Volvo showed its third of three concept cars at the Geneva Motor Show, the Volvo Concept Estate - moving back into the true heartland of the brand. It’s the final concept before the new XC90 arrives at the Paris Motor Show in September.
The observant among you will have noticed that technically it’s not an estate but a true shooting brake, in the British sense. That’s not a bad thing at all - in fact it shows us that Volvo is looking to exploit its practical, safe but also slightly out there image.
Following the Concept Coupe (from Frankfurt) and the Concept XC seen in Detroit, as a trio they show us how Volvo is thinking about its future sports coupes, SUVs and estates, respectively. If the company can translate what’s been shown so far into production, we think it will be on to a winner. All three concepts sit notionally on Volvo’s new modular front wheel drive platform, which gives them a great proportion.
The Concept Estate, rendered here in an impossible-to-photograph deep brown, retains many Volvo signatures - such as the rising tail-lights and grille design - but twists them in a new way and adds new ones like the "throwing hammer" light graphic at the front.
But it’s the interior on this concept that really sings. Not only does it integrate the new touchscreen user interface coupled, in this instance with Apple CarPlay, but also four seats finished in a beautiful white leather, set off against a light grey Swedish wood, brushed aluminium and deep orange carpet. It sounds awful when written down, but in real life looks - and feels - really great. We only hope now, that Volvo can follow this through into the forthcoming production cars.
The highlight of the new Volvo concepts is the new Apple CarPlay integration. Here it shines on the new 10.3-inch portrait-format centre screen has been designed around four primary "tiles". It’s got an almost Windows-phone style approach to the layout of the home screen, divided into four bands: navigation, media, phone and CarPlay, but what of the rest of the concept away from Apple.
Volvo has been, up until now, a rotary/button control company, let’s not forget. But in future Volvo’s you’ll be driving almost everything through this touch screen. At its base there are some physical buttons to control volume adjustment, track skip, screen demist/defrost and the hazard lights, while everything else will be controlled via the touchscreen. Fear not though, because (being Volvo) you can drive the screen even when you’re wearing gloves and that kind of thing.
From the base of the screen you can drag up the climate controls to adjust temperature, switch your heated seat on and that kind of thing, while the top bar has an ever-present time display, phone signal strength and battery life and a central Volvo logo, which acts as a return home screen. Volvo says it’s worked hard to keep the digital icons and button big and clear so they can be used easily on the move. Of course, you’ll get steering wheel controls and voice to drive these if you wish.
CarPlay and Volvo's own system will run very much in parallel which is what we found interesting about the setup. One complements the other and, we believe, this is how CarPlay will integrate slightly differently into each different manufacturers' setup. Perhaps that’s a deliberate move on the part of the car brand in this instance though. It's not entirely unsurprisingly it wouldn't be keen to give over all its screens to the boys from Cupertino.
However, for some what we’re saying might suggest that CarPlay isn’t going to be the in-car panacea many have suggested. But it does nonetheless look familiar, slick and entirely well integrated. And in time, assuming you're an Apple user, it could make all the stuff Volvo is providing somewhat redundant. But for now, it looks like the combination of Volvo’s new system and Apple’s CarPlay is going to give you one of the most flexible, slick and easy to use in-car digital experiences out there.
So there we have it. Slick new Concept Estate and exciting Apple CarPlay prospects to boot. We’ll be front of the queue for the XC90 reveal in Paris come September to let you know if Volvo has managed to pull it out of the bag and deliver an road-worthy model of note.