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Four Things about the Future of Volvo

Big changes ahead, but not at the cost of tradition

Abigail BassettWriter, PhotographerThe ManufacturerPhotographer

On the heels of the unveiling of the 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country in Vail, Colorado, Volvo designers and executives spent some time chatting with us about the future of the Swedish brand. As you might expect, Volvo's knack for stylish and safe wagons and crossovers, not to mention SUVs like the new XC90, will continue to be crucial.

The wagon isn't going away

According to Lex Kerssemakers, CEO of Volvo Cars North America, one of the challenges the brand faces is getting its avid wagon fan base to buy into new designs.

"The design language and technology is changing and our buyers want something both rugged and elegant," Kerssemakers told AUTOMOBILE. "They want a higher seating position but they don't want a crossover. When we're designing, we try to stay true to the wagon philosophy."

The new V90 Cross Country replaces the outgoing XC70, and adopts Volvo's SPA architecture that already underpins the S90 sedan and XC90 SUV. The new higher-riding V90 represents the fourth generation of Volvo's incredibly popular Cross Country vehicle that was first launched back in 1997.

Autonomy doesn't mean that steering wheels are dead

Uber and Volvo recently announced that the companies are teaming up to develop autonomous cars in Pittsburg, but that doesn't mean that steering wheel and driving in general will soon be history.

"We absolutely believe in the freedom of driving and we will continue to build cars with steering wheels," said Kerssemakers. "It's how we interact with automobiles and we don't plan on getting rid of it any time soon."

He also noted that Volvo plans to have fully autonomous cars by just after 2020, and they could look something like the Concept 26 that Volvo unveiled last year at the Tokyo Motor Show. Volvo is working with Uber to develop software that can be put into vehicles to introduce autonomous features. Some of those 100 cars that were promised to Uber have already been delivered.

Volvo is going to continue to bring smaller cars to the U.S. market—even hatchbacks

Kerssemakers also confirmed to AUTOMOBILE  that the company will continue to bring more compact U.S. market, most notably the smaller V40 that is currently only available in Europe. Such vehicles will use the company's Compact Modular Architecture developed with their Chinese parent company, Geely.

Those smaller cars will also come equipped with the new Drive-E four-cylinder engines found in the 2017 S90 and XC90.

Keressemakers explained that by 2018, the oldest car in the Volvo line-up will be the XC90, indicating a robust rollout schedule.

The living room you can take off-road

Known for its distinctive Swedish design, Volvo has made big strides to bring its style of luxury living to your car interior. By including features like massaging seats, high-end audio, and cabin-cleaning air filtration, it wants you to be as comfortable in their cabins as you are in your own home.

"The XC90 is the more suburban vehicle, while the new V90 Cross Country is more targeted to buyers who are much more outdoor-oriented," Bodil Eriksson, Executive Vice President of Volvo Cars North America, said. "We want people to be comfortable and at home in our cars and they want to be able to take them to remote places and enjoy lots of outdoor activities."

The 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country begins production this fall.