The monumental station wagon that wanted to be friends with everyone
It seems like 2003 was only yesterday, but today people born to the rhythms of “Bring me to life” and “In da club” already have passports and in some countries even a driver’s license. Since then, Volvo’s life has also changed abruptly – it moved under the wing of Chinese auto giant Geely, overhauled its model range, befriended Lotus (the British brand was also acquired by Geely), let its sports division Polestar go free and is preparing to completely abandon internal combustion engines.
In the early 2000s, in turn, the heads of Volvo (and, accordingly, the parent concern Ford) thought about how to return the Swedish company in its proper place – the top of the premium segment, occupied by the “Big Three” of Germany. In fact right up to the beginning of the 1990s cars from Gothenburg were compared with BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, and then … then they started including Volkswagen, the same Ford and Japanese brands into the rivals.
The Swedes had to feel the ground before making resolute actions – the concern Ford counts every penny, and Volvo had no right to make a mistake. In other words, to roll out a string of different concept cars to understand what way of development the public likes the most. And one of those concepts was a station wagon VCC, presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 2003.
Even if you remove all logos from the VCC, it would still be unmistakably Volvo: a distinctive sill line in the style of the V70 and S80, a radiator grille inspired by the classic Volvo 164, a glass trunk door inspired by the P1800 ES, a V-shaped hood tapering towards the front bumper edge and, of course, a lot of straight lines, beloved by many in the 240 family – the wagon is literally imbued with the company spirit.
Curiously, the typical Nordic design was not born by the Swedes only – VCC design was created in a joint effort of studios in Gothenburg and Barcelona, and the lion’s share of work was carried out in Spain. The design of the VCC is attributed to Jose Diaz de la Vega, the creative director of strategic design for Volvo’s passenger car wing at the time.
The VCC’s monumental design lives side-by-side with high technology – for example, the headlights, which consist of three separate units on each side, are part of the Static Bending Light system. The two internal headlight assemblies have multiple light sources whose beams shine at different angles and heights. Based on the data fed into the computer (speed, steering angle) the system selects the optimum light for any situation, making the driving process as safe as possible.
Yes, Volvo wouldn’t be Volvo if even its concepts weren’t designed to be extremely safe. Even though the VCC has no center pillars, the high-strength steel body is designed in such a way that even in the event of a side collision with a pole, the passengers inside will be safely protected. The same concerns a rollover on the roof – a stylish and powerful X-shaped reinforcement should keep the passengers safe in case of a hard landing not on wheels. Though, we should suppose, if VCC was reborn in a serial automobile, both decisions would be rejected for the sake of even greater safety and economic feasibility.
Solar panels were installed on top of the X-shaped amp to power a small battery Volvo Ambient Air Cleaner (VAAC) system. It not only cleaned and ionized the air entering the cabin, but additionally filtered the air masses that entered the engine combustion chambers. Other systems were not powered by photovoltaic cells on the roof – the VCC concept was not a hybrid or anything like that.
The engine in the concept was conservative – a 2.5-liter turbodiesel with 250 horsepower. It was paired with a robotized gearbox, which modes could be controlled directly on a steering wheel (the central spoke had buttons P, R, N and D). Dynamic performance of a station wagon, even calculated, was not given. It is understandable – the attention of its creators was concentrated on something else.
Although the abbreviation VCC means “Versatility Concept Car”, hardly the sport should be one of sides of almost five-meter station wagon. But concern for the environment was. For example, the exterior door handles were made of recycled aluminum. It is also used in the design of the interior panels.
In general, it is the interior of the VCC that deserves the most attention. As de la Vega says, the designers’ goal was to “create an atmosphere of total tranquility” and “a sensual experience” – whatever that means. To achieve this effect, all the climate deflectors were hidden in the bulk of the torpedo, and the center console was made “hovering” – this solution was subsequently used on many production models Volvo.
Because one of the VCC’s facets was also luxury, all four seats were upholstered in high-quality Havana leather, with Tempur padding underneath – you might find it in orthopedic mattresses. All seats could be adjusted over a wide range, and the rear seats could be slid deep into the trunk for more legroom. A Volvo Interactive tablet, which was attached to the backrests of the front seats, was also available to the rear passengers.
Like today’s cars, the VCC had a digital dashboard with several display modes. There was also something rarely seen in cars – environmentally friendly high-pile mats, the creation of which did not suffer a single sheep. In general, the concept VCC could pass for a forerunner of a new V90 in those years.
Nevertheless, the ideas and concepts, embodied in the VCC, returned to the range of production Volvo only at the beginning of this decade, when the company came under the control of Geely. Prior to that, Volvo’s designers tried to flirt with a younger audience with softer forms. Only one element of the VCC caught on back in the early 2000s – the “soaring” center section of the torpedo. Perhaps if more VCC ideas had been implemented in those years, Volvo would have been talked about as a real premium again sooner.