Over the past decade, the cars coming from the once-staid Volvo brand have been curvier, sexier, and ever more luxurious than those boxy, utilitarian workhorses of the ’70s and ’80s. More importantly, the performance and interior appointments of Volvos have improved to the point where they can take on the best luxury cars.
Yet luxury still means something different to Volvo, and to understand what it is and why, it’s necessary to take a look at Swedish culture and heritage. The idea of Swedish luxury is quite the opposite of traditional luxury, according to Volvo, as it doesn’t aim to be exclusive. It’s less apparent than the gadgetry and driver-focused devices in top German cars, or the wool, leather, wood, and other fine materials in high-end British brands.
According to Steve Harper, Volvo’s British-born platform chief designer for the S80, the idea of Swedish luxury involves aesthetic contrasts and accessible technology. A Swedish luxury is always functional but never pretentious or exclusive. Technology for technology’s sake is to be avoided.