Volvo S60 concept ready to go

December 17th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Volvo S60 Concept fq

At next month’s Detroit Auto Show, the Volvo S60 concept will be unveiled and will act as a teaser for the 2010 production sedan that should debut later next year. The S60 Concept demonstrates that Volvo’s new sedan will ditch the rather conservative get-up it currently wears in favour of a new, aggressive look. Profile views show off a coupe-styled roofline, while pointed headlights recline back onto the fenders and flank a reshaped Volvo grille up front. The concept’s rear is similarly detailed, with LED taillamps that hide the various signal colours until they are actually illuminated. Truck-like rear doors open and then slide backward to give a good look of the Volvo’s cabin. Inside, there is no B-pillar and a host of concept vehicle trickery. It’s hard to tell what is just for the concept and what will actually make it into the production sedan, but so far it looks like a marked improvement on Volvo styling of old.

Volvo working hard on green vehicles

December 12th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Volvo Green fq

Volvo’s product development unit is still hard at work, even after Ford desperately put a price tag on the brand (click here to read news item). Volvo is busy developing more environmentally-friendly vehicles capable of meeting tough new  emissions regulations on the horizon, the Swedish automaker has been working on some new highly-efficient vehicles.

In addition to the DRIVe trio of ultra-efficient diesel-powered models, Volvo is working on an all-new micro-hybrid model. Set to join the lineup in 2011, the vehicle will be available in gas or diesel powered form, and a manual or automatic transmission. Fuel-saving technology will include a start-stop system plus brake-energy regeneration to cut consumption by nearly 5 percent. We’ll see a full hybrid (with the ability to run on electric power only) in 2012 with the D5 diesel engine. A plug-in electric is also expected to follow in the future.

$11.2 billion price tag on Volvo

December 5th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

If you have a lazy $6 billion ($11.2 billion NZ) laying around then Volvo could be yours. Ford first purchased Volvo for $6.4 billion back in 1999. Now, a decade later, unconfirmed reports say the automaker is asking nearly the same amount $6 billion for the Swedish brand. Ford are desperately trying to cut costs in an attempt to woo Washington a government bailout. But Volvo as attractive as it once was, like everyone else the automaker is struggling in today’s market as reported sales in the third-quarter were down 24%. Volvo has cut thousands of jobs, and has even been in recent talks with the Swedish government about financial support.

Potential interest in the sale may come from SAIC Motor Corp, China’s largest automaker and possibly Hyundai, but the fate of Volvo is at this stage uncertain.

Ford looking to sell Volvo

December 2nd, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Ford Motor Company announced yesterday it will re-evaluate strategic options for the Volvo Car Corporation, including the possible sale of the Sweden-based automaker.

Ford said the decision to re-evaluate strategic options for Volvo comes in response to the significant decline in the global auto industry particularly in the past three months and the severe economic instability worldwide. The strategic review of Volvo is in line with a broad range of actions Ford is taking to strengthen its balance sheet and ensure its own survival.

“Given the unprecedented external challenges facing Ford and the entire industry, it is prudent for Ford to evaluate options for Volvo as we implement our ONE Ford plan,” said Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally. “Volvo is a strong global brand with a proud heritage of safety and environmental responsibility and has launched an aggressive plan to right-size its operations and improve its financial results. As we conduct this review, we are committed to making the best decision for both Ford and Volvo going forward.”

Ford said the review likely will take several months to complete. In the meantime, Ford will continue working closely with Volvo as it implements its restructuring plan under CEO Stephen Odell, who was appointed to lead Volvo earlier this year.

Crystal concept for Volvo S60

November 3rd, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Volvo crystal concept

Volvo Cars has engaged Swedish glassworks Orrefors to create a floating centre stack in crystal for the company’s next concept car, which will be a first taste of the next-generation Volvo S60. It will be shown for the first time at the Detroit international motor show in January 2009.

In the concept car the crystal-clear centre stack forms a wave from the instrument panel all the way to the rear seat backrest.

“It almost looks like a waterfall from the instrument panel, flowing through the centre of the car,” says Volvo Cars design director Steve Mattin.

