” The S90 is altogether satisfying to drive and expresses a degree of noncomformity.

Our day in the latest Volvos confirmed several things. Volvo is making great cars and crossovers that proceeded over Colorado’s roads with the “relaxed confidence” Kerssemakers and his crew like to speak of. The strategies emphasizing electrification, autonomy, and ultimate safety are right on, yet the knack for design is as strong as ever. And meeting the magnificent Malins from engineering, CEO Kerssemakers, and product guru Hans Nilsson—who has raced and improved the same Volvo 240 for more than two decades—gives us plenty of reason to believe in the company. How great it is to have Volvo back from its period of eclipse.

2018 Volvo XC60 T8 E-AWD Inscription Specifications

PRICE $53,895/$71,590 (base/as tested)
ENGINE Direct-injection 2.0L turbocharged and supercharged DOHC 16-valve I-4 and electric motor with 10.4 kWh lithium-ion battery/400 hp @ 5,700 rpm 472 lb-ft @ 2,200 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD crossover
L x W x H 184.6 x 78.7 x 65.3 in
WHEELBASE 112.8 in
WEIGHT 4,599 lb
0-60 MPH 4.9 sec
TOP SPEED 140 mph

2018 Volvo XC60 T8 AWD R-Design Specifications

PRICE $45,895/$59,740 (base/as tested)
ENGINE Direct-injection 2.0L turbocharged and supercharged DOHC 16-valve I-4 /316 hp @ 5,700 rpm 295 lb-ft @ 2,200 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD crossover
EPA MILEAGE 21/27 mpg (city/highway)
L x W x H 184.6 x 78.7 x 65.3 in
WHEELBASE 112.8 in
WEIGHT 4,045 lb
0-60 MPH 5.6 sec
TOP SPEED 140 mph

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD Inscription Specifications

PRICE $58,945/$69,340 (base/as tested)
ENGINE Direct-injection 2.0L turbocharged and supercharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/316 hp @ 5,400 rpm 295 lb-ft @ 2,200 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 5-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD station wagon
L x W x H 194.3 x 79.5 x 58.1 in
WHEELBASE 115.8 in
WEIGHT 4,169 lb
0-60 MPH 5.8 sec
TOP SPEED 130 mph

2018 Volvo S90 T8 E-AWD Inscription Specifications

PRICE $64,745/$82,140 (base/as tested)
ENGINE Direct-injection 2.0L turbocharged and supercharged DOHC 16-valve I-4 and electric motor with 10.4 kWh lithium-ion battery/400 hp @ 5,700 rpm 472 lb-ft @ 2,200 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD, sedan
L x W x H 200.1 x 74.6 x 57.1 in
WHEELBASE 120.5 in
0-60 MPH  4.7 sec
TOP SPEED 130 mph

The post Swedes in Denver: We Drive the 2018 Volvo XC60, V70, and S90 T8 Hybrid appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

Defining a Style Series: What Is French Country Design?

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French Country Design

French country design showcases rustic elegance at its finest. Image: Allan Edwards Builder Inc.

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Thus far in our Defining a Style series, we’ve talked about trendy styles such as Nordic and industrial design. This time, however, we want to talk about an aesthetic that has fallen out of favor in the last few years, but is more than ready to come back. It’s time to talk about French country.

While many people are under the impression this type of design is too ornate to fit with today’s tastes, we think that could not be further from the truth. French country design showcases elegant simplicity at its finest — and, if given a chance, could become the next twist on rustic.

If you’re ready to give French country a chance, this post is for you. Keep reading to find out how to bring this look into the rooms of your home. Think of this post as your ultimate guide on how to infuse your interiors with the sophistication of the French countryside.

Pick warm colors.

Pick colors that are warm and welcoming. Image: NBB Design

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Choose warm, subtle colors

The French country aesthetic is almost in direct opposition to some of the ultra-modern style we’ve discussed in the past. Rather than relying on monochromatic shades and bold pops of color to create visually exciting contrasts, this look is all about creating a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.

The easiest way to achieve that goal is through your color palette. While the dominant shade in each room should still be fairly neutral, French country’s reliance on subdued hues means you can stretch that definition a little bit further than usual. Focus on colors that are inherently warm and subtle — such as tans, creams and soft yellows — to fill this role.

Where your accent colors are concerned, you’ll want to choose shades that harken to French country’s traditional roots. Choose colors such as rust and antique white, which will infuse the room with a subconsciously historical feel.

Look for elegant lines.

Include furniture with elegant lines. Image: Lovette Construction

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Look for furniture with flowing lines

One of the biggest misconceptions about French country style is that it’s ostentatious. In reality, the opposite is true. This look comes from the rural valleys of southern France. It’s more or less the French version of rustic.

With that in mind, you want to follow many of the same rules as you would when putting together a traditionally rustic look. Concentrate on incorporating plenty of natural materials. The shape of these pieces, however, is where this aesthetic sets itself apart. French country furniture boasts a variety of sophisticated, flowing lines to add plenty of visual interest in addition to function.

Upholstery is another area in which French country looks differ from other rustic styles. Since comfort is the main goal of this type of design, cozy cushions are key. Be sure to include plenty of plush seating in your design.

Choose weathered Finishes

Many French country elements feature a weathered finish. Image: French Lark Spur

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Embrace weathered finishes

French country style is steeped in tradition. The elements of this type of design have been handed down from generation to generation. When done correctly, a few subtle nods to that past can be seen throughout these designs.

