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Swede Sensations

Taking the Volvo S80 D5out for a spin in the Scandinavian hinterlands

Author Piet van Niekerk


SWEDEN – There are few things more pleasant than hurtling along at breakneck speed while getting a back massage. I’m doing this on the perfectly constructed E6 highway on the western edge of Sweden, and I continue to hurtle as I cross the massive Svinesund arch bridge, the icy blue water of the Iddefjord shimmering below. The abrupt appearance of yellow traffic cones—and the jolting detour that follows—doesn’t diminish the enjoyment. The Norwegian border guard planted in the middle of the road, however, does.

The back rub comes courtesy of the revamped Volvo S80 D5, which is equipped with a highly attentive massage unit (a standard feature on the front seats of all Volvo S80 Executive models). The sudden encounter with a border official, wide-eyed in the face of my rapid approach, is a result of my own folly. When I set off from Volvo’s Torslanda assembly plant on the outskirts of Gothenburg, I did not expect to go barreling over the Norwegian border—120 miles north—in an hour and change.

Missing a turnoff is easy to do when you’re flying down the road in an ultraluxurious sedan while humming along to Roxette’s “The Look.” The good news is that I’ve overshot my destination, the Swedish spa town of Strömstad, by only 12 miles; the better news is that the rattled Norwegian border guard metes out no punishment beyond a decidedly Scandinavian frown and a looping turn-the-car-around gesture. I oblige.

While negotiating the first few traffic circles into Strömstad, I realize that my navigational travails are far from over. I’m looking for the Laholmen Hotel, which boasts “spectacular views over the ocean.” But this is a town of countless inlets, fjords and harbors; everything has spectacular ocean views. Thankfully, the S80 is a forgiving vehicle if you are spending more time squinting from side to side than keeping your eyes on the road. The car comes with a battery of idiot-proof safety features: collision warning and auto brake capability, blind-spot radar detection and a lane departure alert system. I’m half tempted to take a snooze.

Also, there are worse places to get lost. Strömstad is the kind of town for which words like “cute” and “seaside” were invented. Finally, I spot a sign for a restaurant called the Rökeriet (“Smokehouse”) and decide a snack might be in order. From their seats, patrons can both watch and smell the smoking process taking place, which is a brilliant sales ploy. Soon, I have a large smoked salmon in front of me, along with a fillet of cod and a platter of mussels in cream. While working through my heap of seafood, I look out the window and see the Laholmen Hotel about 600 feet away, across the small harbor. Skönt!

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