There’s more to chassis dynamics than physics. Volvo Cars’ Roger Wallgren explains the art behind crafting the driving experience in the Volvo XC60

Words: Ian Dickson

“We look for people who are into sports, or music, or dancing,” explains Roger Wallgren, Principal Engineer, Vehicle Dynamic, on finding future engineers. “People who have an appreciation for control, balance and timing.” 

Roger develops the driving dynamics of the new generation of Volvo cars, like the Volvo XC60. It is these qualities of control, balance and timing that are at the heart of the experience when you drive the Volvo XC60. A car designed to make you feel confident and in control, whatever the journey. 

Describing chassis development as the crossroads between art and science, Roger is the craftsman, taking the raw components and turning them into a driving experience that is uniquely Volvo. He describes that driving experience as “sophisticated driving enjoyment”. 
“I’m like a chef or a music composer. I take the raw ingredients and assemble them to create something unique,” adds Roger. 

And like every great chef or musician, Roger tests and tweaks his work constantly to find the perfect balance between handling and comfort. “For other people to be satisfied, I need to be satisfied first,” he explains, on defining the car’s handling characteristics. “I have to make the driving experience my own.” 

Roger compares driving to his hobbies of dancing and skiing. “Driving is like dancing. You need to find a rhythm. A rhythm with the music and the road. With skiing it’s about finding the perfect balance. When you add music to either of these things you add emotion, which gives you a natural flow. So the drive becomes intuitive, enjoyable and natural. You don’t need to think about it.” 

The Volvo XC60 also has the option of air suspension and electronically controlled dampers, giving you the potential to have four cars in one, explains Roger. “Even in default mode, the Volvo XC60 is a car that will be really good for long drives as well as if you want to push it on more challenging roads.” But at the touch of a button you can make the car even more engaging, with higher levels of feedback, more body control and enhanced steering feedback. 

“You might choose dynamic mode if you’re on a country road and you want a more sporting drive,” says Roger. Then there’s off-road mode, which raises the suspension by 40mm to give you extra ground clearance. “Useful if you’re in deep snow, for instance,” Roger explains. 

“With air suspension, this car becomes a multi-tool. It even helps you when the car isn’t driving. For instance, you can lower the car to make it easier to get in or out or put something in the boot.”

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