Volvo Concept Estate showcases intuitive new interface
Final design exercise in a trilogy that included the earlier Concept Coupe and Concept XC Coupe, the Volvo Concept Estate makes its world debut at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show. While the exterior of this one-off 2-door sport wagon that reprises the stylish character of Volvo's classic 1800ES model deserves its own high-fives, the automaker says the most significant aspect of the Concept Estate is found inside. In addition to its distinctive use of premium-quality materials, the Concept Estate offers a first look at Volvo's new approach to simplifying its man-machine interface using a new graphic touch screen and proprietary software that replaces most existing conventional knobs and switchgear.
"The basic idea is to organize controls and information in a perfectly intuitive and user-friendly way. Everything is exactly where you expect it to be, making the drive more enjoyable, efficient and safe," says Thomas Ingenlath, senior vice president design at Volvo Car Group. The system will make its first appearance on the all-new 2015 Volvo XC90, which is due to launch later this year. Save for a handful of direct-access controls for the volume, play/pause, hazard warning and window heaters, everything will be activated via the car's sophisticated central touchscreen.
Fully integrated with the main instrument cluster, Volvo's new "digital environment" also will recognize all basic swipe/pinch tablet protocols and can be operated by voice or by buttons on the multifunction steering wheel. Volvo describes the screen layout as a stack of flexible tiles organized in a navigation, media, telephone and climate control hierarechy. "Information, navigation and media are high up and easy to keep an eye on," notes Ingenlath. "The phone controls, application icons and climate controls are located low, comfortable to reach and touch. Using the screen is so logical that it will be part of your muscle memory very quickly." To simplify use, the active tile expands in size while the others shrink but still remain visible to allow quick, easy access as needed.
As for the rest of the Concept Estate's interior, Volvo likens it to a Scandanvian living room. The four individual seats are covered in Bridge of Weir leather counterpointed by orange belts while premium woven wool carpets from the Swedish firm Kasthall line the floor area. We're not quite sure about the "playfulness" added by the checkered black-and-white wool textile found on the headliner and rear sides of the front buckets, but the leather-covered dash, naturally aged wood accents, crystal gear lever from Orrefors/Kosta Boda and machined copper accent bits do bode well for Volvo's stated intention to move into the bona-fide luxury realm.
Volvo has yet to release any additional mechanical information on the Estate Concept, but has confirmed that like its siblings, the vehicle will be based on the firm's new Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA). It previously stated that SPA will underpin all of its future mid-size and larger models, starting with the new XC90. The Concept Estate is believed to pack the same potent all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid system found in those cars that teams a 2.0-liter/4-cylinder gasoline engine from Volvo's new Drive-E family up front with an electric motor at the rear axle. Cranking out roughly 400 total horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque, the high-tech/high-efficiency combo should definitely keep this wonder wagon up to speed.
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