Though I tend to drive less frequently these days, my 2005 Acura TL turned six years old, and the time had come for something new. I test drove a plethora of vehicles including the Audi A4 and S4, BMW 335, Infiniti GSx, Lexus IS 350, Mercedes C and finally the Volvo S60 T6. The finalists were the Audi S4, the Lexus IS 350 and to my surprise, the Volvo S60 T6. All three of these vehicles are offered in all wheel drive, a definite plus for my New England climate.
The Volvo S60 T6 is different from Volvo’s of the past, it has very sleek European lines, a sporty look, excellent acceleration (300HP) and provides a great ride. It boasts extremely comfortable ergonomic seats, great styling, a state of the art navigation system and all the options I required. The S60 T6 also came with a 5 year/50,000 mile full maintenance, bumper to bumper warranty, including oil changes, brakes, rotors, wiper blades, etc., ensuring a what I expect to be a maintenance free 5 year ownership at my mileage levels. When I compared the total price, after adding the options I selected, the Volvo came in comparably priced to the Infiniti and less than the Audi S4 or Lexus, which came as no surprise. To my surprise, however, Volvo said they would provide a complimentary trip to Sweden to pick up and use my new car. I was somewhat dubious about that last statement and researched several blogs on the subject.
According to my research and the DVD Volvo sent, the free trip included free airfare for two, 3 nights free hotel (3 nights for existing Volvo owners or 1 night for new owners), airport transfer to your hotel, hotel pickup to the Volvo delivery center, lunch and a tour of their factory, and use of your own Volvo for your vacation, including insurance and roadside assistance. Assuming the commercial accurately portrayed the trip, this appeared to be a really fun way to take another vacation abroad, compliments of Volvo.
A quick estimate of what type of value this might represent to a car buyer might look like this. Assuming airfare for two from Boston to Sweden costs at least $1,600, 3 nights hotel about $900, free hotel parking $100, use of the car for a week or more (at least $500), and the removal of the destination charge (about $800), I estimated the Volvo sponsored trip at approximately $4,000. Many people, including me, probably wonder if this was a shell game, with the price of the car inflated, to help subsidize the trip. However, the pre-negotiated pricing for the program included a discount off retail of about 7%, better than one could negotiate for a US based purchase. Though the free trip would not constitute a reason to buy the car, it’s a great perk if one was intending to do so in the first place, or if a would be purchaser was indecisive about which car manufacturer they preferred.
Beyond the economic incentives, it seemed like a great opportunity for a unique adventure, so I put down my deposit and embarked upon the Volvo Overseers Delivery Program journey. Next stop, Gothenburg, Sweden, the Volvo Factory Delivery Center.
A Predominately Positive Perspective
Overall, it was a fun, interesting and problem free trip, clearly a good experience from Volvo and one that I can recommend with a few notables to ensure informed consent. First, in the event you consider the Volvo Overseas Delivery Program, let me offer what I think is a truly valuable piece of advice. Purchase a Garmin that will work in Scandinavia, either before your trip or when you arrive in Gothenburg. It will be the best $100 investment you will make. Navigating from the Volvo delivery center back to the Radisson SAS hotel in downtown Gothenburg was likely similar to a foreigner navigating to downtown Boston from Waltham, Massachusetts. With so many one way streets, trolley traffic, pedestrians, congestion and cyclists, we would describe it as challenging. Once armed with the Garmin, however, navigation in Sweden and Denmark were accomplished with relative ease. The Garmin Nuvi allows users to change the settings into English or your language of choice. By the way, just in case you were paying attention to the introductory paragraph, I did order a state of the art navigation system with the car. And though this works splendidly in North America, it is not compatible with European or Scandinavian navigation systems (though I was recently told Scandinavian maps might be available for a fee).
We spent a few days in Gothenburg, an interesting and dynamic city and the second largest in Sweden. We walked throughout the city, toured the waterfront, checked out the 1907 windjammer Viking, jumped on a trolley to the fabulous botanical gardens located at the edge of the city and of course picked up our new Volvo at the Volvo Factory Delivery Center about 25 minutes from downtown Gothenburg. The experience at the delivery center was very positive. Volvo advertises that you will be treated like a King (or Queen), and shows a Volvo limousine picking up their new customers at the airport and at the hotel. We were picked up very promptly upon our arrival at the airport, and were transported with another couple in a new Volvo SUV to our hotel. The next morning we were picked up in a new Volvo sedan, and privately transported to the Volvo center. Though I can’t say we were treated like royalty or shuttled in a limo, the service was prompt, polite and professional.
At the delivery center, we arrived around 10:30am, and were politely informed there would be a wait. That said, Volvo did provide internet access and comfortable seating. Around 11:40am, our turn in the queue had arrived and we met with a Volvo representative who patiently explained the nuances of our car use in Sweden and Denmark, roadside assistance, insurance, etc. She then escorted us to our new car and reviewed all of the functions, from the radio, to the electronic parking brake to the location of the gas tank. We took a quick test drive on Volvo’s property and carefully parked the car in the Volvo lot. Just to be clear, Volvo is delivering your actual car, not a rental or substitute vehicle. This car is yours to use in Sweden and Europe and it will then be shipped back, and ultimately delivered to your Volvo dealership, in our case to a dealership in Wellesley, Massachusetts. The shipping process takes about six to eight weeks from Sweden to the East Coast. Shipping is free from Gothenburg, but if you drop your car off in a different location (Denmark or Germany for example), there are extra fees. We dropped our car off near Copenhagen, and were charged about $500 for shipping. This seemed very fair and a much better alternative than trying to loop around back to Gothenburg to drop off the car.
