It's ironic that with all the concern for the environment and the research into alternative power sources the trend for luxury cars is still larger, heavier and less economic. The market for luxurious semi all-terrain vehicles is highly lucrative and practically all manufacturers are trying to get a piece of that action. Swedish car manufacturer Volvo introduced its first real Sports Utility Vehicle, meaning cars which look like they can go anywhere but rarely leave the urban asphalt, in 2003 and this XC90 was a success. A next step along this path was unveiled at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit: the XC60 concept.
This concept represents a smaller companion to the expensive XC90 but also a more frivolous lined alternative. Usually Volvo design is characterized as boxy and serious; the XC60 is designed with a more curvy flair in mind. It fits right in there with similar offerings by Audi, Mercedes and BMW. For Volvo it's mainly an exercise in exterior and interior design, presenting new shapes and solutions to test the water. No particular technical base has been incorporated into this concept.
Volvo's design team have committed themselves to introducing a new design style which should make their products stand out from the rest and be clearly recognizable. The XC60 provides a glimpse into those future Volvo characteristics.
The body shows a wedge shape with a deep hip-crease not unlike that of the 2007 Volvo C30 production model. In front a bold Volvo "iron mark" complete with diagonal beam graces the grill; it's set off by slanted headlights and indicators at the sides and a massive metal skid-plate underneath which give the front the face of a bully. At the sides the high waistline and comparatively small glass section attracts attention, as do the big 20" wheels and the ever popular flared wheel arches.
Perhaps the most special part of the exterior design is the curvaceous rear section. A distinct S-shape is formed from bumper to roof, accentuated by the layered rear light clusters. The tailgate has a large glass section of which the lower part is darkened: appearing black from the outside and completely see-through from the inside. Another nifty feature is that the tailgate can be opened in various ways: the bottom part can move over the glass section to slide things in (or let them stick out), the glass section can be opened separately and of course the complete tailgate can be opened upward.
The predominantly white interior of the XC60 shows slender seats with slots running down the backs for better rear vision and added ventilation comfort. Most striking however is the center console which appears completely (iPod-inspired) white until it's switched on and turns into a dark screen with blueish displays.
For an SUV the XC60 is an appealing looking car though not that much different from the competition as might be expected from an introduction of a new style. It actually seems (apart from the more futuristic interior) like it could be ready for production shortly, but apparently this is not the case.
Not at the AutoRAI but displayed at the Techno Classica in Essen, Germany in the same period was this Mercedes Ocean Drive concept. It would have been more at home at the AutoRAI since the Techno Classica, as the name already implies, is a show for classic cars, so why not include it in this overview.
Like mentioned before at the Renault Nepta concept it seems that 4-door convertibles are becoming fashionable again, or at least a few manufacturers are exploring the idea. One of the more serious attempts in this direction is the Ocean Drive concept, presented at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Mercedes has a very long tradition in building 4-door convertibles, equally at home as a parade car or as a luxury tourer for the whole family. Their last official model with this body style was the 300 Cabriolet D of which the last one left the factory in 1962. After that it was left to coachbuilders to create the odd 4-door convertible.
It has taken 45 years before Mercedes dared to return to the 4-door convertible. Actively exploring niches and new styles with more (the CLS 4-door coupe) or less (the R-class luxury MPV-SUV) success meant that also a seemingly obsolete style as the 4-door convertible was no longer a taboo. The Ocean Drive is a new, updated interpretation of this classic style based on the S 600 platform, with a 5.5 litre twin-turbo V12 engine producing 517 hp @ 5000 rpm. Plenty of power for a stormy experience.
Where modern convertibles generally tend to be sporty life-style vehicles the Ocean Drive is different: a large stately car, elegant and sleek without exuberance. This is a car for flaunting wealth, for dignified cruising and enjoying both the fresh air and the attention for the exposed occupants.
The body design, finished in a striking two-tone color scheme of bronze hues, appears familiar but is completely new. In front the very large traditional Mercedes grill and the unusual LED headlights set it apart from regular Mercedes models but for the rest the styling looks well balanced and realistic. The sides show slightly curved panels with long flowing lines and tasteful chrome pinstripe trim. Doorhandles fit flush with the sides as if they are part of the chrome trim so the lines remain unspoiled. A large maple panel behind the rear seats covers the compartment which holds the soft-top. Large LED rear light clusters complement the otherwise unsurprising rear.
Cream leather and an abundance of maple panels distinguish the interior. On top of the dashboard dark brown leather contrasts with the rest of the upholstery. All modern luxury equipment and entertainment systems have been fitted and yet the inside of the Ocean Drive looks remarkably simple, maybe even old-fashioned.
The Ocean Drive has been introduced as a one-off dreamcar but the design seems realistic enough to turn it into a limited-scale production model if there's enough interest. It looks quite a bit better than the regular S 600 sedan with its disproportional wheel arches so for warmer climates it could be an attractive alternative. Only downside of the design is the soft-top: when it's up it really spoils the appearance of the car and turns it into a stretched 2-door convertible. Apart from that the Ocean Drive is a well executed discovery of yet another niche by Mercedes' design team.