Volvo touch screen controls: crazier than Sweden’s coronavirus policies?

We recently rented a 2021 Volvo S60 from Enterprise. Many of the controls have migrated to a central touch screen and there are just a handful of buttons in the center plus some labeled-only-with-icon buttons on the steering wheel. Neither I nor Senior Management could figure out how to do the basics, e.g., keep Google Maps from Apple CarPlay on the screen, sync the left/right temperatures, hang up a phone call from a steering wheel button (from another one of which a phone call had been initiated).

The speedometer cluster seems to be a dot-matrix display, which is nice in theory, but the gauges are not presented as clearly as in a more primitive implementation.

Compared to the typical country, Sweden has taken a different path when confronted with coronavirus. Kids have been in school continuously, for example, and adults at work. The country’s first real restriction, limiting “public events” to 8 people, came a year after the world’s first Covid-19 case (November 17, 2019). (Note that Swedes remain free to assemble privately, e.g., a Swedish family could host a party for 20 friends and not be subject to prosecution (nor be scolded if the guests were unmasked). And the restrictions don’t apply to schools or workplaces.)

(Our Church of Shutdown media, of course, characterizes Sweden as a “failure”, operating from the assumption that the only worthwhile human goal is avoiding coronavirus infection. That said, Sweden doesn’t make the first page of countries ranked by Covid-19 death rate.)

I drive at least 30 different cars per year (rental cars, FBO crew cars borrowed at airports, friend’s cars, etc.). None of them have been as confusing as this 2021 Volvo S60. Who wants to defend Swedish idiosyncrasy in dashboard design?

15 thoughts on “Volvo touch screen controls: crazier than Sweden’s coronavirus policies?

  1. “Senior Management”! Love it. That’s as good as Rumpole of the Bailey’s “She Who Must be Obeyed.” About the Volvo: I’m sure the controls seem logical to those who designed them. But I’ve found that logical and intuitive are not the same thing. Figuring out the nuances of rental cars is made difficult, because renters have to figure it out with the engine running in a rental car parking lot, with a destination beckoning, and often with passengers (and Senior Management) wondering what the holdup is.

  2. “I drive at least 30 different cars per year” This must be exasperating, since we all know you have achieved minivan nirvana at home

  3. I used to hear grief from people who had to learn to drive a SAAB because, from what I remember, they laid out their controls and dashboard differently because they build military jets. The 80’s 9000 Turbos in particular. I always thought they were very well done.

    These cars are all nudging people into the driverless future where you don’t need gauges, switches, knobs, etc. and a driver-oriented “cockpit” because you just sit in the thing and roll, and watch Netflix on the big screens as the world rolls past you.

    Somewhat related to a prior post: movies playing on the outside panels of the vehicles. I drove past one of Stand Out Truck’s rigs today with the bright LED panels flashing bright ads. Not movies yet but I don’t see why they wouldn’t.

    • On the other hand, and to play devil’s advocate a little, C&D reports that the interior is built with impeccable quality and Volvo can change the displays, etc. But they note your frustration:

      “Every S60 features a tablet-style Sensus infotainment system that looks stylish but can be frustrating to operate.”

      I’d have to drive one. I do think that essential things like climate control shouldn’t be more complicated to use than anything that used to have a knob on it.

      Question: was the engine smooth? It’s a turbocharged and intercooled I-4. with direct fuel injection. How was the vibration and noise? I’d put up with a little clutter in infotainment to have a really good, smooth and powerful I-4 engine.

  4. Good reason to drive across the country rather than fly an SR-20, so you don’t have to rent so many cars. 5 years ago, cars were going to be able to drive themselves across the country, so every private plane could have a car autonomously follow it.
    Pilots were going to have practical transportation wherever their airplanes went.

  5. I think the Great Barrington Declaration people have lost the war.

    “Sweden Sees No Signs So Far Herd Immunity Is Stopping Virus.”- Bloomberg

    “The issue of herd immunity is difficult,” Anders Tegnell said at a briefing in Stockholm on Tuesday. “We see no signs of immunity in the population that are slowing down the infection right now.”

    It didn’t pan out.

    • Alex (in another guise): Herd immunity was not a goal of Sweden’s policy (though they vaguely hoped for it). Their goal was to have a fairly similar infection and death rate, as of April 2021, to the lockdown countries (e.g., France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, UK, et al.), but without a lockdown. If they end up with similar stats as the U.S. or France, but with their children continuously in school and their adults continuously at work, that will be an example of their strategy panning out.

    • @Philg: No offense meant. I was really hoping that is thing moved into the winter they’d have better results from Tegnell regarding herd immunity. It’s very upsetting to me. And by the way, I’ve thought your response to this thing from the beginning has been largely correct. It’s astounding to me that the first response of the majority of people in this country when faced with the government severely restricting their rights and their movements was to instantly cower. Closing the schools and all of the actions by the teacher’s unions has been absolutely astonishing to watch.

    • Alex: If I recall, you live in Maskachusetts, which has suffered 10,319 COVID-19 deaths. The article you cite says that Sweden has had 6,500. Considering that Sweden’s population is 50 percent larger than the Massachusetts population and that MA has been denying its urban children an education since March 2020 (all the while waving BLM signs!), from your perspective what is it about Sweden’s policy that didn’t “pan out”? The carefully chosen comparison to Norway rather than to Belgium, France, or Spain? Most of the difference between Sweden and other Nordics can be explained by the prevalence of low-skill migrants within the respective populations (see from the Swedish physicians’ society)

      (source for MA: )

      And the folks lost the war before they put pen to paper! Their advice doesn’t make any sense for a society in which humans have no goal other than avoiding COVID-19.

    • @Philg: My perspective on it was that I hoping by this point that Sweden would be seeing some benefit from herd immunity and Tegnell could point to it unequivocally as further support for Sweden’s approach to handling the virus. It probably wouldn’t have changed minds in the media, but I would have enjoyed seeing him be able to get up and say: “We can see that herd immunity is having an effect, even if it is a modest one.” That would have lent some empirical support to the Great Barrington Declaration people, and I wouldn’t have to listen to Alan Chartock “furiously” dismiss them as “characters” who were usurped the birthplace of W.E.B. DuBois for their murderous scheme, while touting Andrew Cuomo as one of the greatest heroes in world history. I know the comparison to Norway is a cherry-picked snub. I just would have loved to be able to call in to WAMC and say that to Chartock on the air. Admittedly, that’s a little bit petty and small of me, but still…

      And nobody mentions that Sweden is such heavily export-dependent economy and the main economic impact there obtains from the depressed economies of its trading partners.

    • Alex: I don’t think “school enrollment” is meaningful when schools are shut down. U.S. public schools were only marginally effective when conducted in person. My friend who lives in D.C. says that her child would be learning nothing if limited to the online offering (what poor kids are getting). Fortunately, she is rich and white so she is splitting the cost of a $60,000/year at-home tutor with two other families (learning pod in basement of townhouse) to supplement what comes through the Internet. So her child is Zooming ahead, so to speak, while the average child in D.C. falls behind despite being technically “enrolled”.

  6. I’ve owned t a Mercedes SUV since early in the pandemic: bought it used from Enterprise, figuring it was a good time to buy, and they were offering a $700 coronavirus discount.

    Their buttons, menus, etc. are so confusing that I don’t even try to learn them. I just get by with the few functions I’ve figured out!

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