New XC60 sets the design language for a family of future models
14 December 2006

Take a first look at the most prescient new Volvo in years - the new XC60. This car represents the company’s first foray into the medium-sized 4x4 market; this is the ‘concept version’ that will appear at the Detroit motor show next month. The road-goer might be a little more toned-down in a few of its more flamboyant interior and exterior styling details. However, Volvo insiders insist that 98 per cent of what you see here will translate onto the final production version – and that’s great news for a company for which the momentum of progress had recently begun to decrease.

If the XC60 looks unlike any Volvo you’ve even seen before, that’s partly because it’s the first car to be penned entirely by new design director Steve Mattin, who is keen to embrace a radical and sporty design direction for future Volvo cars. It moves away from the angular design language established by Peter Horbury with the original S80 saloon, in the direction of a dynamic, free-flowing look likely to reappear on many new Volvo models over the next few years.

There’s no denying that the car seems to have a bold, glance-grabbing impression. Its muscular haunches may display some off-road intent, but the shallower glasshouse, low roof line and Volvo’s signature shoulderline provide a more coupé-like impression than that of a conventional 4x4.

The XC60 will be a road-biased alternative in the small premium 4x4 market currently dominated by the BMW X3 and Land Rover Freelander. Between 2007 and 2009, Volvo predict that this segment will expand by 75 per cent, and hopes the bold styling of the XC60 will appeal to a young, aspiring customer who’s starting a family and has just grown out of one of their C30 hatchbacks or S40 saloons.

As always, Volvo will set new benchmarks in safety in the class. The XC60 will be installed with an active ‘City Safety’ system, which can detect when a collision is imminent up to speeds of 20mph and brakes the car automatically to mitigate the effects of the impact.

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Prices on the new Volvo are likely to start from around £22,000, undercutting the BMW X3, Mercedes’ incoming GLK-class offroader and Audi’s much-rumoured Q5 by at least £3000. And there might be even bolder designs to come from the marque. Mattin has stated that he wants to increase Volvo’s ‘visual volume’. If this is his starting point, we should expect some mould-breaking designs from the traditionally conservative brand over the next few years.

Jon Quirk

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