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.