We didn't always get excited when Volvo announced a new concept car, but things have changed in recent times. Its concepts have been stylish and forward-looking without nearing the realm of fantastical and over-styled. And some have led to compelling products like the sleek, new V90 wagon (originally previewed by the Concept Estate). Volvo's all-new 40.1 crossover and 40.2 small sedan concepts prove that things will be as stylish on the small end of Volvo's lineup as they are at the top.
Unveiled for the first time on Wednesday, the new crossover and sedan concepts are the first vehicles based on Volvo's Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), which follows the Scalable Product Architecture that sits under new models like the V90 and S90 sedan.
The new cars will be part of Volvo's greater expansion plan and strategy to compete with larger premium segment competitors on a global scale. The Swedish automaker reached a half-million sales for the first time last year and saw sales increase by just under 12 percent in the first quarter of 2016. It plans to grow production to 800,000 cars annually in the coming years.
Both the 40.1 and 40.2 look polished and near production-ready, wearing some design cues similar to those that define Volvo's latest 90-series offerings – Hammer of Thor headlamps and bold, chiseled character lines stand out.
The 40.2 sedan features a muscular, high-riding stance and sporty look with a wraparound greenhouse that plays quite nicely with the sharp-dropping rear cabin. It also features some sculpted indents at the front and sides. Outside of the toothy grille, which doesn't look quite as clean as the vertical slats of the 90 series, we'd say it's a compelling design that stands up quite well to competition in and outside Germany.
The 40.1 loses a bit of the sporty aggression of the 40.2, which is only natural for a crossover. It is sharper and more athletic than the XC90 thanks to muscular haunches, sculpted sides and a hood design that sweeps backward and slightly outward from the headlights. The spoiler at the back of the black-out roof completes a design that beckons, "Have some fun with that asphalt, gravel or dirt (but mostly asphalt)."
"Each member of our product family has its own distinct character, just like the members of a real family," Thomas Ingenlath, senior VP of design, frames it. "CMA has helped us to capture something special, something youthful in our new concept cars. They have an energy, a disruptive and engaging urban character that makes them stand out amongst the crowd. This is the flavor of small Volvos to come."
As part of Volvo's 1 million plug-in vehicle goal, the new 40 series will include both a battery-powered electric vehicle and T5 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid. Sized down from the AWD T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid option on the 90 series, the front-wheel-drive T5 will rely on a Drive-E three-cylinder petrol engine combined with an electric motor and new 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Volvo also promises to equip 40-series models with a "full range of innovative connectivity services, the world's most advanced standard package of safety features and groundbreaking Scandinavian interior design."
The debut of the new 40 series will follow the new 60 series, with the first 40-series car set to enter production in 2017.