The wagon might just come back in style, and no surprises here, we’ve got Volvo to thank. The Swedish automaker will show the Concept Estate, the final of three concept cars previewing Volvo's future design direction, at the 2014 Geneva auto show. The Concept Estate carries the same modern design language as the previous Volvo Concept Coupe and Concept XC Coupe, and its subtle, refined take on the classic Volvo wagon is sure to make waves at Geneva.
When we first saw the Concept Coupe at last year’s Frankfurt show, design editor Robert Cumberford called it, “undoubtedly the prettiest Volvo ever shown.” Volvo’s new design language struck us as not truly retro, but it did draw inspiration from the 1960s Volvo P1800 coupes. After years of more boxy and business-like designs, Volvo’s future style is according to Cumberford, “elegantly beautiful, even if there’s nothing innovative about it.” The Volvo Concept Estate falls right into this characterization, combining the strikingly simple appeal of the Concept Coupe with the slightly taller and more purposeful proportions of the Concept XC Coupe.
“The 1800-models are iconic Volvos, renowned for their beautiful forms and detailing,” says senior vice president of design Thomas Ingenlath. “However, using elements from their exterior and interior has nothing to do with being retro. We are using these subtle links to a glorious past to create a future in which sheer beauty becomes a recognized part of Volvo’s identity.”
Preview of what’s to comeThe three-door Volvo Concept Estate features the same floating grille, T-shaped headlights, and angular front intakes as the previous two concepts. Its long, flowing roofline terminates in a sporty roof spoiler, which leads into the bracket-shaped LED taillights. We’ll most likely see these elements in production form when the next-generation XC90 launches later this year, but seeing how gorgeous they look on a bonafide wagon, we can’t wait for this style to come back on other cars, perhaps a new V70.
As classically beautiful as the Volvo Concept Estate looks on the outside, there is a distinctly modern design for the interior which starts with the central tablet-like touchscreen. Taking a page out of Tesla’s book, the center touchscreen supposedly replaces all buttons and knobs, except for a few essentials like volume and hazard light controls. Although the new tech helps Volvo consolidate all functions into a single entity, which contributes to the cabin’s overall clean-and-cool Scandinavian feel, we’ll have to see for ourselves whether the interface is as intuitive as it is attractive. A massive panoramic glass roof helps complete the bright-looking interior, alongside a checkered wool headliner and wood trim that Volvo says is meant to evoke a Scandinavian living room.
Good sign for new architectureWe’ve got high hopes for Volvo’s new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), given that each of the brand’s three concepts represent major steps forward in technology as well as design. Although there's no word on what powers the Concept Estate, the Concept Coupe employs a plug-in hybrid powertrain with a 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine, as well as an electric motor mated to the rear axle for a total of 400 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque.
With a new generation of turbocharged Drive-E engines on the way, Volvo is finally catching up to the rest of the luxury market in terms of efficiency and technology. If the Volvo Concept Estate’s graceful lines and premium feel find their way into future production vehicles, Volvo will have set itself up nicely to come back as a viable luxury brand here in the U.S. and abroad.
Check back for more coverage on the Volvo Concept Estate when it premieres at the 2014 Geneva auto show on March 4.