Volvo’s senior vice president of design, Thomas Ingenlath, freely admits that the Swedish automaker’s recent cars have looked “vanilla” — in other words, bland and unexciting. So the first vehicle he styled after arriving at the company a year ago is supposed to redefine Volvo styling and set a new course for upcoming cars. “Our future cars will show that there are new, exciting ways to express Sweden’s soul,” Ingenlath says. The Concept Coupe is the first of three show cars that will pave the way toward that new design language.
Volvo envisions the Concept Coupe as a modern-day interpretation of its classic P1800, which began production 53 years ago. In profile, many similarities are evident: a long, low hood; a set-back cab; a plunging roofline; a stubby tail. But every detail of the Concept Coupe is thoroughly modern. It starts with skinny, horizontal headlights and bracket-shaped LED taillights, designs which Volvo says will inform the look of all its future models. The enormous, chrome-trimmed grille bears Volvo’s familiar diagonal “Iron Mark” emblem, and the company says an evolution of the grille seen on this car will adorn the face of the next XC90 crossover. Twenty-one inch wheels, strong character lines, dramatically flared rear haunches, and a full-glass roof identify the Volvo Concept Coupe as a truly modern car.
Inside, too, Volvo has thoroughly reimagined what its cars should look like. The snug 2+2 cabin boasts a wraparound dashboard made from leather, wood, and metal. A vertical touchscreen forms most of the center stack and, as with the similar infotainment system in the Tesla Model S, controls almost all of the car’s functions. A head-up display helps keep the driver’s eyes on the road as much as possible. The top of the shifter is made from handcrafted crystal, a design element that Ingenlath describes as a “sparkling sensation.”
Nuts and Bolts
The Volvo Concept Coupe rides on the company’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). Like Volkswagen’s MQB, SPA is a modular platform that can stretch and shrink to accommodate vehicles of many different sizes. Volvo SPA cars will feature semi-autonomous features, most likely including systems that automatically steer in traffic jams or park the car without driver input.
A plug-in hybrid arrangement powers the Concept Coupe and provides a strong hint at Volvo’s future powertrain plans. Up front, a 2.0-liter turbo-four gasoline engine is supercharged and turbocharged, while an electric motor/generator drives the rear axle. Volvo says this powertrain produces a total of 400 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque with far lower emissions than would be produced by a comparably powered V-8. The company has publicly committed to moving away from larger engines in favor of four-cylinders and hybrids, and it already sells a Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid in Europe, albeit with a diesel engine turning the front wheels.
Back To Reality
It is a gorgeous show car, but the Concept Coupe is really a roadmap for future Volvos. The company says it shows the possibilities of its new SPA architecture and a peek at Volvo’s future design direction. That suggests Volvo will eventually build a production coupe based on the Concept Coupe’s design. In the short term, though, Volvo says the Concept Coupe is the first of three concepts that will lead up to the production of the next-generation Volvo XC90 crossover. The XC90 is expected to debut in 2014 and will be the first new model built on an SPA chassis. How much of the Concept Coupe’s design language will carry over remains to be seen, but expect to at least see a version of the grille, taillights, and infotainment system shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show to appear on the next-generation XC90.