Kent, Washington, United States
The debate about what direction to take perennially struggling Volvo has been raging for years. Should the Swedish marque go upscale and try to chase other European luxury brands, or should it stick to its safety-minded knitting? Should it adopt flashy new styling and a more overt performance bent, or keep it Scandinavian clean and responsible? Chinese parent brand Geely apparently has designs on making Volvo a full-fledged BMW rival - particularly in its homeland - including pushing for a range-topping 7 Series competitor. However, Volvo execs have been repeatedly pushing back on the idea. In fact, it's understood that this philosophical crisis contributed mightily to the high-profile departure of Stefan Jacoby, the company's CEO until the middle of 2012 (Jacoby has since rebounded to head international operations for General Motors).
There doesn't seem like any middle path in this debate, but that apparently isn't going to stop Volvo from trying. According to a sprawling Reuters report, Volvo will placate Geely chairman Li Shufu with a stretched and lux'd up version of the next S80. Yet Li still isn't completely satisfied, and he's said to be pushing for "a plusher and bigger model he calls the S100" to rival cars like the Audi A8. For the moment, it is not clear if the larger S80-based model will be a global offering, or just another one of China's many home-market, long-wheelbase specials.
The question of future Volvo styling is up for debate as well. According to Reuters, "Insiders say Li is a big fan of the new styling that design chief Thomas Ingenlath has brought to Volvo" (The latest example, the Concept Coupe from this week's Frankfurt Motor Show, is shown above.) Yet there are those who worry whether the company's new styling strategy is showy enough to appeal to China's wealthy. Chairman Li would still like to see a range-topping sedan for "show-off people," but Volvo's management doesn't want to go down that road. Clearly, this won't be the last we hear about the company's existential boardroom battles.
The Volvo S60 Polestar may not seem like a natural fit for the V8 Supercars series that runs throughout Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. After all, the all-wheel-drive production-spec car isn't even available with a V8. But the rear-wheel-drive racing version has acquitted itself well in the early races of the season, even scoring an overall win at a race in Melbourne. Currently at seventh place in the championship, the S60 the most successful car that isn't a Holden or Ford.
To celebrate its burgeoning success, Volvo sent its V8 Supercars drivers Robert Dahlgren and Scott McLaughlin to home base in Sweden to have some fun driving in the snow and to visit Polestar headquarters. The two of them do some big power slides on an icy lake and then taker a deeper look into the company's performance division. Scroll down to watch the video full of sliding Swedish sedans.
You're looking at the third leg of Volvo's award-winning concept trilogy, the Concept Estate. Despite its banal name, this sweeping longroof showcar has our attention like few other cars at the Geneva Motor Show.
It's not just that we have a weakness for shooting brakes or Volvo's take on the genre in particular (we can see some P1800ES in this design). We just think this car is exceptionally well surfaced, with a fantastic stance and the sort of clean lines that are singularly appropriate of a Scandinavian design. We also appreciate the details that are expected to inform future production models, including the T-shaped headlamps, strong rear shoulders and floating grille mount. In fact, the vast majority of the Concept Estate's design idiom is expected to make it to showrooms in future models, starting with the long-overdue, second-generation XC90 crossover.
We hope - but don't expect - that attitude carries over to the interior, which has stunning, white leather, floating clamshell seats backed in plaid. If there's one cabin feature that's expected to make it to production, it's a derivative of the car's new infotainment system, which features a massive touchscreen with tablet-like gesture controls.