Volvo Car Corp. is developing a mid-sized sports sedan to rival the BMW 3 series.
The car is at the center of Volvo's plans to join the elite of Europe's luxury carmakers. It will be called the S60 and will be shown in Europe late next year, said a source familiar with the strategy.
The car will help establish Volvo's future model strategy to group its products into three distinct ranges: sedans (badged S), station wagons (badged V) and coupes/cabriolets (badged C).
The sleek S60 is sized midway between the BMW 3 series and 5 series, but will be priced directly against the smaller 3 series.
The S60 is also designed to clean up the confusing Volvo sedan name-system by fitting directly between the entry-level S40 and the top-of-the-range S80.
Volvo's three-range policy will also produce a more clearly identified station wagon lineup. Early next year the new V70 station wagon, based on the S80 platform, will debut. It will be larger than the current V70, and will compete with the Audi A6 Avant and Mercedes-Benz E-class wagon.
Flagship V70 station wagons will be powered by turbocharged four- and five-cylinder engines.
However, a specially adapted four-wheel-drive version - likely to be badged V90XC Cross Country - will continue Volvo's expansion into the sedan-derived sport-utility market. The 70 name will remain only for the future two-wheel-drive mid-sized station wagons - the S70 will be dropped when production of the current sedan ends.
The S60 and V70 replacements were sculpted by Volvo's design chief, Peter Horbury. Both feature traditional Volvo design cues while expanding on the more modern, rounded styling themes first seen on the S40/V40 and S80.
Volvo has moved to a two-platform policy for its new ranges. The S60 and new V70 share the S80's front-wheel-drive platform, called P2X within Volvo, while the S40/V40 range is due to be replaced in 2001 with a car based on the new P1X platform. The current V40/S40 is built at NedCar in Born, the Netherlands, and shares its structure and factory with the Mitsubishi Carisma. The Ford purchase of Volvo is understood to have come too late to change the plans for the next S40/V40.
The flexibility and quality of the front-wheel-drive P2X platform was a key factor in Ford's purchase of Volvo earlier this year. Ford Chief Executive Jacques Nasser hinted that it could be used for future Ford brand vehicles.