On the surface of it, it may seem odd that Volvo chose to unveil its latest vehicle, the forthcoming 2019 Volvo XC40, in Milan during Fashion Week. This is a Swedish car brand, after all, and while Volvo has design bureaus in a few countries, Italy is not currently on that list. Also, the Frankfurt Motor Show, one of the biggest car fairs in the world and arguably a better fit for the launch, took place just a week prior.
But here’s the thing: The XC40 is perhaps as much a fashion statement as it is a crossover.
In developing their latest offering, the team from Volvo conducted research with potential customers in Beijing, Hamburg, London, and Los Angeles. For some 180 hours, they staged interviews aimed at figuring out what these people—read: millennials—wanted in an urban utility vehicle. The end result is a premium compact crossover that showcases progressive and pragmatic design.
The XC40 is perhaps as much a fashion statement as it is a crossover.
From a mechanical perspective, the XC40 rides on an all-new platform that will form the basis for an entire range of compact vehicles set to be introduced over the next few years. While there are a number of engines set to power the XC40 in various markets around the world, the version headed to Canada in early 2018 will feature a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder gas engine. This engine is linked to an 8-speed automatic transmission that diverts power to all four wheels.
In terms of exterior design, the team from Volvo is quick to announce that the XC40 is not a scaled-down version of the award-winning XC90 (the vehicle that triggered a comeback for the brand) or the XC60 (their mid-size SUV, released earlier this year). For sure, the XC40 is more dramatic, less austere and, dare we say it, more youthful. But there is a design lineage here, which is clear from the long hood, the headlights and the taillights alone.
Inside, the XC40 is a masterstroke of packaging, with surprising roominess, and a wealth of spacious storage solutions in the door panels, the centre console and the trunk. This latest Volvo possesses the same calm simplicity of interior design as the XC90 and others, but increased effort has gone into maximizing the utility of this more compact footprint.
To introduce the XC40 to the fashion-forward crowd, Volvo devised an exhibition entitled 80 Hours Milan. This display was situated in what is now a Volvo brand store on Via Amerigo Vespucci 12 in the Varisene district. Over the course of 80 hours, visitors were invited to take a closer look at the new vehicle and at the work of 40 other brands that champion the Scandinavian approach to design. Perched on acrylic pedestals and scattered about the showroom were everything from clogs to skateboards, jeans to jewellery, and scarves to a set of steak knives.
The idea of Scandinavian design has been prevalent around the world for some time now—hello, Ikea—and the Volvo brain trust is hopeful that the forthcoming XC40 will keep that tradition going strong.
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