While we all admire them at PH, Volvo features don't tend to attract a huge amount of attention. Put a five-cylinder Shed out, estate or coupe and the forum comments will rarely breach a few pages. A drive of the latest Polestar-fettled model? Much the same. Drive a 500hp, manual S60 set up by the touring car team? 62 responses. But news of Volvo fitting 180km/h speed limiters ? Now we're talking. Really talking.
Last year's confirmation that all Volvos from MY2021 onwards will be limited to 180km/h certainly got a discussion going, with more than 400 comments. Now's the chance to revisit that story, with the 2021 model year now going into production. From now, a new Volvo won't be capable of any more than 112mph.
We won't revisit the original arguments here, instead adding what Volvo has now said about the debate. Apparently the limit helps in "providing extra peace of mind and supporting better driver behaviour", Volvo believing that it has a "responsibility to help improve traffic safety". That's according to Malin Ekholm, head of Volvo's Nanny Institute. Or possibly its Safety Centre.
Interestingly, Volvo has conceded that the limit "has proven to be controversial since it was announced". Its response? "Volvo Cars believes it has an obligation to continue its tradition of being a pioneer in the discussion around the rights and obligations of car makers to take action that can ultimately save lives, even if this means losing potential customers." Which is fairly brave talk from a manufacturer of Volvo's sales volume.
The limit now has additional restrictions too, with the introduction of a Care Key at the same time. Specific details are hard to come by (we're tracking them down!), the jist of it essentially being that it's the opposite of a Bugatti speed key, and rather like a Valet Mode in muscle cars. The Volvo Care Key "allows Volvo drivers to set additional limitations on the car's top speed, for example before lending their car to other family members or to younger and inexperienced drivers." Quite what they can be limited to is what we're striving to find out.
As for the actual cars, Volvo has made no admission yet that anything will change beyond the introduction of the limiter. But the follow-on question is obvious enough: if the performance capability of the entire lineup is being drastically reduced, is the mechanical composition of said lineup going to follow suit? Cars built to do 112mph endure significantly less stress than those configured for 155mph, so why make - at considerable additional expense - every component conform to a standard they will no longer be required to meet?
Don't mistake that line of questioning for outright cynicism - certainly no-one is querying Volvo's build quality or diligence - particularly with regards to things like crash structures. But the fact remains: an Audi A1 is built with different outright tolerances to an Audi RS6. If there is no requirement to factor in an extra level of autobahn ability, then why manufacture the car that way? Cold business logic would suggest there are cost savings to be made alongside Volvo's penchant for sermonising.
Be that as it may, for now the headline is that the 180km/h is in effect on Volvos built from today. For those of us weaned on a diet of tyre-smoking Volvo hooligans, watching 850s and V70s storm up the outside lane in pursuit of bad guys, it will surely result in sagging shoulders. Because, as we all know, you can drive like a div in a speed limited car, or immaculately in one that'll do 220mph - drivers and driver training are the problem here, not cars. And seeing them neutered is a disappointment, to put it mildly.