The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round

Volvo XC70

It’s a long way from Port Douglas to Cooktown and one could easily be excused for building up a thirst along the way.

So having survived the crocodile infested creek crossings and finally on some open savannah I was relieved to come across the 133 year old Lion’s Den Hotel.

Yes, this was a place where the hunters become the hunted and where crocodile burgers were on the menu.

The dusty locals looked perplexed when five brand new Volvo XC70s pulled up, but the sign that said “Tip the barmaids and all you’re your dreams will come true” was too alluring to resist.

The Lion’s Den Hotel is one of those iconic colonial structures that’s impossible to drive past.

Unlike the more substantial Birdsville pub it’s made of slabs of timber and sheets of iron and its main claim to fame is that the owners encourage visitors to leave graffiti and are otherwise letting nature take its course and allowing it to fall into disrepair.

Either that or Queensland Health are responsible for maintaining it and in true Queensland Health style it didn’t look too secure.

But there was nothing to fear from un-welcome guests because there’s a real stuffed lion at the doorway to discourage unruly behaviour.

As we were all responsible drivers we didn’t have a drink after all and the bar maids did look like the sort of girls my mother warned me about.

So we climbed back into the climate controlled comfort of our Volvos and set off for Cooktown.

Volvo has carved a niche making safe family wagons and driving all four wheels satisfies our craving for the great outdoors.

Ironically in this genre you’ll expect to find a pollen filter just in case you get too close to nature.

Bolstered by the excellent XC90, Volvo sales last year were up by 21% and there is no shortage of mums and dads who’d be proud to do the school pick-up in a wagon made in Sweden.

This time around the XC70 is about 74mm taller than the V70 and the styling has become more daring all round.

Volvo have thoughtfully added an extra cross-member up front at the normal height just to be sure that in the event of a collision with another vehicle everything deploys as it should.

Volvo also excels by offering two innovative child booster seats in the second row and there’s plenty of high strength steel reinforcing to protect the cabin.

And though its not part of the EuroNCAP testing program my fireman patients have told me that they do have to reach for the extra heavy duty cutters when rescuing someone from a Volvo and all of this attention to crash worthiness is worth considering when you’re strapping your family in for that Sunday drive.

Volvo offer an energetic 6 cylinder 3.2 litre petrol as well as the grunt of a 5 cylinder 2.4 litre diesel driving through six speed automatic transmissions.

Although sensible drivers will pick the diesel for its better economy and lower emissions, the petrol engine does have a sweeter sound and spritely performance.

For $6,000 more there’s an LE model with a sunroof, power tailgate and a few other bits of fruit, but I’d be spending $3,950 and specifying the adaptive cruise control.

For my money it’s a must have piece of technology that enables the car to follow the car ahead and applies the brakes if things look like getting too cosy.

For around the same price as a top-spec Subaru Outback the XC70 is classier and more solid, just like the bar maids at the Lion’s Den.

Safe motoring,
Dr Clive Fraser

For: A safe and luxurious family wagon.

Against: The ABS seemed programmed for icy roads rather than gravel.

This car would suit: Family doctors.

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    Medical Motoring is an online record of the articles written by Dr Clive Fraser and published in the Australian Medicine magazine by the Australian Medical Association.