Power behind the design
Robin Page (left), Volvo Cars’ senior vice president of design, explains the fine details of the S60
Visually, the N431 is the latest take on Volvo Cars’ confident, uncluttered design language, first introduced in the XC90 SUV. The new N431 is the most dynamic expression of this design language.
“The N431 is a beautifully balanced car,” says Robin. “It’s got comfort, sophistication, power and driver appeal, and that’s exactly the message we have tried to convey with the car’s design.”
Great design starts with the right foundations, and the N431 is built on Volvo Cars’ Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform, which also underpins the XC60, S90, V90 and XC90. It’s a platform that was engineered in close collaboration between the design and engineering departments at Volvo Cars. And, as Robin points out, that is not always the case with car companies. “Designers often have to work with platforms that don’t optimise design. You can go back and forth, wasting so much time, and the result is always compromised. A car that looks disjointed. That’s why the platform is crucial to good design.”
When it comes to the design of the N431, Robin says that the distance between the windscreen pillar
and the centre of the front wheel is crucial: “We’ve pushed the front wheel further away from the windscreen. This creates a long bonnet that gives a real muscularity and power to the design. And then there are ‘muscles’ over the front and rear wheels that add strength and help achieve the right stance.”
The front of the car is deep and “pulled forward”, and there’s a discreet but pronounced power bulge on the bonnet – both of which hint at the car’s performance. Curved ‘hips’ above the rear wheels are another expression of the car’s athleticism, explains Robin.
The face of the S60 is clearly evolved from that of the new Volvo Cars design language. “It’s very distinctive,” says Robin. “It’s become the face of Volvo Cars. But it’s lower on the S60, more dynamic.” The T-shaped light signature in the headlights is another characteristic of contemporary Volvo cars, and on the S60 it extends beyond the main part of the headlight, emphasising the car’s width and dynamism.
At the rear, the boot edge has a distinct ‘kick’. “It has an athletic look and helps the aerodynamics,” explains Robin. “Note the lack of brightwork – such as chrome – on the tail. When it comes to trim, less is more for Volvo Cars.”
Combining the restraint and elegance of modern Scandinavian design with a dynamic edge is what gives the S60 its unique character, says Robin. “There’s a powerful tension, but the design is minimalist. Some rival cars have busy and complicated surfacing. Ours is simple and sculptural. That’s the purity of Scandinavian design – it’s really important to Volvo Cars.”
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