The Swedes have done emotional coupes before – like the C70 and the legendary P1800 – but the Volvo Concept Coupe is the first from its new designer, Thomas Ingenlath. Recruited from VW, Ingenlath says that the concept, which is underpinned by the new SPA platform (which stands for Scalable Platform Architecture) that will be used on the 2014 XC90, is both a nod to the past and a signal of intent for the future. You’ll be able to see it at the Frankfurt motor show in September.
>> Click here for CAR's A-Z guide to the 2013 Frankfurt motor show
So is this a new C70?
No, it’s not a replacement for Peter Horbury’s superbly executed C70, but a concept that shows the design language that Ingenlath thinks will work on future models. While Horbury is still design director, this concept begins Ingenlath’s era, and the long proportions and svelte nature of this coupe aren’t the only reasons to be excited: his previous work includes the funky Skoda Roomster, sexy VW Concept Bluesport as well as being involved in the design of VW’s brilliant XL1. The Concept Coupe – which shows the new Volvo, compared to the Concept You of 2011 – is not a halo car wheeled out to gauge public response, but more a statement to say ‘look what’s coming’ as we wait for the long overdue replacement for the current XC90.
What are the elements that will transfer to the XC90 and production models?
This is the first time the new Volvo face has been shown. It’s made up of the grille and iron mark, with its diagonal strand linking the top and bottom, but it’s the new LEDs that Ingenlath wants you to think 'Volvo' the instant you see them. They’re like a sideways 'T', split in half, and they’ll be more upright on the XC60 and XC90 SUVs, just like the taillamps, which are more like ‘U’ shapes side-on. There’s also a focus on not too many details on the surface, which seems to be the opposite of brands such as Mercedes, and instead a focus on elegance and understatement, yet with 21-inch alloys and a high waistline, it commands respect.
What about inside?
The concept’s glass roof drenches the cabin in light; the interior is elegant and sophisticated. Like the outside, there’s a focus on simplicity, with the 9.7-inch centre screen forming the starting point for designers, with the rest of the interior framing it. There’s Volvo classic elements – such as the P1800-inspired dial surrounds blended with digital readouts, as well as retro-like three-their dash, which – on production models – will be customizable in terms of colour and material. By removing a litany of buttons, the touchscreen display, whose interface has been developed in-house at Volvo, means that there was money left in the kitty for the rotary dial and remaining few buttons to have premium, glassy finishes.
There’s more of that ‘understated aggression’ in the seats, too, with their race-like Alcantara shells yet cosseting leather centres. The piece de resistance? The crystal gear lever. It’s actual fashioned crystal, made down the road from Volvo’s Gothenburg HQ, and according to interior designer Robin Page, is production viable.
So why a sports car, then?
'It's relatable,' Ingenlath tells CAR. 'It's easily comparable to other brands and where we sit'. Yet while a flagship sports car may work as a halo model, he's adamant that Volvo is sticking to the plan set out under previous CEO, Stefan Jacoby (also ex-VW), in which the brand sets its house in order by getting the bread-and-butter models spot on. 'We will be stronger, with more character and expression,' Ingenlath says, 'but you can’t expect us to be mainstream.' Instead, Volvo is going for more elegant, understated designs under Ingenlath.
>> Click here to read CAR's round-up of Volvo's upcoming safety tech, which is bound for the 2014 XC90
Yet it’s a nod to the past?
You bet. 'It would be foolish to ignore our 85-year history', the design director says. 'It's about embracing the heritage of our brand.' His favourite cars with the iron mark on them? The P1800, because it’s so different to other sports cars of the era, as well as the 142. 'The translation of that into the future is not as simple as looking at that car,' he says. 'We are not reinventing Volvo,' he admits,' '[but] we want to be beautiful and elegant in an era where the whole market is about being loud.'
What’s under the bonnet?
There’s been no engine mooted for the concept, but given that Volvo’s just released the details of its new VEA (Volvo Engine Architecture), one of the new four-cylinder turbocharged engines from this range would fit the bill. In fact, it would be fitted with the high-output VEA4, which is an all-alloy 2.0-litre with both a supercharger and a turbo. The higher-end engine has a larger turbocharger so, like the VW Group’s 1.4-litre twin-charged engine (which has an iron block), has a supercharger for low-down response. Power? 400bhp and a stump-pulling 443lb ft of torque. Weight? Volvo’s not saying, but the SPA and smaller, alloy engine bode well for a lithe package.
It's part of the approach that saw Volvo change its model nomenclature in 2011 away from the number of cylinders towards power output instead. The amount of cylinders, the company says, is no longer reflective of the car’s capabilities.
>> Is the Volvo Concept Coupe loud enough, or is Volvo’s new design direction off course? Tell us by commenting below…