This racetrack theme actually originated with the interior design, which was led by chief interior designer Jonathan Disley. "We had already developed the ‘Spa' theme for the S80/V70 - a feeling of luxury, of wellbeing after a long trip. The question was how to turn that into something very racy and dynamic for S60," reveals Disley. The turning point came when then-interior-chief José de la Vega pointed out the similarity between the dominant interior lines from the S60 theme sketches and Belgium's Spa circuit.
Work began on the interior shortly after the exterior, in the Fall of 2005, with eight proposals being narrowed down to five, then three - one of which was closely based on that of the XC60 crossover, which shares a number of components as well as its design team with the S60 sedan. "We considered doing a scaled-down XC60 interior for this car," admits Disley. "I remember thinking, 'we could push this a lot more; we could actually do something completely radical here'. So we built another model and showed them side by side - that's when we got the buy-in for this design."
As in the concept, the dramatic up-sweep of the center console and tunnel is one of interior's most distinctive features, and was developed by Oskar Guth (who was also responsible for the HMI). The top of the console is lower than in the XC60 to give it a more dynamic appearance and counter reflection issues, and connects to a slim, tapering IP surface that is also kept deliberately low.
Led initially by designer Justin Scully, but later taken to production by Disley and Diego Imaz, the design of the IP is the focal point of the 'Spa' racetrack theme. "The line starts at the centerline of the IP, comes to the edge, wraps over to the other side and then pulls the line all the way to the driver area, around the RTI [navigation screen] and the air vent," explains Disley. "So you get this very dramatic line capturing the driver area and angling it towards the driver - a feeling that everything is pulled towards you. Some of the lines are actually taken from the racetrack too, which I think is pretty cool."
The asymmetrical, racetrack-inspired air vents - whose 'thick-to-thin' frame treatment mirrors certain areas of the exterior surfacing - apparently took a lot of work: "Had we not solved the packaging issues, we would have had to put them [the vents] on top of the console, which would have raised the IP height and created a classic 'wall'-type dashboard effect."
The Spa theme also appears on the door graphics and the standard-fit three-spoke sports steering wheel. "We took the chrome racetrack around the back of the airbag and made the bag itself float off the surface as we did with the center stack on the IP," reveals Disley.
Fittingly for a Volvo, another high point of the S60 interior is its seats, whose design was overseen by Marcus Nilsson. "It's about comfort, all the time; but to make it much sportier we pushed the H point down and pulled the bolsters forward to create more shoulder support," explains Disley. "If you look at the rear seat you can see it's dished. What we did was pull the sides of the center bolster up too - so you get a proper symmetrical support for people at the sides and a middle seat that people won't slide around on. Rear passengers are made to be part of this sporty, dynamic feeling."
Color and materials play an equal role in establishing the S60 as one of the most accomplished executive car interiors on the market. "Attitude, contrast and playfulness were the themes we focused on," reveals Color and Materials Chief Designer Anders Sachs, who cites a MOMO helmet and Volvo's P1800SE and 164 models as sources of inspiration for the new model's distinctive Beechwood brown and Urbane wood trim option. The idea for the 'Shimmer' aluminum console inlay, meanwhile, came from a saucepan picked up by Sachs in Chicago.
Disley has the last word: "In the S60 you have a feeling that you're in a home-away-from-home - there's something about it that makes you breathe easy."
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Interview: Steve Mattin, Design Director, Volvo Cars (2006)
Design Development: Volvo S60 concept