This blue machine has what is claimed to be one of the world’s most advanced dynamically-controlled chassis, electronically managed 4-wheel drive and 220 kW/300 bhp of power on tap. No guesses for who made it since there are all the familiar styling cues of Volvo in the nose.
It’s the Volvo Performance Concept Car, a study which uses the new S60 as the basis to develop the sportiest and most dynamic Volvo sedan ever. In parallel with the development of the production S60 models, a team of engineers and designers have worked on this concept to identify and test technical solutions and a design structure that will support a feasible high-performance model.
“From the design viewpoint, we wanted to provide a hint of what a future high-performance car with a Volvo badge could look like,” says Peter Horbury, vice president and chief designer at Volvo Cars. “The Volvo Performance Concept Car has a subtle racing-car appearance that conveys refined sporty appeal.”
Finished in Laser Blue, an exclusive livery featuring a so-called “flop effect”, whereby the color nuance shimmers and changes with lighting conditions, the Volvo Performance Concept Car differs from its volume-produced brothers by having a unique front spoiler with two additional air intakes whose pronounced grilles(in a satin silver finish) direct airflow towards the radiator and front brakes respectively.
The rear bumper has a satin-silver center panel that separates the dual inset rectangular exhaust tailpipes, further emphasizing the sporty appearance.
On each side, the front spoiler features a stability-enhancing aerofoil on the lower lip, running from the front towards the leading edge of the front wheel housing. The stabilizer then follows the line of the bottom rail between the front and rear wheel housings, continuing in an elongated teardrop-shaped lip aerofoil that integrates into the rear spoiler. These airflow stabilizers are also finished in satin-silver, contrasting elegantly with the Laser Blue livery.
Under the car, there is a smooth undertray front to channel air optimallyand thus minimize lift force at speed. The airflow, instead of becoming turbulent in the open spaces under the engine compartment, is made to flow smoothly underneath towards the rear.
The wheels come straight from the racing-track. They are the same 19-inch BBS magnesium wheels used on the racing Volvo S40 that competes in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), and they are shod with 245/35×19 tyres.
The interior also exudes an aura of sportiness and refinement. The deeply-contoured seats are upholstered in soft leather with a metallic effect as well as inlay panels in nubuck suede; the pedals are made of ribbed aluminum and the instrument panel’s gauges are an exclusive shade of blue. The instruments are set in a panel surrounded by nubuck suede trim.
The car has a potent version of the modular Volvo 5-cylinder 2435 cc engine, producing 220 kW/300 bhp and generates no less than 400 Nm of torque. The transmission is a 6-speed compact four-shaft manual gearbox which was developed in-house and is under testing.
The most interesting feature on the Volvo Performance Concept Car cannot really be seen from the outside or even by lifting the bonnet: it is the unique continuously-controlled chassis that creates hitherto unsurpassed potential for optimizing the dampers to suit the driver’s bias towards comfortable progress or enthusiastic driving.
FOUR-C (Continuously-Controlled Chassis Concept), as Volvo has dubbed the system, is the outcome of close long-term cooperation with Ohlins Racing AB, one of the world’s foremost manufacturers and developers of advanced high-technology damper systems.
What is unique about FOUR-C is its ability to collect huge amounts of information about the way in which the car moves and to respond instantly by the adjusting the damper characteristics to suit. Every alternate millisecond, that is to say 500 times per second, the system’s microprocessor monitors the precise position of each wheel, assessing its degree of grip and so on, and alters the damping characteristics of each individual wheel accordingly.
The main body of information supplied to the dampers comes from the height sensors and body-mounted accelerometers that measure the position and movements of each wheel and the car’s body. The car’s on-board computer system, Volvo’s own Multiplex processor system, also supplies vital information to the dampers, helping the system to foresee events before they actually occur. For example, if the driver brakes firmly, this information reaches the dampers a few milliseconds before the brake pads actually grab the discs. In this tiny time gap, the FOUR-C microprocessor will have calculated just how much the car will want to pitch once the brake pads are actually activated, and using this information, will instantly reset and prepare the dampers to maximize control and roadholding before the body can alter its pitch.
If braking is so harsh that the ABS comes into operation, the dampers are set to maximize tyre grip on the road surface. A corresponding effect resulting from harsh acceleration and quick steering wheel movements is also taken care of invisibly by the FOUR-C system.
FOUR-C offers three chassis modes that can be selected by the driver via a button set into the instrument panel – Comfort, Sport, and Advanced sport. However, these chassis modes are not fixed settings. They are more a way for the driver to indicate to the system which driving style he or she prefers for the moment. Is it time to pack the car with family and luggage for the school holiday… or for some spirited driving alone on twisty roads?
The default mode, Sport, is optimized for normal driving, with a well balanced mix of comfort and driving pleasure. On top of this, the driver can select the two other modes. The Comfort mode optimizes the FOUR-C body’s isolation from irregularities in the road; it is as though the car has simulated or virtual dampers suspended in the sky (“Sky Hook” is, in fact, the term that is used in the industry).
The Advanced Sport mode totally alters the character of the car. The system gives top priority to maximum driving pleasure and roadholding, permitting a firmer ride so that the driver has more direct contact with the road surface.
The Volvo Performance Concept Car is also equipped with DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control). It serves as a “helping hand”, stepping in to help the driver avoid a skid. In the Volvo Performance Concept Car, the choice of chassis mode influences just how early or late in a skid the DSTC system steps in to recover the car’s poise.
The Stability Traction System, STC, is disengaged in the Advanced Sport chassis mode. FOUR-C significantly enhances the sum total of active driving pleasure, stability and comfort. The three manually-controlled modes make it possible to discover and appreciate the thrilling properties of a high-performance car. The system offers enthusiastic sporty driving on demand – in a car that is equally at home driving to the office on Monday or heading into the countryside on a cool Sunday morning.
The Volvo Performance Concept Car is also fitted with electronically-managed four-wheel drive (AWD). It has been developed together with one of the foremost experts in this field, Haldex of Sweden. The AWD system is linked to the car’s Multiplex system allowing it to communicate continuously with the car’s other functions to optimize 4-wheel drive operation to suit prevailing surface conditions.
The unique interaction between AWD, DSTC and FOUR-C gives the car exactly the intended ride and roadholding characteristics – anywhere between comfort and advanced sportiness. The electronically-controlled AWD system is characterized by extremely rapid engagement and disengagement. Since the AWD system responds so swiftly, it is possible to balance and control oversteering and understeering tendencies with immense precision and stability.
“In this application, we’re not using AWD for enhanced off-road ability, but optimizing it for superior roadholding and dependable stability,” says Hans Nilsson, overall project manager of the Volvo Performance Concept Car. “The work we have done with this concept model helps us to choose the right path for a feasible high-performance model in the future.”