Concept Universe reveals brave new Volvo design direction under Chinese ownership

This is Volvo’s Concept Universe, the first indication of the company’s future direction under Chinese ownership.Unveiled at the Shanghai motor show, the Universe is described by Volvo as a “large, luxurious sedan with a new human-centric design language that honours the beautiful lines of classic Volvo models”.

Stefan Jacoby, president and CEO of Volvo, said the Concept Universe offers “a sneak preview of what people can expect from our next top-of-the-line sedan”.

See pics of the Volvo Concept Universe - now updated with Shanghai show pics

Peter Horbury, vice-president of design and in his second spell as Volvo’s creative director, said, “The Concept Universe is exceptionally refined, yet with all the simplistic assets that make Volvo champions of the uncomplicated. There is a growing appreciation for this ingenious blend of design and technology among modern luxury car buyers. We are convinced that our special brand of [human-centric] luxury has a great future.”

According to sources at Volvo, the Universe is not based on a specific platform because the company’s future platform and engine strategy is still being finalised. However, although the concept does not quite breach five metres in length, Volvo sources suggest that it would not need to be lengthened for the Chinese market because of “best-in-class interior space”.

Read more on Volvo's plans under Geely ownership

Volvo exterior designer Jonathon Disley said the Universe project began 12 months ago, when the company’s designers were asked to consider a new form language for Volvo. They spent two days in the Volvo museum “looking at classic models from a different viewpoint”.

Disley said, “We felt that the most classic models were soft and voluptuous but also offered a sense of protection. We had a request from chairman Lee [boss of Geely, Volvo’s owners] to reflect the serenity in light when the sun is rising or setting and to create something intriguing in the nose.”

Work on this model took just 17 weeks from the final sketches to the clay model, which was milled directly from computer drawings.

Full story: Ford sells Volvo to Geely

The Universe’s bonnet sculpting is drawn from the Volvo PV544, as is the grille shape and low-set headlights.

However, the unusual nose design is in stark contrast to the rest of the car, which has a contemporary ‘four-door coupé’ stance and modern rear light cluster detailing.

The sides of the Universe are also heavily sculpted, a clear link with previous Horbury-era Volvos, including the S60.

Inside, the concept has a clean and modern four-seat layout, dominated by a raised centre console running through the cabin, which has been stripped of nearly all conventional switchgear. Instead, it features large touchscreens, retaining just a conventional speedo.

Described by interior designer Conny Bengtsson as “tranquil and lounge-like, embracing the passengers”, the interior detail includes business suit fabric on the doors. The only obvious nods to Chinese design are in the blue and white porcelain detail fitted to the steering wheel and shift lever.

Hilton Holloway

See all the latest Volvo reviews, news and video

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK