Remember the iconic Volvo P1800? It was as close to cool as you could get in a Volvo, which was then known for the boxy 144 and 164 sedans. The P1800 was funky, and now lives on in the Volvo Concept Coupé, inspired by contemporary, progressive Scandinavian lifestyle and design. The Volvo Concept Coupé is the first of a series of three concept cars that reveal the design possibilities created by the company’s new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA).
The Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center (VMCC) in Camarillo, California served as the backdrop for the media preview of the stunning Concept Coupé. Over the course of several hours, assembled media learned more about the Concept Coupé, and more about the advanced drivetrain and safety technologies we will see on Volvo models as early as 2014.
Since Volvo is synonymous with safety, let’s start with Volvo’s goal of no fatalities or serious injuries in their vehicles by 2020. This is not a stretch by Volvo in any capacity considering their 240 sedan saw a zero fatality rate from 1988-1992, a remarkable five year statistic given the quantum leap in safety technology since that time!
The way forward for Volvo begins with the new SPA. SPA enables significant improvements both when it comes to offering protection in crashes and when creating innovative features that support the driver in avoiding accidents.
At the VMCC, we were given presentations by several Volvo experts in design, propulsion and safety. Jan Ivarsson is senior manager Safety Strategy and Requirements for Volvo and showed slides of the new ultra-safe chassis that will debut on the new XC90, due out in 2015. “The new architecture opens up for further improvements. Seven percent of the safety cage in the original XC90 was made of hot-formed boron steel. The structure in the upcoming all-new XC90 features over 40 percent hot-formed steel, which translates into significantly improved strength but without adding mass or weight,” said Ivarsson.
The driver is literally the core of Volvo Cars’ holistic approach, which is based on real traffic situations. He or she is surrounded by 360 degree zones extending from technology cushioning the driver to putting him or her in contact with the world.
We also saw slides where the driver and passengers are embraced by solutions that are designed for intelligent absorption of energy in various types of collisions. The safety technologies – such as safety belts, pre-tensioners, whiplash protection system, airbags and inflatable curtains – are continuously being enhanced.
In cars built on the new SPA, the smart belt pre-tension systems increase the retention of the occupants before and during the event of a collision. For example, the rearward-facing radar is used to detect a rear impact. This allows the safety belts to be tightened in advance in order to keep the occupants in place.
Additionally, camera, radar and sensor technologies are extended to detect more objects around the car and to offer support at higher speeds and in more situations, such as at crossings.
“One of the most important focus areas within collision-avoidance is to help prevent unintentional road departures by autonomous steering intervention in critical situations. Unintentional road departure is the collision type that results in most deaths and serious injuries in modern traffic,” said Ivarsson.
The new features also include detection and auto brake for large animals and pedestrians and enhanced detection of the same when driving in the dark.
The sensors used by the collision-avoiding solutions are also part of the extended range of features that makes the drive more enjoyable by simplifying complex traffic situations. This includes Adaptive Cruise Control with steer assist, which will also be introduced in the upcoming XC90. The car automatically follows the vehicle ahead in queues.
To exchange communication with other vehicles, the infrastructure extends the driver’s theoretical field of vision beyond the capacity of the camera, radar and sensors. With Volvo’s new Car2Car and Car2Infrastructure technology in place, vital information can be shared and exchanged – creating a more comfortable and safer drive.
SPA is also being developed for completely autonomous driving. The first features with autonomous steering to avoid accidents and make driving more comfortable will be introduced in 2014 – and Volvo’s goal is to have cars with fully autonomous technology on the roads before 2020.
On the propulsion front, say goodbye to any engine in the current Volvo fleet that is not 2.0-liters in displacement. There will be eight new engines that drive future Volvos, the so-called “Drive-E” engine family, with four 2.0-liter gasoline engines and four 2.0-liter diesel powerplants.
The top-of-the-line (TOPL) gasoline variant, dubbed T6, will be all about performance, with a turbocharged and supercharged blueprint. The turbocharger will see most duty, with the supercharger activated by a bypass valve that reads the input of your right foot. Stay docile, and the supercharger remains dormant. Get down on it, and the bypass valve opens to allow additional force-fed air from the supercharger. Volvo expects sub five-second 0-60 mph times for the sporty SUV. How do you say “yee-haw!” in Swedish? Other gasoline engines will wear T3-T5 monikers. Diesels will be dubbed D2-D5, with the TOPL D5 variant sporting dual turbochargers. Hybrid technology, found in the Concept Coupé, will be an important part of the “T & D” strategy.
Back to the Concept Coupé, we were given a full brief on styling by Thomas Igenlath, head of design for Volvo. The Concept Coupé is characterized by a “floating” grille, flanked by headlights featuring new T-shaped Daytime Running Lights (DRLs). Just like the rear light signature, DRLs are distinctive elements in the new design direction of Volvo.
The visual impact of the new proportions is most powerful when viewing the Concept Coupé from the side. The Concept Coupé initially reminds you of the Dodge Challenger, but with much more refinement.
A low hood, roof, and five-spoke, 21-inch wheels contribute to the impression of an elegant Gran Tourer. The profile is emphasized by a beltline that spans the whole car. The rear quarter panels evoke the styling brilliance of the P1800.
“It is a car designer’s duty to reflect and incorporate design signatures that are vital parts of the company’s heritage. The P1800 is an iconic Volvo, renowned for its beautiful forms and detailing. However, using elements from the P1800 exterior and interior has nothing to do with being retro. We are using these subtle links to a glorious past to create a future where sheer beauty becomes a recognized part of Volvo’s identity. That journey starts with Concept Coupé,” said Ingenlath.
The blue-grey exterior color theme continues inside the Concept Coupé. Handcrafted elements such as the leather instrument panel, inlays made of naturally aged wood and the dark blue woven carpets are blended with machined metal details. A large portrait touch-screen in the ce
nter console interacts with an adaptive digital display and head-up display in front of the driver. A crystal gear lever is the finishing touch to a well done interior. As a nod to the invention of the three point seatbelt by Volvo in 1959, polished seat belt buckles read “Since 1959.” Nice touch Volvo!
The gasoline plug-in hybrid driveline in the Concept Coupé reflects Volvo Cars’ strategy to use electrification to create the most powerful versions in the new four-cylinder Drive-E engine family. This will take power figures up into V8 territory.
The concept features a two-liter high-performance Drive-E gasoline engine with a supercharger and turbo. The gasoline engine is teamed with an electric motor on the rear axle. This gives Concept Coupé a total output of around 400 hp and over 440 lb-ft of torque. When it hits production, this will be the most powerful of the 2.0-liter motors.
So buckle that 1959 three point belt. Volvo has shown us their version of the future, and we like the direction of this storied Swedish brand.