“This is a Volvo the way I want it to be. A Volvo all my own, if you will.” Steve Mattin is categorical – according to the designer, the XC60 presented at Geneva just over a year after the concept’s debut at Detroit, shows the new face of the Swedish brand and is also an expression of his own personal vision, as, two and a half years after his appointment as head of design, this is the first model introducing his design philosophy.

Fredrik Arp, president and CEO of Volvo Cars, is quick to say that “it’s not only the safest Volvo ever. If you ask me, it’s also the most stunning”. This may be a bold claim, but the challenge the car faces is daunting. The XC60 fits into the Small Premium Utility – or crossover – segment, the world’s fastest developing segment which, within the next year, will grow by another 75 percent, as some of Volvo’s fiercest rivals, namely Audi, BMW, Lexus and Alfa Romeo, also join the fray. “It is the flagship of our DNA”, says Mattin. “This is the boldest Volvo so far. This car is charged with more emotive form and far more energy than any previous Volvo model.”

Mattin, a champion of constant evolution, but not at the expense of tradition, offers a choice of meanings for the term. DNA could stand for “do not abandon”, even when the past may necessitate the introduction of new emotion and freshness. Or it could stand for “dramatic new approach”.

Who knows how many variants of his DNA he might have given us if he hadn’t stopped to explain that “design traditions have always been deeply rooted in Volvo DNA. Now we have emphasised these traditions with a much more exiting and effective approach. We are elevating our design DNA to a completely new level, literally increasing visual volume”. Even at a hundred metres, he adds, a Volvo can now be recognised as a Volvo.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 170

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