I remember watching repeats of Roger Moore’s portrayal of The Saint as a youngster during summer holidays. To be completely honest, I don’t remember any part of the story line – or even why he was called the Saint – but I do remember the car he drove, a Volvo P1800. Later in life, having passed my driving test with flying colours, the time came to browse the classifieds for some form of cheap motoring.
Having an avid interest in classic cars, but the budget every new driver should have – next to nothing, Volvo’s P1800 attracted due to it’s style, classic value and all-round design at a remarkably affordable price… and it was made by Volvo – you know, those clever Swede’s who observed that more items could be stuffed into square boxes rather than rounded shapes and the brand which if my mother knew I was driving, she’d be able to sleep peacefully at night.
Today’s announcement of the brand new Volvo concept car then, brings back memories of the saintly P1800 though I’m not so sure why. Perhaps it’s because Volvo’s media team are keen to point this out, or perhaps it’s because it’s a two door Volvo coupé. In reality there’s little in common with the P1800 and that’s a good thing as it is now very long in the tooth but has classic value and so is now relatively well sought after.
Either way, the new concept is a thing of beauty in it’s own right. So, what does bringing up the past and the P1800 mean for this new concept? Well, for me it brings back memories of summer holidays as a child, but also the image conscious past that meant a Volvo wasn’t a ‘cool’ car to own – even if in truth it was, depending on the model. Volvo would like it to conjure up images of hidden and subtle detail as well as excellent design.
In the more recent film than the series, The Saint (starring Val Kilmer as the films protagonist in place of Sir Roger Moore), Volvo supplied the then brand new C70 coupé for the film, which also had an image linked to the old P1800 – hence the use in the film. It was a good looking car, styled by Pininfarina and with a decent set of proven engines it was a comfortable coupé, though many reviewers praised it for it’s old man comfort, others hated it’s soft ride. Whatever you thought though, the P1800 was the car to compare it to due to it’s association and two door coupé shape.
According to Volvo’s new Senior Vice President of Design, Thomas Ingenlath, speaking about the new Concept Coupé
“It is a car designer’s duty to reflect and incorporate design signatures that are vital parts of the company’s heritage. The P1800 is an iconic Volvo, renowned for its beautiful forms and detailing. However, using elements from the P1800 exterior and interior has nothing to do with being retro. We are using these subtle links to a glorious past to create a future where sheer beauty becomes a recognised part of Volvo’s identity. That journey starts with Concept Coupé.”
The new car is, as our headline states, a petrol plug-in hybrid which means it has excellent economy and performance figures, akin to Volvo’s V60 plug-in hybrid offering but making good use of Volvo’s recently announced range of drive-E powertrains. A 2.0 litre four cylinder petrol engine is used to great effect, in fact, so much so that Volvo say the power output is in the range usually associated with a V8 engine and the figures certainly don’t disappoint.
The concept car features a two-litre high-performance Drive-E petrol engine with a supercharger and turbo. The petrol engine is combined with an electric motor on the rear axle. This gives Volvo Concept Coupé a total output of around 400 hp and a not insignificant 600 Nm of torque.
The Volvo Concept doesn’t shy away from the fact that it is a concept car either. Concept cars often feature a neat but difficult or unlikely-to-be-manufactured centre piece and Volvo has this time given us the crystal gearstick in the interior. Robin Page, Design Director Interior at Volvo Car Group explains,
“To me, handcrafted crystal is one of the finest examples of high-quality Scandinavian design and I love the idea of bringing it into the car. The prominent position of the gear-leaver is the perfect place for this sparkling sensation. The experience inside Concept Coupé is an excellent example of how we will make Volvo customers feel truly special.”
Aside from T-shaped headlights which Volvo say are a new design direction for them – so don’t be too surprised to see forthcoming Volvo’s with similar styling, the main attraction is back in the interior alongside the aforementioned crystal gearstick. Centered in the middle of the dash sits a snug built-in large screen touch display akin to the Tesla Model S. Volvo say this touch screen works in coalition with a heads up display for the driver.
“This is a natural integration of user interfaces in our new car generation. Interaction with pleasure but without distraction is the key. We bring connectivity into our cars to make them both more enjoyable and safe.”
explains Thomas Ingenlath.
As has been reported quite a lot in recent articles, autonomous driving is the buzzword of the week and Volvo is no stranger to it. Integrating autonomous steering to avoid accidents, making driving more comfortable, will be introduced in 2014 – and Volvo Cars’ aim is to have cars with fully autonomous technology out on the roads before 2020 – the same time frame as Nissan’s autonomous technology.