IT’S ONE thing to narrowly avoid a cataclysmic accident on your own. It’s quite another to flirt with disaster when your in-laws are perched in the back seat, their unsuspecting (yet ever-judging) eyes distracted by their smartphones. The wife’s parents were visiting from interstate for a long weekend and happily, things had been going smoothly. Until the blue Hyundai appeared that is, its faded and dinted passenger door doing its best to shoulder-charge the XC60’s handsome nose.
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It’s often hard to fathom the stupidity of others, but in this instance, despite the Hyundai’s callous recklessness, I could kind of empathise. He’d probably been sitting at the intersection for a long time, his patience slowly starting to simmer and then boil as he tried to turn right across two lanes of unrelenting traffic. In the end he’d plunged blindly into the fray, his car jumping out of the oncoming traffic and straight into the path of our Volvo, which came as something of a surprise.
I’ve never really bought into the whole ‘time slows down’ thing during stressful situations and yet, looking back, that’s pretty much what happened. With the Volvo cruising at 60km/h and the left-hand lane partially blocked by parked cars, I hammered the brakes and twisted the steering decisively to the left to avoid the Hyundai. Weirdly, I was totally calm, which is exactly how the Volvo felt, its sensors springing into action to pre-charge the brake pedal and assertively tighten the seatbelts of all four passengers (which is how it must feel to be garotted).
We washed off speed quickly but most impressive were the XC60’s body control and agility as it changed direction. It didn’t lurch or wallow as its weight rushed forward and to the right; it just gripped and turned.No fuss, no squealing tyres, not even an ABS intervention. And while the steering lacks feel, it was crisp and accurate.
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In the end we slid through the ever-closing gap between the Hyundai’s nose and the parked cars, the Volvo’s cabin full of gasps and the loud ‘crack!’ of glass on plastic as a phone shot from a hand in the back and hit the centre console.
It was a stressful few seconds, which is perhaps why, in her rush to leave the Volvo a few moments later, my mother-in-law didn’t spot the park bench lurking on the footpath. She opened her door onto it, leaving a dint about the size of a five-cent piece, which seemed a bit unfair given what we’d just avoided. Life’s crap like that sometimes.