Volvo unveiled its compact XC60 SUV in thinly disguised concept form at Detroit, with executives of Ford’s Swedish luxury brand saying the car signalled the start of a more “pumped-up” look for the company’s cars.


Volvo Cars design director Steve Mattin said the car contained “the DNA of future Volvos”.


He added: “We’re about to elevate Volvo’s DNA to new levels by pumping up the volume.” This involves a bolder interpretation of the grille, with a large logo across the diagonal band, plus a more distinctive rear end with [the brand] spelled out in large letters and an innovative split tailgate that refines the one fitted to the C30 hatchback.


“If you can recognise a Volvo from 50 metres today, I want to get to the point where people will be able to spot one from twice the distance in the future,” Mattin added.


Volvo Car president Fredrik ARP added that the XC60 would likely be “the C30 owner’s next car”. Production versions will externally be very similar to the concept, though it remains to be seen whether the radical interior – most of the dashboard is a white ‘wall of ice’ screen which conceals warning lights and driver information until the ignition is switched on. Mattin said it was designed to be like “a giant iPod”.


Arp stressed that traditional Volvo safety aspects would not be overlooked on the car – a low-speed adaptive braking system called City Safety is fitted, which prevents the XC60 from running into the car in front at low speeds. Volvo’s three-litre six-cylinder flex-fuel engine, which allows ethanol to be used instead of petrol, will also be fitted, cutting emissions by up to 80%, Arp added.


The XC60 enters one of the fastest-growing sectors of the market, the compact premium SUV sector. In the next two years, this segment’s global sales volume is expected to grow by 75% to 443,000 cars, Arp said.