True to Scandinavian heritage,…all access with no excess
How does a car company take a successful classic style to the next level? One that launched a design language, one that threw away the box, and awoke buyers with Safety can be Sexy. This is the challenge faced by designers at Volvo Cars when pencil went to paper for the all-new S80.
After a seven-year lifecycle, and garnering a class-leading trunk-load of accolades for safety, performance and of course design…with nearly 350,000 units sold – time has come to expand on the legacy.
The design directive was to kick up a notch the company's flagship sedan to the next level, while remaining faithful to the company's Scandinavian heritage – a true Volvo. Perhaps one of the more important pen strokes in the process was not on the drafting table.
"In a personal note to myself I indicated an objective of creating a vehicle that renews its appeal with time," says Stefan Jansson, Volvo Cars Designer and architect of the next generation S80 exterior. "The idea certainly addresses longevity with a product line, but even the concept isn't easy to grasp, not to mention the difficulty to implement."
For Jansson, the starting point was the 'eyebrows' above the wheels. A key component to the overall look for the S80 was the way in which it sat over, and integrated with, the tires. "We spent a disproportionate period of time on affecting the proper stance," says the meticulous Jansson.
Functionally, the aerodynamic looks and safety all came into play with the front end. "It's great when elements come together and it just feels right," said Jansson. "We wanted to engineer a strong, energy absorbing front structure, yet have fun with body styling".
The classically elongated chin reaches forward – providing both a sporty appearance and functional air intake for the V8 or I6 variants, under the hood. Both efficient, yet powerful, engines are transversely mounted – a Volvo prerequisite for its hallmark Safety energy absorbing frontal structure.
The all-new S80 headlamps are set low compared to its predecessor, allowing for the Active bi-xenon lights (that swivel following the bends in the roadway), rounding the overall shape aerodynamically, while wrapping the corner presenting a 'positive expression.' One that is not aggressive, yet easy for the eye and mind to accept, a unique Scandinavian presentation.
Subtle, yet pronounced, 'V' lines segment the vastness of the hood and approximate forward motion, even when standing still.
"Minimizing wind resistance improves driving dynamics and ride characteristics and is always an objective," says Jansson. Trading in the traditional three panel roofline, the new design features an arch created by the windscreen, roof, and back glass enables efficient airflow as well as a sleek appearance.
The all-new Volvo S80 is the same overall length as its predecessor - 191 inches, but it is both slightly wider and taller (1.06 and 1.34 inches, respectively). Its wheelbase is also longer and the track is wider. All told this makes for a more impressive stance and greater presence on the road.
From the rear, the characteristic tail lights are undeniably, Volvo. "We remained true the Volvo design language, but we expanded on the theme to give the new S80 a distinctive identifiable look of its own," notes Jansson.
By positioning the rear lights higher, the vehicle assumes a stronger posture, again encouraging a forward sensation of movement. "…and by stretching the trademark rear lamps and extending them around the corners, we achieved an overall look where the next generation S80 appears to hug the roadway and optically seems significantly wider," confides Jansson. "Certainly our last S80 has aged well. It still looks good today considering we first penned it in 1992 with our Environmental Concept Car. Time will tell if we've accomplished true Scandinavian design with our new S80. We think we're on the right track."
So, will the rounded shapes, higher haunches and more sweeping lines of the all-new S80 achieve exterior designer, Stefan Jansson's objective of continuously renewed appeal? The real answer will be subject to the test of time – and the connection between next generation Volvo S80, its select drivers, and its multitude of onlookers. Stay tuned.
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