JEREMY Clarkson worked out a long time ago that most car buyers don’t understand terms like lift-off oversteer and scuttle shake; terms used by car magazines to describe how a car handles but not understood by the vast majority of drivers.
But just how little people know about cars was only truly highlighted recently, when he arrived at a tennis club to find a Volvo XC40 in the car park with its engine running but no owner in sight.
In his review of the car for today’s Sunday Times, Clarkson wrote: “No one was in it and no one was about, so when I got to the court I asked whose it was. ‘Mine,’ said a friend. ‘I picked it up yesterday.’ I explained that its engine was still running. ‘I know,’ she said. ‘I can’t work out how to turn it off.'”
According to the writer, his friend had left it running on her driveway all night then driven it to the tennis tournament and left it running there, too. “In her head, the engine was designed to stay on for ever,” Clarkson mused.
When car buyers know this little about cars, a Volvo XC40 makes a lot of sense, he goes on to argue. Not because it’s bad, though; in fact, it excels in the areas that really matter to real people.
For a start, it’s a very good-looking car, he says, “head and shoulders above” aesthetically-pleasing rivals from Ford, Hyundai and Kia. That’s surprising given that Clarkson has had a downer on the styling of pretty much all SUVs and crossovers in the past.
It’s also “comfortable and well equipped, with a cool screen and optional Apple CarPlay and Harman Kardon sounds”.
But most importantly, as you’d expect from a Volvo, it’s safe. It appears to be in a different league to his favourite car of this type, the Range Rover Evoque, he argues.
Pointing out that in 15 years of the larger Volvo XC90, no one has been killed in one, Clarkson writes:
“Its newer little brother is crammed with so many safety features, I think you’d be in more peril at a game of bowls. It scans the road ahead for obstacles, and if you don’t act after being warned, it will jam on the brakes for you. The steering system will override your commands if it thinks you’re going to run off the road, and if you do, for whatever reason, the seatbelts tighten and the seat frame collapses to make it softer should you hit a tree.”
He adds that by next year, Volvo’s goal is for no one in the world to be killed or seriously injured in one of its cars. And for people who don’t understand that an engine has to be switched off after they’ve parked, this is the only thing that really matters when choosing a car.