10:00 PM | September 20 2019
The beauty of the road
The All-New Volvo S60 sports sedan takes on some of the most challenging and exciting roads in the world.
The road, in its purest form, is simply a connection from one place to another. Yet it can be so much more. In the right location, in the right car, it can be a state of mind – a connection between person and place. Even a thing of beauty.
In western Norway the road is all of these, and more. Here, roads twist and turn, rise and fall, leaping suddenly through deep tunnels, over huge bridges or into dark forests.
It’s a place where yet another breathtaking view always seems to be just around the corner or over the next hill. If you’re looking to reignite the romance of driving – where it’s just you, the car and the road – then this is the place you should come to.
Especially if, like us, you can experience this unique roadscape in the All-New Volvo S60 sports sedan.
We’re driving two stretches of road that have been named among the most exciting, fun and challenging in the world.
Separated by just over 100km, the twisting mountain pass of Trollstigen and the rollercoaster-like Atlantic Ocean Road are comparatively short sections of road, but they have become destinations in themselves. People come here from all over the world to experience them. Our aim is to take in both roads, pursuing any interesting-looking diversions along the way. Above all, we’re here to enjoy the drive.
Our starting point, Trollstigen, is a mountain road that zig-zags its way up and down a steep valley. Opened in 1936, the road climbs to 850 metres above sea level at its highest point. The scenery is spectacular, all rocky slopes and – at least when we’re visiting it – snowy peaks and glowering late autumn sky.
As we head down the pass, we reflect on how the drive here has highlighted the finer points of the S60 – its superbly comfortable seats, for example, and a centre touchscreen that’s as sleek to behold as it is easy to use. We’ve also found out just how quick the T6 R-Design (an overseas model) we’re driving is. The answer (in the right circumstances, of course): very.
Now we get the chance to experience this dynamic sedan on the 10 per cent incline and 11 hairpins of Trollstigen.
The S60 feels supremely poised and, as the corners come thick and fast, I use the steering wheel paddles to shift up and down through the gears.
This is a car built for driving pleasure. Double-wishbone front suspension helps to give precise handling, while Volvo Cars’ innovative integral rear suspension keeps weight to a minimum, boosting agility and responsiveness.
Trollstigen is a place where you can make the most of the S60’s drive modes, which allow you to tailor the responses of the engine, gearbox, steering, brakes and stability control system.
Dynamic mode subtly sharpens the car’s responses to add some extra ‘bite’ through the bends and bring a satisfying sense of connection to this road that loops back and forth like a coil of cooked spaghetti.
As we leave Trollstigen behind, twisting and turning through a wooded valley, we use the Individual drive mode to select Dynamic for the steering and Comfort for the suspension. It’s a mix that suits the drive perfectly, smoothing out a road surface that has been scarred by biting Norwegian winters, yet provide keen responses to steering wheel inputs.
After a detour to Trollveggen – the ‘Troll Wall’ that is the tallest vertical rock face in Europe – we head to our stopover destination, the city of Molde, cosseted safely in the S60’s luxurious interior.
We set off before dawn the next day. It’s cold and wet outside, though the standard all-wheel-drive model provides reassuring traction as we negotiate the slippery roads out of Molde. Heading north, the scenery is less dramatic than it was yesterday but as daylight creeps over the horizon, majestic mountains and lakes loom into view. This is a place with a seemingly infinite ability to stir the emotions.
By the time we reach the town of Vevang, the sky seems to open up, telling us that we are nearing the edge of the land. And then, ahead of us, we see it – the unmistakable outline of the Storseisundet Bridge.
Just as suddenly, the road dips and the bridge disappears from view. Eager to reach it now, I press on the accelerator and the T6 engine responds powerfully. We round a few more corners, and the houses on either side of the road begin to thin out.
Suddenly water surrounds us. This is the Atlantic Ocean Road – an 8.3-kilometre-long tribute to ingenuity and determination. Built over the course of six years and opened in 1986, it connects a group of islands to the mainland, putting road where once there was only water.
The road itself is remarkable, but Storseisundet Bridge is its centrepiece. Seen from the south, at first sight it looks more like a tower than a bridge, leaning upwards and outwards, the road seemingly ending in mid-air. It’s easy to see why some call it ‘the road to nowhere’.
As you get closer, the bridge’s true profile is revealed and the optical illusion shattered. Its eight per cent incline is a daunting proposition nonetheless, but the S60 powers effortlessly up it, the car’s sophisticated suspension keeping it perfectly stable as the road rises and the side winds increase in intensity.
Waves crash below as we near the crest. Suddenly we’re over the top, and a calm descends.
The road unfurls ahead of us, snaking between rocks and sea. It feels like another invitation to simply drive, to enjoy more of what this car – and this country – has to offer. It’s an invitation we accept without a moment’s hesitation.