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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 most important new Volvo in quite some time has made its first auto show appearance, with the second-generation XC90 debuting at the 2014 Paris Motor Show.
As we discussed in both our original post and Deep Dive feature, the new XC90 remains a three-row crossover for 2015, although it ditches the first-gen model's top-end, turbocharged six-cylinder in favor of a single twin-charged, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. By pairing that with a plug-in-electric powertrain, the king of the XC90 range, the T8 TwinEngine, will offer up 400 horsepower. So yeah, performance should be brisk.
Also appearing on 2015 XC90 will be an entirely new, Apple CarPlay-compatible infotainment system with a big, vertical touchscreen display at its heart. Based on the videos we've seen, the new system looks responsive, feature-laden and quite attractive.
Anyone who pedals a bicycle knows that one of the biggest dangers to riders is a motorized vehicle - Volvo estimates that nearly 50 percent of all cyclists killed in European traffic have collided with a car. In the United States alone, 618 riders lost their lives in bicycle/motor vehicle crashes in 2010, and the number of injuries surpassed 52,000.
To help drop those numbers, Volvo has just announced Cyclist Detection with full auto brake - a technology that detects and automatically applies a vehicle's brakes when a cyclist swerves in front of a moving car. The basic components of the system include a radar unit integrated into the front grille, a camera fitted in front of the interior rear-view mirror and a central control unit. The radar is tasked with seeing obstacles in front of the vehicle and calculating distance, while the camera is responsible to determine what the object is. The central control unit, with rapid processing capabilities, monitors and evaluates the situation.
The technology, which will be sold bundled with its Pedestrian Detection and called Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, will automatically apply full braking when both the radar and camera confirm a pedestrian or cyclist are in the immediate path of the vehicle. According to the automaker, the technology will be offered on the Volvo V40, S60, V60, XC60, V70, XC70 and S80 models from mid-May in 2013.