Marriage is a fuel’s game

Mrs Bulmer’s precision driving leaves hubbry dry


THE bloke who coined the phrase “lightning never strikes twice” obviously hadn’t met my Dearly Beloved.

The ink was still drying on the February issue of Wheels, including my inauspicious introduction to our new Volvo long-termer and its tale of a Good-Wife-left-strandedon- the-side-of-a-road-due-to-amisunderstanding- with-the-fuel-gauge, when… it happened again.

In a veritable master class of economy driving, the Better Half managed to calculate her trajectory so perfectly as to get Black Betty home and neatly aligned in front of our garage, with but a thimble full of fuel left in its 71-litre tank.

So, when the Darling Thing called to suggest that perhaps I ought to consider grabbing a small pot of diesel on the way home, I thought, ‘Surely she jests’. But the joke, as the Bee Gees once harmonised, was on me.

Talking through the scenario, I gathered that the Volvo had arrived home under its own steam, but that the trip computer was indicating a big fat zero in the distance to empty column. “No problem,” I countered, with the emphatic air of a man who knows what he’s talking about. “Trip computers generally err on the pessimistic side, so there’ll be enough to get to the servo.” The ‘servo’ in this instance being fully half a kilometre away.

Arriving home sans diesel, I probed a little further as to the cause of my spouse’s alarm.

“Well, it’s making a funny sound when you try to start it,” she cautioned. “Hmm, but it is starting?” I enquired. Nod.

So, to the XC90 I went, sliding into its gorgeously-sculpted tan leather seats and turning the ignition switch with the casual confidence of a Man Who Understands Such Things.

There followed a few seconds cranking, perhaps a half moment more than is the norm, before the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel rattled, fired and settled into its comfortable idle. I in turn smugly settled back into the plush leather, flush with the knowledge I had once again shown Man’s mastery of machine.

Selecting reverse, I used the camera image on the excellent 12.3-inch touchscreen to guide me back down our tricky driveway and into our neighbour’s, where I selected ‘D’ and… the music died.

Once I’d finished banging my forehead repeatedly on the XC90’s leather-trimmed wheel, I was forced to accept several things.

First, Volvo trip computers don’t lie. Second, when my wife says, ‘The car is out of fuel’, it really is OUT of fuel. Third, should my wife ever decide to pursue a new career, I see a huge future for her in the US sport of hypermiling, where geeks attempt to extract the optimum mileage from their Toyota Prius hybrids.

Frankly, I don’t think the man they call the ‘Father of Hypermiling’, Wayne Gerdes, stands a chance.


Thank goodness for modern diesels with high-pressure fuel systems that don’t need to be bled after running dry

Lessons learned this month

One: The XC90’s fuel filler won’t accept an ordinary jerry-can nozzle; secondary flap in the filler neck stops it. Using the wrong nozzle involves a diesel bath. Two: Said nozzle lives in the spare wheel well, beneath the cargo bay, but you won’t know this until you read the On s nv e O a in be owner’s manual. Three: The Volvo’s printed owner’s manual doesn’t detail where the fuel nozzle is located. Four: The electronic owner’s manual, accessed via the touchscreen, is simple and easy to use.

Five: The touchscreen doesn’t respond well to a diesel-coated digit.


Date acquired: November 2015 Price as tested: $93,085 This month: 626km @ 11.1L/100km Overall: 2110km @ 9.9L/100km