Road Trip: The Best Way To Buy A New Car
I think it’s fair to say, that when most people buy a new car – either brand new or secondhand – the seller’s location plays a part in the decision-making process. You want a car in the right spec, the right condition, at the right price, and in the right place.
When it comes to used cars in particular, it’s hard to tick all those boxes. Sometimes you just have to grab a mate and take a 1,600km road trip.
That’s exactly what I did a few months back, flying from Johannesburg down to Cape Town, and then driving my latest purchase back home.
The car was a replacement for my Volkswagen Caddy, which I’d immensely enjoyed owning. My Caddy had quite a lot of work done to it, including air suspension, but with Project LS well on the way and now also Air Lift Performance-equipped, I started to question the need for both cars.
Adding to that, with a new-gen Caddy having being launched recently, 2K Caddys had been going up in value here in South Africa, and I’d also had people asking whether I’d be interested in selling things like the custom Golf 7R style front bumper off mine. I started doing some research and came to the conclusion that by returning the Caddy to stock and selling it, and then offloading all the parts I’d added, I’d walk away with a decent amount of money, which I could then spend on a new, stock daily driver.
I thought about what to replace the Caddy with, and started looking at late-model performance cars. Audi S3s and Golf Rs don’t really interest me, and something like an Audi RS4 Avant – which I would love, was way out of my budget. Pretty quickly I landed on the Volvo S60 Polestar.
My wife’s currently on her second XC60, and those two SUVs have definitely opened my eyes to Volvos. I didn’t know a lot about S60 Polestars until I started reading up on them, but I was quickly impressed. Then, in what I think can only be fate, a friend happened to be selling a really clean, low-mileage 2017 example. A deal was done and we arranged for me to pick it up from The Archive, a specialist garage facility in Cape Town that I featured here on Speedhunters a few years back.
What initially attracted me to the S60 Polestar is how ‘under-the-radar’ it looks. Also, it’s a pretty rare car here, with only 45 units brought into the country by Volvo Cars South Africa. Power comes from a 2.0L four-cylinder, turbo and supercharged engine that develops 270kW (362hp) and 470Nm, and that gets to the ground via an 8-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive.
Although the power figures and AWD system are really impressive, it’s the fully adjustable Öhlins suspension – which comes factory – that to me sets the S60 Polestar apart from similar cars from other manufacturers.
Leaving Cape Town, I detoured through the Franschhoek Pass, the road Mad Mike famously drifted back in 2016 in his 20B RX-8. Pushing the S60 through the corners, the amount of grip and braking ability on offer was outstanding. Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres in a 20-inch fitment are also standard fitment on the car, as is a Brembo brake system featuring 370mm discs and 6-pot callipers up front.
The scenery was epic, and taking it all in from behind the wheel of a car like this just made it so much better.
All the spirited driving I was doing meant the first tank of fuel did not last long, but that’s to be expected, right? I’ve since come to realise that if you drive the car in a civilised manner it’s actually quite frugal, but this first drive was about me enjoying my new car, not worrying about the fuel economy it was returning.
As I mentioned, I had a mate along with me for the road trip, and Jason was not only good company for the long drive, but as a photographer also he was able to grab some behind-the-scenes images. After about 400km of driving, we arrived in George for a shoot I had planned in advance.
You might recognize this Nissan Stanza race car from my feature this time last year on the The Datsun Shop. Riaan, one of the Jacobs brothers that run the shop, has since moved down here, and he brought a few of the cars with him. I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity to shoot the Stanza now that it’s finished.
I also don’t think I could’ve asked for a better setting. Shooting a race car outside of its natural environment is always a winner for me.
After the Stanza shoot was done, I couldn’t resist grabbing a quick few snaps of the Volvo in the same spot. Back home in Johannesburg, you never get this sort of picturesque backdrop unless you drive at least a few hours out of the city.
Jason and I stayed the night at another friend’s place in George, but it was an early 5:00am start the next morning as we still had 1,200km to go and wanted to complete it in a single day. We reached this amazing stretch of road just as the sun was coming up, so the camera and drone came out again.
More importantly though, because there was next to no traffic (we only saw one other car in 20 minutes) and we had a clear view for a few kilometres ahead, it was the perfect place to test the Polestar’s launch control and make a few cheeky acceleration runs.
I can tell you that some fun was had…
Once you pass through the Western and Eastern Cape provinces, the road does admittedly get a bit long and boring, with less mountains and bends and more straight roads that feel like they go on forever, because well… they do. So the rest of the trip was a bit uneventful, with just some stops for food, bathroom breaks and of course more fuel.
With our bodies powered by energy drinks and coffee, some good music and most important, radar cruise control, Jason and I made it back to Johannesburg just after dark. If it wasn’t for the S60 Polestar purchase, I wouldn’t really have a reason to do this road trip, so I’m actually thankful the car was 1,600km away. It was such a good time.
Welcome home, Volvo.