Volvo Unveils Its Future

Past and future are present at Frankfurt

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Volvo didn't bring the new XC90 SUV to the Frankfurt Auto Show this year, but they did promise us a whole lot of new cars—including one concept that shows us what to expect from the small Swedish automaker.

We've been in awe of the Volvo Concept Coupe ever since photos first leaked online, and we can assure you it's even more impressive in person. Yes, it's obviously a descendant of the P1800 coupe, an example of which was parked above the concept in Frankfurt.

But it's a lot more: A floating grill and T-shaped daytime running lights (LEDs, of course) mark the new face of Volvo. Inside, there's a large portrait-oriented touchscreen with different connectivity options. It will connect to the driver's display for full integration.

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The Concept Coupe with the classic P1800 coupe above it.

"This is no futuristic dream car," said Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo's VP of design. One should be able to "recognize the connection instantly when our new SUV is revealed next year."

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A touchscreen integrates with the gauge cluster. Also, the seat adjuster is between the driver's legs.

If this concept is any indication, expect major changes. Volvo's been hamstrung by the old vehicle architecture (which encompasses how a car is built and fits together, and all the related parts) they borrowed from former parent company Ford. That's why we've only seen minor changes to Volvo vehicles for the past decade or so. But developing a new platform is a big deal for a small automaker: Consider that GM's refusal to let Saab license its platforms was one of the many factors that doomed Volvo's only Swedish competitor.

The new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) was developed thanks to an $11 billion investment from Volvo's Chinese parent company, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. SPA eschews Volvo's old lineup of five- and six-cylinder engines in favor of four-cylinder gasoline-only and hybrid powerplants, including a plug-in hybrid for the upcoming XC90 due out in 2015.

It also allows for a sea change in the vehicles' visual dynamics.

According to Ingenlath, "SPA is liberating our designers." The new cars will have "soft, gentle curves," with mild angles "like the crease in a pair of trousers."

"There's a strong connection to Scandinavian lifestyle and Scandinavian design," he said. Sure. We just think the Concept Coupe is beautiful.

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