“If you want to explore the full scope of Scandinavian design, Sweden’s glassworks are a natural source of inspiration. Large glass areas are also very much part of modern Swedish architecture, creating the special, light transparency,” says Steve Mattin.

The experts at Orrefors were keen to accept the challenge and the result is one of the most unusual and handcraft-intensive objects in the company’s 110-year history. Producing the stack was in itself a challenge beyond the ordinary – even for experts at Orrefors.

“The full-size crystal piece in the concept car will not be a production feature. However, it does open up opportunities to use crystal on a smaller scale in the future. We’ll have to see how our customers respond,” says Steve Mattin.

Beside the driver’s seat, the crystal console cuts straight through the instrument panel and its upper section forms a navigation screen at the precise height of the driver’s combined instruments.

The gear selector has a versatile new shape. In the horizontal position it offers drive in automatic mode. If the driver is in the mood for sporty manual gear changes, the lever can be flipped up into the vertical position. Beside the gear selector there is also the starter button and parking brake.

“We’ve put the focus on ergonomics and safety. With the combined instruments at the same height as the navigation screen, all it takes is a horizontal eye movement to switch between sources of information. Another example is the controls used when you start and stop driving are a few centimetres from each other near the gear selector,” explains Steve Mattin.

Volvo developing hot hatch C30

October 1st, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Volvo C30 fq

Rumours of a Volvo hot hatch are circulating the automotive industry, the word is that the Swedish manufacturer is developing a new 300-horsepower C30 for Europe. According to early reports the new model will use the same 2.5-litre inline-five cylinder turbo engine that powers the new Ford Focus RS. But their will be differences between the two vehicles not least that the Volvo will use the Haldex all-wheel drive system, which will make it far more sure footed than the torque steering Ford.

The Volvo will be fitted out with 20-inch rims and a body kit unique to the go-fast model. To maintain exclusivity Volvo could limit production numbers to 4,500 cars worldwide, we have no idea if any will make it down here to NZ, but if it does it will be the most exciting Volvo we have seen for a long time.

Click here to read a road test of the base model C30

Volvo analyses locusts to prevent cars crashing

September 18th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Volvo locusts

Since the first single cell organism emerged from the primordial soup, nature has been testing, selecting and perfecting how best to help life survive.  Along the way, she encountered dead ends and thankfully many successes. Today, lessons learned from nature help scientists improve our lives with technologies like Velcro that was inspired by burrs on seed pods, self-cleaning coatings for ship hulls from shark skin structures, neuromorphic computer chips that one day may be able to process information the way our brain does, just to mention a few.

Nature is a wonderful laboratory. “We learned of Dr Claire Rind´s, Newcastle University, UK, studies into the migratory African Locust, which showed that they tend to avoid bumping into each other during flights,” states Jonas Ekmark, Preventive Safety Leader at Volvo Car Corporation. “Our original thoughts centred on pedestrian safety. If we could trace how the locusts are able to avoid each other maybe we could program our cars not to hit pedestrians.”  During the study, Dr Rind learned that visual input is instantly transmitted to the insect’s wing nerve cells, seemingly bypassing the brain. Dr Rind calls this the Locust Principle.

“Locusts are quick reacting and have reliable circuits, they do their computations against lots of background chatter, much like driving around town,” comments Dr Rind.  Volvo wanted to learn if locust sensory-input routing methodologies could be built into a vehicle pedestrian safety system.  The goal was to avoid hitting pedestrians. Primary to this research was to synthesise a locust algorithm that could be applied to a car. “As it turns out, the locust processing system is much more sophisticated than the hardware/software currently available. In the end technology was no match for nature,” says Jonas Ekmark.

“What we learned was very encouraging. However, rather than wait for technology to catch up to Dr Rind’s Locust Principle, Volvo created a pedestrian alert feature that will be introduced in the near future.

“When we started in late 2002, sensing and computational systems were rather weak. But technology is quickly catching up. Volvo City Safety has been launched as standard in the new Volvo XC60. At low speeds, City Safety is smart enough to bring the XC60 to a complete stop should the vehicle in front suddenly stop.

