Geely, We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat: 2016 Volvo XC90 at Auto Shanghai 2015

About a week before the media previews at Auto Shanghai 2015, a Volvo representative delivered some astonishing news to our friends at Auto Express:

Volvo UK managing director Nick Connor told Auto Express that the company has been caught by surprise at the level of interest in the 390bhp T8 hybrid version of the new XC90. “We were planning on a three-five per cent take rate of this model,” he said. “But our current rate on sold orders is over 20 per cent. We underestimated it.”

 

Before it hits the showrooms in May, the 2016 uber hybrid Volvo XC90 is selling at a 5 lookers to 1 buyer ratio.  According to the pundits, you don’t get–or aren’t supposed to get numbers like this with a hybrid vehicle.  Or a Volvo.  Or both.

Good for Volvo, and good for parent Geely Holding Group. They will really need bigger boats to deliver new vehicles to owners across the globe.

Then, literally the same day, Volvo dropped this on us:


 


This is the top-of-the-line Excellence model.  Imagine a 7-seat SUV with the interior built for 4.  While that sinks in, they also added a new Lounge Console option–which replaces the front passenger seat with a multi-use console.

Here’s an animation of the Lounge Console:


 


 

Remember we informally themed Auto Shanghai 2015 “Opulence”.  These two developments from Volvo speak to it, like leaning left into a right hook.

The Excellence/Lounge Console is clearly built with a driver or chauffeur in mind.  The backseat space out-Maybachs Maybach.  There’s a huge amount of space in a 7-seater anyway.  To devote it largely to the needs of the rear seat passengers is almost Roman.  More from Volvo:

This space is utilised to offer a First Class automotive experience that begins with broad, spacious individual reclining rear seats complete with massage, ventilation and increased leg room, as well as a retractable control touchscreen, folding tables, a refrigerator with bottle and glass holders, a heating/cooling cup holder and handmade crystal glasses from leading Swedish glass design company, Orrefors.

 

“This is our new flagship car,” said Thomas Ingenlath, Senior Vice President, Design. “We have created the ultimate luxury experience of Scandinavian design. Volvo has never launched a car like this before. This is the car that demonstrates what the name Volvo now means.”

 

The XC90 Excellence offers its passengers footrests, ambient lighting, illuminated storage and unique leather detailing in blond or charcoal, a luggage compartment dividing screen, additional sound insulation in the cabin and Pirelli Noise Cancelling System tyres (PNCS).

 

Excellence owners will have a wonderful driving experience for those times when the chauffeur is not on duty.  In the Lounge Console edition, replacing the front seat with usable space for work or entertainment is actually very Scandinavian in it’s ingenuity.  The question is how to best use the space when you remove the front passenger seat?

“We started this work by looking at the executive lifestyle. With our progressive approach to premium design and functionality we analyzed the needs and perspective of the chauffeur driven executive, designing the car around him or her in the spirit of our brand’s aim,” said Thomas Ingenlath, Senior Vice President Design at Volvo Car Group. “A key element in our thinking was how to make the available interior space work for the occupants in an optimal and luxurious fashion. Removing the passenger seat enabled us to create an open space that dramatically changes the dynamics of the interior and led to a firework of ideas and new possibilities.”

 

Having performed ethnographic research to establish the unexpressed and unmet needs of people with a high-profile lifestyle, the designers at Volvo Cars looked at how such needs might be met in one combined offer.

 

“The intention with this concept is to showcase two things – firstly that Volvo Cars is aware of the needs of our executive customers and secondly, that with design innovation and modern materials we can effectively create  passenger experience that is unique in the premium car segment.” added Thomas Ingenlath.

 

The Lounge Console edition is Gilded Age in its opulence, wrapped in a thin layer of practicality.  It gives us in the US a glimpse into the dynamics of the Chinese market.  It’s also something we’ll probably see shuttling a Silicon Valley entrepreneur or Kardashian around in the near future.

…and I want one too.

 

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Sebastian James

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