What Is It?
Volvo Concept Coupe
What's Special About It?
Much has been made of the Volvo Concept Coupe's ties to the P1800, which is the most intriguing and most impractical car ever built by the Swedish automaker. But company designers insist that the coupe concept shown here at the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show isn't a retro exercise.
"We didn't want to be too retro in this case," said Max Missoni, exterior design chief at Volvo. "For people who know about the car, they can find certain things that pay homage to the car."
If you weren't alive for the P1800's production run, the automaker has one in its booth at Frankfurt (and here's hoping that it will remain on display during the public days of the show). It's positioned a safe distance away from the Concept Coupe so that you can see the likeness without getting hung up on the vast difference in dimensions between a 21st-century concept car and a relic from the 1960s.
Right away, you notice the haunches on these cars: They're large (almost like a pair of wings on the P1800), and they flow back into the bodywork and form the main character line. The lower front fascia on the concept car is also borrowed, a nod to the "cow horn" bumper that framed the license plate on the P1800.
Inside, the Volvo Concept Coupe has a dished three-spoke steering wheel that frames an instrument panel with individual gauge binnacles that are meant to look like high-end camera lenses. A stitched leather dash wraps around the driver and passenger seats. It's an attractive cockpit, and all these elements draw inspiration from the P1800.
At the same time, this concept coupe is thoroughly modern. Not only is it the first in a series of three concept cars that all lead up to next year's unveiling of the redesigned 2015 XC90, Volvo could build this coupe tomorrow if it wanted.
"This design language goes onto a scalable architecture," Robin Page, Volvo's director of interior design, tells us. "This concept shows that we can do a small 2+2 coupe, but we can also do a large XC90 4x4. It shows the flexibility and stretch we can get out of the platform.
"If we wanted to turn it into a production car, we could just evolve it a little bit and it's there."
The coupe would be a plug-in hybrid, by the way, as it combines the 302-horsepower version of Volvo's new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (which uses both turbocharging and supercharging to achieve that heady number) with an electric motor that boosts net power to "around 400."
The touchscreen interface is another of the Concept Coupe's production-ready elements. "What we started with was the interface," Page says, "because if you bring it in later, that messes up the whole architecture. This [center stack] is the size of an iPad. But you can use it with a gloved hand, so it is automotive in its technology."
Page notes that Volvo has already figured out the software for its touch interface, and details on that will be released when the second or third concept car built on this architecture debuts.
In addition, the next-generation XC90 will share the concept car's grille, headlights, steering wheel and digital gauges (you didn't think there were analog gauges in those binnacles, did you?). The concept's C-shaped taillights will also make it to the XC90, though they'll be reshaped to match the long, tall taillights on the company's current-generation crossovers.
"It will still be a vertical interpretation like we have today, because that's a Volvo signature," Missoni says.
Items that won't make the cut include the Orrefors crystal gear selector and the extremely Scandinavian seats, which are bolted to the center console to open up more foot room.
What Edmunds Says:
Volvo's sales are sagging in the United States, but new product is usually a cure for that, particularly when it looks as good as this Volvo Concept Coupe.
Engine: Front-mounted, supercharged and turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0-liter gasoline inline four-cylinder with rear-drive electric motor and plug-in capability
Power: Estimated 400 horsepower, estimated 440 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Related production vehicle: 2015 Volvo XC90 (debuts in 2014)