Volvo’s radical new Concept Coupé will make its debut at next month’s Frankfurt Motor Show, signalling a dramatic change in the design and construction of the company’s future models.
It’s powered by a 394bhp two-litre Drive-E petrol engine, with power boosted by a supercharger ‘and’ turbocharger. This is supplemented by an electric motor powering the rear wheels, based on the plug-in hybrid design introduced earlier this year in the V60.
But the key innovation introduced by the Concept Coupé is Volvo’s ‘Scalable Product Architecture (SPA)’, a design and engineering methodology which frees the company from the limitations of its previous cross-brand platforms.
The Concept Coupé is the first of three prototypes which will reveal the potential of its new architecture, culminating in the forthcoming XC90, due out in early 2014.
“Even though the all-new XC90 is an entirely different type of car, you will recognise the connection instantly when it is revealed next year,” said Volvo’s new Design Director, Thomas Ingenlath.
“The Volvo Concept Coupé is no futuristic dream car. It is designed to demonstrate the capability of our new architecture: the confident stance, the proportions and the most prominent design signatures.”
It marks a change in Volvo’s design temperament which has been steadily moving upmarket. In fact, according to Alain Visser, Volvo’s marketing boss, “A more premium image is vital to gain momentum in our journey towards an annual sales volume of 800,000 cars.” It’s also about creating a clear gap between Volvo and mid-market brands such as Toyota and Volkswagen.
Ingenlath explains that design and technology are key enablers of ’emotion’ and creating ‘premium desirability’.
“The new Volvo Concept Coupé reveals how we could shape our cars from now on. Free from the superficial surface excitement of other car brands, we add emotional value to the Volvo brand with the calm, confident beauty that is the hallmark of Scandinavian design,” said Ingenlath.
The proportions of the Concept Coupé are that of an elegant Gran Tourer, with five-spoke 21-inch wheels and a confident stance which oozes effortless power.
“Think about the powerful calmness of a lion. He doesn’t have to prowl to radiate respect. Even lying down he shows very clearly what he is capable of,” says Ingenlath.
And it’s been inspired by a Volvo icon – the elegant P1800. There are subtle links to the past, especially in its form and detailing, but the Concept Coupé is bigger and considerably more confident.
New T-shaped DRL light guides form the headlights, while a brand new ‘floating’ grille will characterise the new face of Volvo’s models. Designers are still working on the final interpretation of the grille and the iron mark, which will make its debut on the all-new XC90.
Inside there’s a large portrait touch-screen in the centre console which present an adaptive digital display of key information for the driver. This acts as a hub for Volvo’s connected driving features and represents a totally new approach to Volvo’s human-centric user experience.
Scalable Product Architecture is also being engineered for Volvo’s fully autonomous technology, which the company will introduce on road cars before 2020.
Ingenlath described the key principles introduced by the Concept Coupé as follows:
New design language
“Future Volvos will be characterised by the distinctive iron mark in the floating grille, flanked by the T-shaped DRL lights. The larger bonnet with its new topography, the beltline spanning an elegant bow along the whole car and the sharpened shoulder connecting with the new rear light are other important design signatures.”
What Scalable Product Architecture means for designers
“The new architecture enables us to create the great proportions that are important to achieve a premium look. The dash to axle ratio is more generous than any other architecture I have worked with before. This gives us the opportunity to be up there among the top premium brands when it comes to proportions.”
“We will continue to build on the premium feel in the new Volvo V40. The new user interface with a large, portrait touch-screen in the centre console allows us to remove almost all buttons. This simplicity is perfectly in tune with our Scandinavian design heritage. We will deliver on our brand promise to make Volvo customers feel special by blending classic handcrafted elements with distinctive, surprising delight details.”