“Beyond City Safety our next step will be our first pedestrian avoidance feature,” comments Jonas Ekmark. “Although City Safety is not related to our locust research, we are confident that our first pedestrian auto brake feature will be very good at taking actions to help avoid hitting pedestrians,” comments, Jonas Ekmark.

“While some interesting ideas came from this study, we still have many more years of research ahead to bring that small locust brain into our cars. We have found a lowly locust has beaten man, at least for now. Still, the big question remains: How do groups of locusts keep from bumping into each other?  Maybe there is more to be learned? We will continue to follow interesting paths in our efforts to reach our safety vision; to design cars that do not crash,” concludes Jonas Ekmark.

Volvo shows DRIVe C30, S40 and V50

September 10th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Volvo DRIVe logo

Volvo will be unveiling the new economical, sub-120g/km diesel variants of the C30 SportsCoupe, S40 saloon and V50 Sportswagon at the Paris Motor Show in early October. All three models are equipped with a special set of efficiency-enhancing features and marked with the DRIVe emblem to signal their uprated environment properties. Production of these new models will start mid-November 2008. New Zealand release dates have not been established.

The new 1.6D DRIVe models will offer outstanding fuel consumption of 3.66l/100km on the C30 and 3.74l/100km in the S40 and V50, with VED Band B CO2 figures of just 115g/km for the C30 and 118g/km for the S40 and V50.  These new low emissions mean that the Volvo C30 and V50 offer best-in-class CO2 in their segments.

The reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions was brought about by analysing the cars’ total potential for more efficient, more economical driving. The cars were then optimised within four areas:
1. Reduced air resistance:

* Chassis height reduced by approximately 10mm to help reduce drag
* A front spoiler on the S40 and V50 which is the same spoiler currently on T5 models.
* Covered radiator grille. Behind the characteristic Volvo grille there is a wind-deflecting panel that provides better aerodynamics inside the engine compartment.
* Wind deflectors in front of the front wheels to steer the airflow.
* Aerodynamically optimised wheels with a unique ‘Libra’ rim. The diamond cut finish adds to the unique design and the large unobstructed area that goes all the way out to the tyre makes the rim look considerable larger than it actually is. The total drag reduction of 10-15% is due to the design of the Libra rim.
* Underbody panels on the Volvo C30 for more efficient airflow under the car.
* A unique rear spoiler has been developed for the Volvo C30 which adds both to the aerodynamics and to the visual appearance. The Volvo S40 features the same ‘ducktail’ spoiler as found on the current T5 and D5 models.
* New rear bumper on the Volvo C30.
2. Lower rolling resistance:

* All the cars are equipped with a new generation of Michelin tyres with low rolling resistance.
3. Higher ratios:

* Gearbox with altered ratios for third, fourth and fifth gears. The longer gear ratios contribute to a 1.5% reduction in fuel consumption without affecting the drivability of the car.
4. More efficient driveline:

* Optimised engine cooling, engine management and power steering.
* New transmission oil which creates much lower friction will be used in the gearbox.
* Gearchange indicator in the information display to tell the driver the ideal time to change gears.

“Changing the transmission oil gives us a 0.75 percent lower fuel consumption. Tyres with low rolling resistance save another 2 percent. Each of these measures may seem rather modest, but it is important to look at the whole picture. Taken together, all the small adjustments have helped us achieve our aim, with emissions below 120g/km for all three cars, without in any way compromising on either driving properties or comfort, which was an important requirement,” says Magnus Jonsson, Senior Vice President, Research & Development at Volvo Cars.
Benefits for the environment and economy

Reducing fuel consumption and dropping below the 120g/km CO2 emission level offers a range of benefits, both for the environment and the buyer’s pocket. With lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, these cars reduce the net contribution to global warming. All new diesel models from Volvo are also fitted with a maintenance-free particle filter that traps about 95 percent of all soot particles.

Volvo Cars expects to sell over 20,000 1.6D DRIVe cars next year in Europe