Volvo Concept universe
9:00 PM | April 19 2021

Model Retrospective: 2011 Volvo Concept Universe

The 2011 Concept Universe was a design study for a future-generation large luxury Volvo sedan, though its hidden underpinnings were equally significant.

The second-generation XC90 large luxury SUV in 2014 became the first production Volvo to utilise the company’s clever new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). But it wasn’t the first vehicle to feature it.


Three years earlier, the vehicle platform that literally laid the foundation for Volvo Cars’ hugely successful range of new-generation 90-series and 60-series vehicles was an invisible, magic ingredient beneath a Shanghai motor show concept.


The 2011 Volvo Concept Universe was a large luxury car that provided a “sneak preview” of the Swedish brand’s next-generation flagship sedan.


A striking exterior formed a four-door coupe profile and included design cues from classic Volvo models – including a stepped bonnet and low-positioned grille and headlights inspired by the PV444 and PV544 introduced in the 1940s.


"Just like fine luxury goods, this design feels handcrafted and durable enough to stand the test of time," said Volvo’s then vice president of design, Peter Horbury. "We will compete with the best with our special kind of Scandinavian Design. It is unmatched in performance and technology, but without superficiality or complication."


Inside, the Concept Universe’s front cabin was driver-oriented, with intuitive controls and a touchscreen that approached the driver’s hand when they reached towards it. The driver could operate everything from their ultra-comfortable seat.


As befitting a large luxury sedan, the Universe offered a comfortably relaxed rear cabin – including even more space than that offered by the company’s existing big sedan, the S80, and another touchscreen for rear passengers.


The interior was moulded into the rear seat to become part of the seating environment, while classic forms, materials and textures were given a twist to create a special contemporary luxury experience.

Volvo Concept Car
Above: The 2011 Concept You with its dramatic fastback styling, pillarless cabin access, rear-hinged rear doors and roof windows.
With the Universe designed to inspire public feedback from the very luxury-focused Chinese market to help explore how daring Volvo’s next-generation large car should look, the concept’s successor – Concept You – aimed to do the same in Europe with its reveal at September 2011’s Frankfurt motor show.
Concept You further showcased how Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture provided designers with great flexibility and freedom to create dynamic proportions and distinctive elements, removing previous limitations around areas such as wheelbase, overhang, vehicle height and height of the front.
The Universe’s sculpted Scandinavian design was tweaked to give the You an even more dramatic, Euro-centric fastback profile, and featured distinctive roof windows above the two individual rear seats as well as pillar-less cabin access with rear-hinged rear doors.
Concept You also featured the latest intuitive smartpad technology to emphasise Volvo Cars’ ambition to lead the development of super-functional connectivity features in cars.
"Our aim is to be the brand that best understands what buyers of modern luxury cars want,” said Volvo Cars of its Universe and You concepts.
It could be said the two concepts very much paved the way for the huge success of future Volvos – including the 2016 S90 large luxury sedan – that continue to contribute to remarkable sales growth.