After a modest lunch promptly served by Volvo, we were ushered into a Disneyworld like tram, for the factory tour. This was a worthwhile expenditure of an hour, the tour is interesting, informative and impressive. Volvo whisked our group of about 20 people throughout their factory, showing everything from automated welding and assembly, to intricate hand assembly, explaining how the car moves from sheet metal to finished product on the line. Once we completed the tour, we navigated without use of a navigation system back to our hotel, minus a few wrong turns some trolley traffic challenges, we were able to valet park our vehicle at the Radisson SAS, our home for 4 days and 3 nights compliments of Volvo (new Volvo customers are provided with 1 night accommodation).
The next day, we departed Gothenburg, heading south toward Malmo. The little Garmin successfully navigated us through Welsingbord, Varborg, Lund and into Malmo, and did so admirably. Great sites along the route included the Varberg Fortress, Helsingborg Kärnan Tower, and Kulturen, a collection of over 30 buildings in the world’s second oldest open-air museum located in Lund. It was easy to traverse this section of Sweden, the road system is excellent and the driving is easy. We arrived in Malmo, staying at the Renaissance Hotel in the middle of the old section of town, a bustling pedestrian friendly center offering a cadre of restaurants, alfresco dinning and interesting shops, just a few steps from our door. Notable sites in Malmo included Stortoget, Malmo’s city center square, Malmohus Castle and the fascinating Turning Torso Tower, the tallest skyscraper in Scandinavia. The Turning Torso is designed after a sculpture, and constructed with nine segments of five-story pentagons that twist as it rises. The highest segment is twisted ninety degrees clockwise relative to the ground floor segment. It’s hard to describe and truly interesting to see, a modest walk from downtown to the waterfront, and an opportunity to take in a great view of the Oresund Bridge. The Oresund Bridge connects Sweden and Denmark, and is the longest road and rail bridge in Europe, measuring 7,845 meters (25,738 feet) in length. That’s five miles from end to end, and though I’ve seen a myriad of measurements pertaining to the length of the Oresund, I can assure everyone of one thing, it’s a really long bridge!
It was reassuring to be in our all wheel drive vehicle when we traversed the windy Oresund to Copenhagen, a towering cable stayed bridge that actually ends in a tunnel under the seabed and emerges in Denmark. Copenhagen is a thriving, pedestrian and bicycle friendly metropolis filled with great architecture, museums, canals and the famous Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park and garden located in the middle of downtown Copenhagen. Tivoli opened in 1843 and is the second oldest amusement park in the world. Because Copenhagen is so easy to walk around and offers great public transit, the Volvo stayed in the Marriott garage until we headed north to the regal Fredericksborg Castle and gardens, a great destination, similar albeit smaller in perspective to Versailles or Peterhof. The castle was roughly on the way toward our ultimate drop off point, a Volvo dealership north of Copenhagen, where we turned in the car for return shipment to Wellesley, Massachusetts. How difficult was that process? I’d estimate about 10 minutes plus a quick ride to the train station. The modern express train back to Copenhagen was only twenty minutes, with the balance of our trip spent in Copenhagen proper.
Shipping and Handling
The Volvo S60 had an interesting return trip home. It left Copenhagen on the back of a truck and was shipped to Gothenburg, Sweden. In Gothenburg, it was loaded onto the Atlantic Concert, a cargo ship built in 1984, measuring 291 meters in length and 32 meters in width, weighing in at 51,648 tons. Once loaded, I was notified of its departure, and through a website and Google maps was able to track the ship’s progress across the Atlantic to the docks on the shores of New Jersey. It passed through customs and a few weeks later, it was parked in my garage.
Other than the initial navigation challenge, there were a couple of minor issues with the trip. One issue related to the routing from Boston to Gothenburg. Since Volvo partners with SAS (Scandinavian Airlines), and they don’t fly from Boston, our outbound routing was Boston to Washington to Copenhagen and finally to Gothenburg (or we could have chosen New York or Chicago). This resulted in a three flight segment routing to arrive in Gotherburg, whereas two would have been much better (Boston to Copenhagen to Gothenburg for example). Routing was luck of the draw, if you live in New York for example, you would be able to accomplish this with one connection. Our return was from Copenhagen since we drove from Gothenburg to Denmark, resulted in good routing with only one stop in Washington Dulles.
It is important to mention that SAS has four classes of service: First Class, Business Class, Economy Plus, and Economy. Though the SAS flight attendants were very courteous and accommodating, the economy class was tight, with narrow seats and limited leg room. Fortunately, on the return trip, SAS was gracious enough to move us to Economy Plus, dramatically more comfortable than economy.
If you like to travel and are considering a Volvo or comparable vehicle, the Volvo Overseas Delivery Program offers a great experience and an excellent value. Everyone we met in Sweden and Denmark spoke English, some were so conversant we were uncertain if they were truly indigenous to the area. Sweden and Denmark struck us as clean, friendly, and environmentally proactive. We witnessed a wealth of wind turbines (we estimated about 25 wind turbines across Copenhagen’s waterfront) and a bevy of bike lanes with a literal commuter rush of work bound bicyclists.
If you intend to travel to Scandinavia, summer is advisable from my perspective, as it resides pretty far north and the climate is chilly, even in the summer. During our 10 day stretch, the weather was fairly good with several sunny days, intermingled with a fair share of clouds and rain. My take on the entire experience was very positive and in my opinion, Volvo delivered as promised.