One way to do that is through your finishes. Rather than having design elements look as though they’ve come straight from the store, you want the impression that your rooms have seen a bit of a history. When it comes to selecting flooring, furniture or even architectural elements like decorative wooden beams, choose finishes that are a bit distressed, or imperfect around the edges.

Of course, the best way to achieve an antique look is to bring in real antiques. You may want to consider shopping at secondhand stores or investing in vintage items to really cement that sense of history.

Add antique accessories.

Finish the look off with some antique accessories. Image: The Natural Wood Floor Company Limited

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Add pops of Old World charm

As always, accessories are the fun part. They are really where you can let this style shine.

Toile — a traditional floral pattern — is a hallmark of French country design. Think about including it in your upholstery, but if you’re not ready to make that big of a commitment, textiles such as blankets or throw pillows are also a good choice. Pair it with solids or mix and match with other prints like florals, stripes or gingham.

Other French country accents include decorative chandeliers, shapely mirrors, iron décor items and large wall clocks. Whichever items you choose, make sure they carry through the same distressed feel as your other design elements.

French Country details

More modern spaces can still exhibit French country details. Image: Bella Staging & Design

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Though French country design has been around for several centuries, it seems to have fallen out of favor in recent years. We think this is a huge mistake. Many seem to think this style is synonymous with overly decorated, traditional styles, when in fact it’s a beacon for simplistic elegance. If you’re ready to help bring back this aesthetic, this post is for you.

What do you think of French country design? Will you be including it in your interiors? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

The post Defining a Style Series: What Is French Country Design? appeared first on Freshome.com.

4 Types of Travel You Should Try Before You Die

Some of us travel for work, others for fun. Some of us travel to far off places, while some stay closer to home. Some travel on foot, by boat, by car, by plane, by train, and so many other methods. There is no single definition for what traveling looks like, but we all do it from time to time.

One of the primary reasons people travel recreationally is to experience something completely new and different. With that in mind, there are four types of travel you have to try at some point during your stay on this rock we call home.

#1: Event Travel

It does not matter whether you are into movies, music, sports, Vikings, cosplay, or just eating a ton of…bacon, there is an event for you. We have all heard of the Burning Man Festival, or the Cannes Film Festival, but there are many more options to satisfy whatever you fancy. The point is that you are around a large number of people who all enjoy something you do as well.

For instance, take the La Tomatina festival in Bunyol, Spain, which is the world’s largest tomato fight. There is also the Cheese Rolling Festival just outside Gloucester, England, where people essentially roll down a steep hill after a wheel of cheese. The point is there are many types of events you can experience.

While this kind of travel is fun even when you travel solo, it is much more fun when you are with some friends. Add an extra dimension and try renting a private room rather than getting a hotel room.

#2: Slow Travel

Many people feel like they need a vacation from their vacation, especially if they traveled. This is because the tourism industry has turned into a “do as much as you can in as short a period as you can” focus. As much as fast food has ruined how we eat, modern tourism has ruined how we think about travel.

Slow travel simply means slowing down and being connected in the present moment, with your surroundings, the people, the culture, the history and the stories. Usually, this entails staying for more than a single day in a particular area, and giving you time to immerse in the culture. Be sure to ask locals the best local places to eat, where to experience local entertainment, or how to buy locally. Also, ask if there is a local history museum. The point is to connect and experience a new culture, even if just a regional culture, and connecting to new people.

One of the benefits of slowing down is that it may inspire you in an area of life. For instance, as you experience slow travel, you may look back at the things you have accumulated in your travels and be inspired to start a business, or give to a specific cause in that community.

#3: Solo Travel

There is a number of reasons taking a solo trip can be good for you. You can do whatever you want, without concern for anyone else. This means you can choose what is going to be most relaxing for you, and move toward those things that truly resonate with you.

It also helps to improve the immersive experience when paired with slow travel, forcing you to connect with the community around you. This is especially good if you are traveling abroad and want a crash course in the local language.

Finally, we all need a little alone time now and again. This helps us to destress more effectively, allows creativity to flow undisturbed, and allows more space for problem-solving and important decision-making.

#4: Escapist Travel

Occasionally, everyone needs to escape our everyday grind. This is not just changing scenery and routine for a few days. However, this means getting to a space where technology is not distracting you and you are not worried about all that responsibilities and stresses from your normal life.

For most, this means getting off the beaten path, either staying in a small town or getting back out into nature directly. There is nothing like a long backpacking trek to help you get centered in the present, and get past all of the distractions that permeate our normal lives.

Not only can this type of travel help reduce stress and give you space to work out problems, but it can also help inspire and motivate you to make changes in your life to help you achieve your goals.

However You Travel, Make The Most Of It

Regardless of which of these types of travel resonates the most with you, what they all have in common is connecting, with your travel buddies, with the people you meet along the way and, ultimately, with yourself. It’s one of the best aspects of travel and it’s something people are continually missing out on due to the busyness and over-commercialized nature of our world. Take the challenge, and experience something completely different.

Author’s Bio:

Jasmine Williams covers the good and the bad of today’s business and marketing. She was rummaging through her grandma’s clothes before it was cool and she’s usually hunched over a book or dancing in the kitchen, trying hard to maintain rhythm, but delivering some fine cooking (her family says so). Tweet her @JazzyWilliams88

The post 4 Types of Travel You Should Try Before You Die appeared first on YourAmazingPlaces.com.

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