Amongst other new cars at the Shanghai Motor Show 2011, this Volvo concept called Concept Universe is by far the most interesting. A car made exclusively for the Chinese market by a European automaker.
"The Concept Universe gives a sneak peak of what our customers can expect from our new luxury sedan,…, We will listen carefully to our Chinese customer's response and what they think about the design of the new concept,…, Later on, we will also present the Concept Universe on other markets in order to incorporate it in our global market strategy, as we do with all our cars" says CEO Stefan Jacoby
When it comes to concept cars of this sort it is inevitably the design that steals the show, both interior and exterior. And it is, to say the least, interesting. The lines of the car follow the basic principles of design to make the car look elegant and big. Sweeping lines across the side and around the car makes the car look long and sleek. The front and grille is straight and flat, giving an imposing face, with sense of purpose and confidence. Rolls-Royce's key design element. The front is perhaps the most controversial design feature on this concept. It is somehow very simple, without any crossing lines or odd edges. But at the same time very messy with the repeated grille and headlight shape lines that creates a sort of hypnotizing feeling when the car is seen from the front.
The bonnet also stands out with its oval shape, this is however very intentional, as it relates to the older Volvo models the Volvo Amazon and the Duett. Unfortunately it also resembles the latest SAAB 9-3 models, the question is who got the idea first then.. Hint: the Duett was launched in 1953…
The back end's coupé profile follows the latest trends developed by Volvo's German and British rivals, the Mercedes CLS, Audi A7, Aston Martin Rapide and more. It is not a bad thing, on the contrary, it is a necessity to compete with their rivals as this new trend has been greatly appreciated world wide. Nobody wants to buy a luxury sedan that looks likes a luxury sedan anymore, because old fashion luxury sedans are boring and to be frank, ugly.
The rear lighting is probably the most beautiful feature on this concept, sweeping across the back end, with a great 3D effect in the LED lights that creates a depth and also a dynamic feeling as the rear lights look different from different angles.
The interior design is very Volvo and has a calm feeling together with a sense of modern Scandinavian design. There is of course a touch-screen in every corner and wood decorations together with metal and transparent details. Much resembling the previous XC60 and S60 concepts.
The layout is very driver oriented, with easy access to controls and instruments. The infotainment touch-screen even approaches the driver as he or she reaches for it. In this particular concept a special homage has been incorporated for the Chinese market in the form of porcelain decorations on the steering wheel and gear knob. A nice feature, for the Chinese….
In total I think that the idea of presenting a concept at the Shanghai Auto Show was a move in the right direction. Volvo needs to establish themselves on this market and also bring competitive vehicles that can outclass their European rivals. The big question is what the Chinese will think about this design. I think that the Concept Universe is unbalanced, the rear and the front seems to be two different vehicles. And unfortunately there are too many design elements that resembles other brands. The only thing that stands out as being Volvo unique is the front, and unfortunately it is also the ugliest feature on the car.
And others might say that it is impossible to draw a line on a new car that hasn't been drawn before. But let me refer to the new Citroën Metropolis as a benchmark in this matter. I have never seen any car with those lines, except for previous Citroën models. And that car is also a rival to the German brands. And it is also much more beautiful and interesting than the Volvo Concept Universe.