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It’s a crisp, clear morning, and with the Swedish summer quickly coming to an end, there won’t be many more days left like this, so it’s a perfect time to wander through Stockholm’s lake country. It doesn’t take long to realize why Swedish immigrants were drawn to the similar terrain of Minnesota. Familiarity, after all, breeds comfort.
Over the years, few products have seemed more familiar than those from Volvo. Even those with weak eyesight could spot the brand’s boxy silhouette from 1000 yards. Those drawn to Volvo products wanted simple, safe, reliable transportation. Styling was superfluous. It was a formula that ensured a steady, though modest stream of customers. But even before the Swedish marque was sold to Ford Motor Co., with its massive engineering and marketing resources, Volvo was looking to expand demand and grow beyond its semi-cult status. The first hint this change could be achieved came with the introduction of the top-line S80 sedan, quickly followed by the C70 coupe and convertible.
Mere aberrations? Not at all. Though the recently added V70 wagon maintains the traditional box shape, the latest addition to the lineup is clear proof Volvo is designing to a different drummer these days. The S60 sedan shares the sleeker styling "vocabulary" introduced with the S80. Indeed, at first glance, you might mistake the two vehicles, which share platforms and numerous components. But there are some notable differences that permit Volvo officials to use words like "performance," and "fun-to-drive" to describe the S60—and not have to cross their fingers behind their backs.
"The challenge was to compress the interior into the (C70) coupe’s slender lines," explains chief designer Geza Loczi. The S60 is broad shouldered, with a flowing roofline that is indeed quite coupe-like, yet even a strapping Swedish six-footer can fit comfortably, front or back. The sedan has a little less of the Coke bottle shape of the S80, and there are subtle changes in signature details, such as the taillights. Proportionally, the new sedan boasts a longer wheelbase, with shorter overhangs. That serves several purposes, providing more useful interior space, and enhancing dynamic stability.