I talked earlier about the perfect union between the Volvo XC90 Sport and the DWR Airstream, so I have some more tidbits of why it is so much fun towing our Airstream with this elegant SUV.
I wanted to tow the DWR Bambi Airstream with our Volvo XC70 station wagon, but since we couldn’t get a class 3 hitch mounted, we needed to upgrade our tow-vehicle and we hit it right with the Volvo XC90 Sport.
The whole point of a travel trailer is that when you disconnect you have a great vehicle to explore the region you are camping in and you have a great vehicle to sit in for 27 hours while driving to Florida or California during the winter for a break from the cold. I would not have been able to sit in most other tow-vehicles for 17 hours nearly non-stop and still be able to walk.
Auto-Leveling Rear Suspension
Since the Volvo XC90 Sport can carry 7 people it has the NIVOMAT LEVEL CONTROL SYSTEM (fully automatic) already installed that is an automatic shock absorber adjustment, depending on the load the car is carrying. The car returns to its unloaded height level automatically once the Airstream is disconnected from the Volvo. This also meant we didn’t need to get a clumsy load-balancing hitch.
You can also see on the pictures that we use Volvo’s caravan mirrors that give me a great view all around the DWR Airstream. Another benefit is that since the mirrors stick out, it is a great aid while driving through tight spaces, since the mirrors jut out a little past the trailer’s width.
Mirrors are cheap, Airstreams are not. The mirrors also pop off easily once we unhitch the Airstream trailer by opening the hood on the Volvo XC90. Tristan Grobel from Borton Volvo in Minneapolis found them for me.
Another great feature of the Volvo XC90 is that the Tailgate is split into two parts. This means that we can access the trunk space while being connected to the Airstream trailer.
If Volvo would have made the rear hatch in one section, the trailer lift jack would be in the way and you would have to disconnect the trailer to get to the items in your trunk.
Also, you can sit on the bottom hatch section and put your hiking boots on. And, it certainly makes it easy to rest heavy items on there while you make space for the item in your trunk.
Shifting with Geartronic
The amazing thing is that even with the extra weight of the trailer the Volvo XC90 Sport handles with such ease and pulls uphill at 70MPH without showing much strain. When I’m driving on the freeway, I use the cruise control and when I hit a hill the Volvo will usually shift down from 6th to 5th, on steeper hills it will shift to 4th. If it really gets steep, it will shift to 3rd – but then why scream up a hill? So, I use the geartronic shifter and switch it back to 4th; this will make the rig slow dow a bit, but I think it is much more pleasant that way.
I use the greatronic shifter all the time. I can anticipate a downshift and force the Volvo XC90 Sport to stay in a certain gear, making for a much smoother, less revved-up ride. On descents I will downshift and let the engine do most of the breaking. Even when rolling to a stop sign or stop light, I will downshift taking the load off the brakes. I drive this way with or without the Airstream trailer.
In fact I would propose a “brake-tax.” If you have to use the brakes, you didn’t anticipate and look far enough ahead. The “brake-tax” would be a meter in your car counting the number of times you depress the brake pedal when driving and you would pay the state to improve the roads.
I see brake lights going off like firecrackers, for no good reason except that everybody is tailgating and therefore can’t anticipate speed changes of the traffic ahead. When you leave enough distance, you will hardly need to brake. Of course, the person behind you is freaking out because they might not get to their destination 30-seconds earlier with burned-out brake-pads, stressed out body and maybe feeling unconsciously bad about having pushed other people around.
So, I really like space in front of me and I’m certain the persons in front of me likes space behind them. I’m not pushing and if they are slow, I pass, yes even with the Airstream. It is amazing what torque the V8 Yamaha engine in the Volvo XC90 Sport can crank out, if necessary.
My list of good driving includes:
- Keep a distance and give space to other vehicles – especially bikes and motorcycles
- Merge at same speed as freeway traffic, get it up to speed, don’t dwaddle
- Signal all your turns
- Try to drive using your breaks as little as possible, this will solve most bad driving behavior from the start. It is amazing how coasting will slow you down when you have the space to do it in.
- Don’t push! Only push if you like to be pushed.
- Enjoy the process of driving; don’t focus on getting to the destination – there are many beautiful people and places between start and finish.
So that is how I drive and why I love a wonderfully-designed and well-powered tow-vehicle to pull our beautiful DWR Airstream trailer.