Volvo Car Corporation strikes with a blue bolt at the Paris Motor Show 2000. With one of the world's most advanced dynamically controlled chassis, electronically managed four-wheel drive and 300 bhp of power on tap, the Volvo Performance Concept Car is a study of a future high-performance car.

The new Volvo S60 is the sportiest and most dynamic Volvo sedan ever. In parallel with the development of the more regular roadgoing S60 models, a team of engineers and designers have worked on a concept study to identify and test technical solutions and a design structure that will support a feasible high-performance model.

"From the design viewpoint, we wanted to provide a hint of what a future high-performance car with a Volvo badge could look like," says Peter Horbury, vice president and chief designer at Volvo Cars. "The Volvo Performance Concept Car has a subtle racing-car appearance that conveys refined sporty appeal."

Laser Blue and Silver

The car is painted in Laser Blue, an exclusive livery featuring a so-called "flop effect", whereby the color nuance shimmers and changes with lighting conditions.

In a head-on view, the Volvo Performance Concept Car displays a new front spoiler with two additional air intakes whose pronounced grilles direct airflow towards the radiator and front brakes respectively. The grilles have a satin-silver finish.

The rear bumper has a satin-silver center panel that separates the dual inset rectangular exhaust tailpipes, further emphasizing the sporty appearance.

On each side, the front spoiler features a stability-enhancing aerofoil on the lower lip, running from the front towards the leading edge of the front wheel housing. The stabilizer then follows the line of the bottom rail between the front and rear wheel housings, continuing in an elongated teardrop-shaped lip aerofoil that integrates into the rear spoiler. These airflow stabilizers are also finished in satin-silver, contrasting elegantly with the Laser Blue livery.

Under the car there is a smooth undertray front to channel air optimally and thus minimize lift force at speed.

The wheels come straight from the racing-track. They are the 19" BBS magnesium wheels used on the British Touring Car Championship's Volvo S40, and they are shod with 245/35-19 tires.

The interior also exudes an aura of sportiness and refinement. The deeply contoured seats are upholstered in soft leather with a metallic effect as well as inlay panels in nubuck suede, the pedals are made of ribbed aluminum and the instrument panel's gauges are an exclusive shade of blue. The instruments are set in a panel surrounded by nubuck suede trim.

Under the bonnet is a potent version of the Volvo 5-cylinder 2435 cc engine, producing 300 bhp and no less than 400 Nm of torque and mated to a 6-speed compact four-shaft manual gearbox developed in-house.

FOUR-C - a unique chassis

The most interesting feature on the Volvo Performance Concept Car cannot really be seen from the outside or even by lifting the bonnet: it is the unique continuously controlled chassis that creates hitherto unsurpassed potential for optimizing the dampers to suit the driver's bias towards comfortable progress or enthusiastic driving.

FOUR-C (Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept), as Volvo Cars has dubbed the system, is the outcome of close long-term cooperation with Ohlins Racing AB, one of the world's foremost manufacturers and developers of advanced high-technology damper systems.

What is unique about FOUR-C is its ability to collect huge amounts of information about the way in which the car moves and to respond instantly by the adjusting the damper characteristics to suit.

Every alternate millisecond, that is to say 500 times per second, the system's microprocessor monitors the precise position of each wheel, assessing its degree of grip and so on, and alters the damping characteristics of each individual wheel accordingly.

A large amount of information

The main body of information supplied to the dampers comes from the height sensors and body-mounted accelerometers that measure the position and movements of each wheel and the car's body.

The car's on-board computer system, Volvo's Multiplex processor system, also supplies vital information to the dampers, helping the system to foresee events before they actually occur. For example, if the driver brakes firmly, this information reaches the dampers a few milliseconds before the brake pads actually grab the discs. In this tiny time gap, the FOUR-C microprocessor will have calculated just how much the car will want to pitch once the brake pads are actually activated, and using this information, will instantly reset and prepare the dampers to maximize control and roadholding before the body actually has time to alter its pitch.

If braking is so harsh that the ABS system is activated, the dampers are set to maximize tire grip on the road surface.

A corresponding effect resulting from harsh acceleration and quick steering wheel movements is also taken care of invisibly by the FOUR-C system.


Three chassis modes
FOUR-C offers three chassis modes that can be selected by the driver via a
button set into the instrument panel:
1. Comfort
2. Sport
3. Advanced sport


However, these chassis modes are not fixed settings. They are more a way for the driver to indicate to the system which driving style he or she prefers for the moment. Is it time to pack the car with family and luggage for the annual summer holiday -- or for some active driving on curvy roads?

The normal mode, Sport, is optimized for normal driving, with a well balanced mix of comfort and driving pleasure. On top of this, the driver can select the two other modes.

"The Comfort mode optimizes the FOUR-C body's isolation from irregularities in the road," explains Marcus Rothoff, development engineer at Volvo Cars and the person responsible for the development of FOUR-C. He says that it is as though the car has simulated or virtual dampers suspended in the sky. "Sky Hook" is in fact the term that is used in the industry.

The Advanced Sport mode totally alters the character of the car:

"The system gives top priority to maximum driving pleasure and roadholding, permitting a firmer ride so that the driver has more direct contact with the road surface," continues Marcus Rothoff.

The Volvo Performance Concept Car is equipped with DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control). It serves as a "helping hand", stepping in to help the driver avoid a skid.

In the Volvo Performance Concept Car, the choice of chassis mode influences just how early or late in a skid the DSTC system steps in to recover the car's poise.

The Stability Traction System, STC, is disengaged in the Advanced Sport chassis mode.

FOUR-C significantly enhances the sum total of active driving pleasure, stability and comfort. The three manually controlled modes make it possible to discover and appreciate the thrilling properties of a high-performance car. The system offers enthusiastic sporty driving on demand -- in a car that is equally at home driving to the supermarket to do the weekly shopping.

Electronically managed four-wheel drive The Volvo Performance Concept Car is also fitted with electronically managed four-wheel drive, AWD. It has been developed together with one of the foremost experts in this field, Haldex of Sweden.

The AWD system is linked to the car's Multiplex system. This means that it communicates continuously with the car's other functions to optimize four-wheel drive operation to suit current conditions. The unique interaction between AWD, DSTC and FOUR-C gives the car exactly the intended ride and roadholding characteristics -- anywhere between comfort and advanced sportiness.

The electronically controlled AWD system is characterized by extremely rapid engagement and disengagement. Since the AWD system responds so swiftly, it is possible to balance and control oversteering and understeering tendencies with immense precision and stability.

"In this application, we're not using four-wheel drive for enhanced off-road ability, but optimizing it for superb roadholding and dependable stability," says Hans Nilsson, overall project manager of the Volvo Performance Concept Car.

"The work we have done with the Performance Concept Car helps us to choose the right path for a feasible high-performance model in the future," concludes Hans Nilsson.