XC60 forced Volvo designer to 'break free'

Volvo chief designer Thomas Ingenlath says the new XC60 "is such a big step when it comes to the improvement of a winning concept."
Douglas A. Bolduc is managing editor at Automotive News Europe;
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Volvo chief designer Thomas Ingenlath knew that creating a successor for the Swedish brand’s best-selling XC60 would be challenging. He needed to preserve the features that convinced nearly 1 million people to buy the first-generation car while still pushing to reach a higher level.

“At some point you just have to break free,” he told me at the pre-unveiling of the new XC60 in Sweden ahead of the its Geneva auto show debut today. “While working on it you cannot be thinking, ‘I have to respect this or that.’ That would be such a burden and it would hinder you from making next step big enough.”

Ingenlath said that he and his team considered how the new SUV relates to the old one. “But during the time of creation you have to forget about all of that,” he added.

His overall assessment of the new XC60?

“This car certainly doesn't have to hide from the competition,” Ingenlath said. “Yes, it’s not a [design] revolution, but it is such a big step when it comes to the improvement of a winning concept that I’m tempted to say, ‘What could go wrong?’ ”

What could have gone wrong was a misstep in the styling of the new SUV’s larger sibling, the XC90. Ingenlath admits that had Volvo stumbled with the XC90 -- the vehicle Volvo bet the company’s future on after being sold by Ford to Zhejiang Geely Holding -- the ripple effect would have been disastrous.

“This set of cars – the XC90, V90, S90 and XC60 -- was one big moment, one gesture,” he said. “We would not have had the time to reconsider [the design] because of this or that reaction. We had to be very strong in our belief that the XC90 was going to be a success.”

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