It takes less than two hours to fly from San Francisco to Los Angeles, but instead we’re driving between these two cities in the Volvo XC90, the perfect car for indulging in the luxury of the journey.
WORDS IAN DICKSON PHOTOGRAPHY SAM CHRISTMAS
Journey’s start: driving the iconic streets of San Francisco in the XC90, Volvo Cars’ premium city SUV
Consider this time well spent
After closing the door of the Volvo XC90, the hustle and bustle of San Francisco immediately fades into the background. This is my sanctuary, a place of calm seclusion that contrasts with the energy and intensity of the city outside.
I’m setting off on a journey south to Los Angeles, where the destination and arrival time aren’t as important as the drive itself. I’m not in a hurry. I want to celebrate the journey. To discover new places. To indulge in the pleasure of the drive. To enjoy taking the time to do something properly and, just for a while, decouple from a world that seems to be working at warp speed.
San Francisco can be a challenge to navigate, with steep hills and a grid system of intersecting one-way streets. I’m thankful for the innovative technology in the XC90. City Safety can detect and help avoid a collision with another vehicle, pedestrians or a cyclist. And the 360° Camera gives me a birds-eye view of the car to help with manoeuvring in tight spots.
Before leaving the city behind, I take a detour to the top of Twin Peaks, the highest spot in the city and an ideal vantage point to watch it come to life. Sunrise is the best time to explore a city. The morning light eases you into the day and it feels like you’ve got the place to yourself.
From Twin Peaks it’s an easy drive down to pick up Highway 1, the iconic road that stretches along the Californian coastline. The satellite navigation directions appear clearly on the head-up display for seamless progress. Some of the guidebooks say you can easily do this journey in a day, but there’s no rush.
Our first overnight stop is at Half Moon Bay and the Ritz-Carlton where, from the well-tended terrace, I watch a spectacular Pacific Ocean sunset.
Magic moments, enhanced by the XC90
Further south the landscape becomes even more magical. The road now tracks alongside the ocean giving a panoramic view for miles, a scenery of cliffs, waves and hidden sandy coves. Every turn in the road reveals another stunning vista and the journey towards and beyond Big Sur is punctuated with regular stops to soak in the view.
With my driving companion scanning the onboard Wikipedia app, we continue to head south looking out for some of this area’s most famous sights and landmarks.
As the route shifts from rollercoaster-like bends that snake around cliff faces to roads that flow effortlessly across the landscape, there is ample opportunity to enjoy the scenery from the luxury of a cabin suffused with natural light.
After an overnight stop at the small and charming Avila Beach, a town close to the quirky college town of San Luis Obispo, the aftermath of a landslide forces a change of plan. We leave the coast and head inland, to an interstate highway that will take us straight to Los Angeles. I activate Pilot Assist and let the car help with some of the driving*, while I choose a suitably LA-centric soundtrack from Spotify.
Designed to impress and reward you
With so many highways connecting the sprawling Greater Los Angeles area, this city is often touted as the car capital of the world. And there is no better car to navigate its network of urban highways and boulevards in than the XC90, the premium city SUV in Volvo Cars’ XC range.
Traffic congestion is of course inevitable, but it gives me a chance to consult the onboard Yelp app in the XC90 to find a dinner recommendation for the evening. There’s something relaxing about taking a laid-back Californian attitude: arm on window to soak up the rays, favourite music on the Bowers & Wilkins sound system.
After several hours of highway driving, the XC90 proves its merit over such a long journey. Parked up outside a stylish boutique hotel, the paintwork sparkles in the bright Californian sun. Climbing out of the driver’s seat, I feel as fresh as when I started.
As my time with the XC90 nears its end, I reflect on our journey together. There’s a current trend for slow food and slow fashion. Taking the time to do things properly, to fully appreciate life’s little luxuries. It would be hard to describe our trip as slow travel when I’m in a car as powerful as the XC90, but as a place to unwind and enjoy the journey, it is unparalleled.
* Volvo Cars’ Pilot Assist technology supports the driver on limited-access highways, helping to maintain a set speed or distance to the car in front. Pilot Assist also gives gentle steering inputs to help you stay properly aligned in lane markings. As the driver, you are always responsible for the vehicle.