We previously investigated why Volvo has decided to cap their cars speed limit to 180kph. These cars are capable of hitting 250kph. When we found out just how fast 180kph is, it seemed to be a good idea, and we applauded Volvo for doing so. You can read about our investigation here.
Not everyone agreed with our view on this. Even other publications were wondering if Volvo was using safety as a guise to safe cost, or to hide technical shortcomings. Some even say they are not fans of it outright. Here’s the reason why the 180kph limit works. And why Volvo chose to do it.
Cars are getting faster by the year
Car design advances in not just safety, but in performance too. A 2012 911 Carrera S made 400bhp and 440Nm of torque. A Hybrid Volvo family SUV today can put out a similar amount of horsepower and 200Nm more torque. That’s a full DC5 Integra Type R’s worth of torque extra over a 911. This is the same across most cars on sale today. They are pushing performances that made Jeremy Clarkson scream on TV like a madman, right up to the early 2000’s.
Which means hitting 180kph gets easier every year. We have seen at various stages different parties capping performances in either speed or power to avoid a commercial cars ‘Arms Race’. Japan had the 280bhp output limit, and the 180kph speed limit. Even the R35 GTR had that limit until you reached a race track. Even the Germans who never restricted the Autobhan restricted majority of their cars to 250kph.
But you are no racing driver
Unless whoever reading this holds an FIA competitions license and have competed in FIA events, no sir you are not capable of handling such performance. Which is why today’s performance cars come with a boatload of safety features. How many of us can brake without ABS today? Try that in the wet in a 150bhp car, and enjoy the rest of the humble pie afterwards.
Even Proton and Perodua have managed to bring level 2 automation to their cars, at price tags accessible to Malaysians. However any form of autonomous braking / anti collision system is going to be useless at a certain speed. Its too much input at a rate that cannot be coped by the system, and the physical design of the car. Even for a brand like Volvo.
So the only way you could survive is…..
Limiting that top speed. Today’s cars have come a long way in terms of safety too. Princess Diana died in an S Class in 1997, in a supposedly 120kph impact. In a car with todays safety tech, the late Princess could have survived.
BMW’s today have their cars structure made partially from carbon fibre, the same material used to make F1 cars. Likewise, Volvo introduced boron steel to make the roof of the first gen XC90 to increase roll over protection, back in 2002. Imagine how far its advancements have come to today.
However everything has a limit. Both in terms of the cars safety structure and the limit of the human body. We are not subjected to air force level fitness training to withstand high G impacts. After a certain limit, the crash impact would be too much for the human body to withstand. And Volvo has determined 180kph to be that limit.
That means my survival is guaranteed?
The Rukun Negara’s first line is ‘Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan’, or ‘Faith in the Almighty’. No one is arrogant enough to guarantee something beyond Almighty’s will. That said, we can work on increasing the survival probability.
Lets take a hypothetical scenario. You are speeding on the North South Expressway in a Euro NCAP 5 Star certified car at about 170kph, and there’s a debris on the road which you swerve to avoid. You swerve the car in such a way that it looses control and you slam the brakes trying to fight it. Your seatbelt tenses, bracing for impact. The car keeps going and slams the guardrail sending you into a spin.
Because you have been spinning and braking at the swerve, your speed has slowed down to 140kph before impacting the guard rail. All the airbags are deployed and you cant see where you’re heading, and everything’s seemingly running in slow motion. Its still very fast and the car slides along the guardrail and topples on its roof. Its still sliding and finally bangs to a halt on the side. All you see is white smoke and warning chimes.
You can still see, hear, and feel because you are alive, and most of your body parts are intact. The car is designed to take that hit. Why yours truly is so confident about this scenario is because I’ve personally seen the onboard footage of a similar scenario ed crash, in a Megane RS. And this is a car launched in 2011, with that times tech. Can you imagine how safe a 2021 Volvo would be?
Like that means should be able to run without limit right?
Now say if the speed you were travelling was about 230kph, chances are the safety cell which kept you protected, is now compromised. It will buckle under the increased forces. Although its only 50kph extra, kinetic energy at 230kph (4.3 Mega Joules )is way higher than at 180kph (2.68 Mega Joule) for a 2 tonne SUV. Its almost double the amount. Therefore the forces involved will increase dramatically.
Unfortunately, a graphic demonstration of this took place in 3 different occasions this year. A Maserati SUV’s crash on the LPT, the infamous M4 crash in Singapore, and the gruesome crash on the North South highway involving an Audi were prove of why the 180kph is needed. These were high tech cars boasting cutting edge engineering. Yet beyond a certain speed, there’s only so much the engineers can do.
Which is why we insist..
We should have the 180kph that Volvo has introduced, regulated across all vehicles sold above a certain number of units in Malaysia. Which would exclude exotics and purpose built performance cars.
The highway is no place for you to find driving fun, its a tool to commute across the country in a fast and efficient manner. As the only media who documents the best driving roads in Malaysia, we have marked 64 different driving roads in Peninsular Malaysia alone. NOT ONE of these roads is safe to be driven at beyond 180kph. Regardless of the car you use, unless its completely closed off, and you are a professional racing driver.
We would’t want to see any more gruesome crash pictures circulating on the internet. Do not be another statistic on the fatality column.