The timing could not be better when Volvo asked me to join them in Colorado to test drive the all-new XC60. I was in the midst of getting deep into vintage clothing after scoring big at an off-the-beaten-path flea market in a field in Massachusetts. There I came upon a box filled with hard-to-find motorcycle club shirts from the ’70s and a lot of ’80s made-in-the-USA Screen Star blank T-shirts – untouched and ready for printing.
Volvo’s drive was happening in Denver which was a short drive from a group of old Colorado mining towns I was curious to visit. Having absorbed every copy of Rin Tanaka’s My Freedamn! and Lightning denim guides I could get my hands on, my gut was telling me to get out there, if only to bring me closer to miners who came from an age that pioneered American workwear.
Over the past year, Volvo has regained quite some ground in the SUV market. Their highly praised XC90 is considered the best SUV around by people who know a thing or two about cars. The Volvo revival began in 2015 when every 90-series vehicle moved to the company’s new Volvo SPA (scalable product architecture), a platform meant to modernize and forward the vehicle maker into the next decade. I first experienced the new platform with the Volvo S90 sedan in Malaga, Spain.
With the 90-series transformation complete, Volvo set its eyes on its mid-size vehicle offering beginning with the XC-60. Full disclosure: I own an older-model XC60, and love it for all the reasons dads love Volvos: safety, reliability, and the subtle luxury the Swedish maker delivers.
It’s not a flashy vehicle by any stretch – one can jump into a BMW or Mercedes-Benz SUV if you need that. The piece of mind that Volvo’s safety features offer attracted me to the older XC60 including blind-spot indicators and low-speed collision alerts. The all-new 2018 XC60 offers those as well as an abundance of other systems that were previously only available in the 90-series.
Volvo’s commitment to safety became even more apparent with the launch of Vision 2020, the company’s bold initiative “to [reduce] the number of people that die or are seriously injured in road traffic accidents to zero.” It’s a vision I can stand behind.
With a day to test drive the 2018 XC60, Volvo set a drive course that took us through open roads and highways outside of Denver, giving us plenty of opportunities to feel out the changes in the XC60. Key differences include a slightly wider wheelbase and a two-inch drop that puts the vehicle closer to the road, giving the overall ride a firmness that improves ride compared to previous models.
Denver’s highways offered time to test out Pilot Assist (a semi-autonomous driver-assist), a feature that’s standard on the XC90, and optional on the new XC60. Pilot Assist’s self-steering feature keeps the vehicle in lane and feels even and consistent. It’s semi-autonomous because the driver still needs to keep their hands on the wheel – the Volvo will remind you of that with some beeps and burps. Another solid safety addition, Oncoming Lane Mitigation, warns drivers when they cross the center lane potentially putting the car in the direction of oncoming traffic.
The interior’s best new feature is Volvo’s Sensus Connect, which centers all controls on a nine-inch touchscreen, a feature first seen in the XC90. It’s one of the best user experiences in an in-dash system you’ll use: it’s intuitive, easy to use and favored over most touchscreen systems on the road today. It’s one of the strongest interior changes to the XC60 line.
With three plus hours of drive time under my belt with the Volvo XC60, it was time to head back to Denver. This is where things got interesting for me. The official driving route provided by Volvo and programmed into Sensuse Connect navigation took test drivers through Central City, an old Colorado mining town founded in 1858. The town’s Visitor Center was filled with classic photography of miners doing their thing wearing the era’s dungarees and workwear coats.
Leaving Central City, I got lost heading back, putting me a good 90 minutes northwest of my intended target of Denver. Up there on a nameless road in a nameless town, I pulled into a General Store to get directions. Inside was what could only be described as a cornucopia of vintage things, including amazing ’70s and ’80s hi-fi stereo components, outdoor gear, home goods and, of course, clothing.
After touring for a while, I spotted a stack of used jeans. Under a stack of imported Wranglers, I discovered a deadstock pair of women’s Blue Bell jeans with pocket flashers. Denim nerds will know that the Blue Bell Overall Company was the original maker of Wrangler back in the day. My knowledge of Blue Bell history wasn’t proficient at the time, but I guessed them to be “old” and certainly made in the USA. (Remember those My Freedamn! and Lighting books I mentioned earlier? Those two books and a knowledgable friend help me date them properly back East.)
Composed, I asked the shopkeeper if he had more old jeans. When he returned from the stockroom with two bins filled with various other deadstock workwear denim of the period, I nearly lost my mind. And while the majority were department store varieties with names like “Good ‘Un” and “Dressy Dan,” some were made at Cone Mills factory in North Carolina, considered some of the finest denim made in America, and now unfortunately shuttering this year after a 125-year run.
To call it a haul would be an understatement. I purchased every pair without hesitation. If not for the all-new Volvo XC60 and driving off the beaten path, such a moment may never have happened.
- Gallery Images: Volvo
- In-Line Images: Jeff Carvalho / Highsnobiety.com