Built from 1974 to 1993, the Volvo 240 is known for being safe, not sexy.

My current car is a 1988 Volvo 240 DL wagon, bought in part because I was in an accident in a 1986 240 DL wagon when I was 16.  That car protected me, and I’m fulfilling an adolescent pledge to give a 240 a good home to make up for the one I wrecked.

The Volvo 240 was produced for nearly 20 years and endured in part because of its reputation as an indestructible brick. This past week, I’ve been testing the 2011 Volvo S60 sedan. While the 240 was designed to help you survive an accident, the S60 is full of features to help you avoid one (though as an IIHS Top Safety Pick, the S60 should protect you if a collision occurs).

The 2011 Volvo S60 is more stylish than the 240, and has more safety tech.

My test S60 has adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot alert, Volvo’s City Safety system, which can stop the S60 before a slow-speed collision with another car occurs, and Volvo’s Pedestrian Detection technology, which does the same thing, but stops the car from hitting pedestrians.  It also has Volvo’s Distance Alert system. Using a head-up display, Distance Alert puts three red lights on the windshield when you get too close to the car in front of you. While experienced drivers might think the system is a nag (it’s easily turned off), for new drivers it could be a handy tool to learn just what a safe following distance is. 

The Volvo 240 has an interior that was luxurious in 1988.
Today

Given that my 240 doesn’t even have anti-lock brakes, the S60 illustrates how far safety technology has come. All of these features do add significantly to the S60’s price tag ($2,800 to get adaptive cruise control, land departure warning and Blind Spot information), but avoiding an accident may be worth it.