2016 Volvo S60 T5 Inscription
Text and photos by Cor Steenstra
I have to admit that it has been quite a few years since I last drove a Volvo. For full disclosure, I was employed by Volvo’s Dutch subsidiary Volvo Car B.V. in the Netherlands at the beginning of my design career, and after leaving them for Mercedes-Benz in Germany, I have not driven a Volvo. That was medio 1988, so indeed quite some time.
Of course I did keep my eye on developments within Volvo and have always kept a warm heart for the people back in Sweden whom I enjoyed working with. When the Dutch studio closed some of my former colleagues ended up in Sweden as well, and some retired recently from there, so it has been a long while.
I was very pleasantly surprised when I got into this Volvo S60 T5 Inscription. I really did feel like I had gotten into a car luxury car, a more sophisticated brand then the one I had left. At the time they did want to go up-market, and they clearly have done so. With the level of fit and finish displayed these days by Hyundai and Kia products, it is clearly not easy to achieve an up-market feel, but that is definitely what Volvo has achieved here.
Not only is the fit and finish of a really high level, the perceived quality through the use of color and materials raises the level to clearly above those 2 Korean brands, and that is worth mentioning since it is not an easy achievement.
At the time we had to design the Volvo’s to be used with thick winter gloves on during the Swedish winter, and there still is evidence of that condition. There is a simplistic look around the switches and buttons to enable being used in severe winter conditions, which determine the overall look of the interior. It is not wrong, it is just very different from other brands in that segment, something that makes it stand out and which is very unique.
On the exterior I can still see the influence we tried to have on the overall design language, trying to move it away from the very boxy shape of the seventies, and with a low front end and a dynamic stance, which was so not done in those days at Volvo. Well, now it is. I am glad the diagonal remained prominent on the grille though, since I have seen that moved to a weird place on some Volvo trucks.
I do think though that I would have moved the low end of the shoulder line a bit up, since it, to me, seems to be a bit too low, a bit like it gave up trying, which it clearly has not. I think that would enhance the dynamic look.