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Volvo Concept You (2011) at Frankfurt motor show

Tue, 13 Sep 2011

The Concept You, says Volvo, combines a sleek coupe-like exterior with a high-tech interior that keeps the driver in command via intuitive smart-pad technology. It also gives us a first taste of Volvo’s design direction as it readies the next-gen S80.

Designed by Peter Horbury, Concept You builds on Concept Universe, which was shown at Shanghai 2011, and is based on Volvo’s new Scalable Platform Architecture. The fastback bodywork riffs on the Merc CLS and Audi A7 with, according to Horbury, ‘uncluttered, organic surfaces and superb craftsmanship that radiate timeless luxury’. These simple lines are augmented by Geog Jensen-inspired wheels (come on, the world-famous Danish design house), front grille and LED headlamps that mimic blocks of ice. Inside, meanwhile, buttons and controls are a thing of the past, replaced instead by iPhone and iPad-inspired touchscreens.

The Concept You control centre consists of four main areas; a digital Driver Information Monitor (DIM), a head-up display on the windscreen, a touch-screen in the upper part of the centre console and a touchscreen between the two individual rear seats. The touchscreen in the upper part of the centre console remains in sleeping mode until the driver looks at it. A hidden infrared camera registers the eye movements and information is displayed on the screen. Another sensor registers hand movements and, says Volvo, the whole system is intelligent enough to differentiate between passenger and driver – so the car will allow a passenger to access the internet, while keeping it out of bounds to the driver, for instance.

Meanwhile, steps have been taken to differentiate the front and rear of the cabin, with a darker, more dynamic front morphing into a calmer, more lounge-like rear. The four individual seats are trimmed in a blend of leather and ecological suede, the backs of the front seats and the door panels also receiving so-called ‘exclusive Italian fabric’ alongside designs from trendy Swede Oscar Jacobson. It’s probably best you remove your wellies too: the wooden floor is covered with hand-tufted carpet that’s dark and firm in the front and – got it yet? – light and soft in the back.

‘We are carving out a unique position among the luxury car makers with our special kind of Scandinavian Design,’ says Horbury. ‘It will be unmatched in performance, technology and craftsmanship, but without superficiality or complication.’

Could this be a much-needed tonic to the sombre German hegemony? Ask us again when the next S80 arrives.

By Ben Barry