There was a time when putting the words 'Volvo' and 'Design' in the same sentence was the punchline to a bad joke, but the Swedish automaker has come a long way since then. The C30 may be the best evidence to date that Volvo can make an attractive, sporty looking hatchback, and the little four-seater is about to get more interesting at this year's Frankfurt Motor Show.
Volvo has already released pics of the upgraded C30, complete with a more expressive front end and cleaner rear fascia, and the Swedish automaker is planning an R-Design variant of its funky little hatch that features R badges and a body kit treatment with front and rear spoilers. The C30 R-Design will also sport 17-inch Cratus aluminum wheels (18s optional) and chrome-plated sports tailpipes. On the inside, Volvo continues its tradition of going big on the R badging with R-Design emblems on the front seats, center stack, steering wheel and panel inserts. The gear level is now trimmed in aluminum and leather and the sports pedals get the aluminum treatment as well.
In the recent past, Volvo has veered away from providing more powerful powertrains for its R-badged vehicles, and the C30 is no different. The C30 does, however come with an upgraded steering and chassis package that Volvo says was tested on the twisty roads of England and the high-speed highways of the German Autobahn. Volvo engineers added stiffer bushings and quickened the steering ratio to provide 10% quicker responses. The R-Design C30 will also have 30% stiffer springs to give the Volvo hatch sportier driving characteristics. Hit the jump to read over the Volvo presser, and click on the gallery below to get a closer look at the Volvo C30 R-Design.
Related GalleryVolvo C30 R-Design
New Volvo C30 R-Design with sport chassis of top class
The Volvo C30 R-Design is the nearest thing to a dedicated sports car in the Volvo model range. The new chassis is considerably sharper, with stiffer, more distinct properties. And the exclusive extra equipment gives the C30 R-Design just the right attitude.
The biggest changes in the new Volvo C30 R-Design, which make its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in mid-September, are actually hidden beneath the skin. While the car's extroverted body kit and design cues are easy to see, it is the chassis and the steering that have been the main focus of attention. The aim is to create a sporty driving experience and a sophisticated feeling of comfort.
"The new R-Design chassis builds further on the success of the sport chassis introduced in the Volvo S80 earlier in 2009. Although the actual properties differ between these two cars, we've had plenty of good experience on which to build further in the Volvo C30," says Stefan Sällqvist, manager Vehicle Dynamics at Volvo Cars.
Significant changes to the sport chassis
In order to meet the high standards, the R-Design chassis has been modified in several areas. The steering is more precise owing to the installation of stiffer bushings. The steering ratio is lower, giving 10 percent faster response to steering wheel input. Spring stiffness has been increased by no less than 30 percent in order to increase the car's poise in enthusiastic driving. The dampers are stiffer and are now of the exclusive mono-tube type that builds up pressure much more quickly. The roll stabilizers are stiffer to reduce any leaning tendency when taking corners.
The new sport chassis has made the C30 R-Design a better-balanced and more agile car. Road contact is more distinct and feedback from the wheels is faster and clearer, promoting a more alert feeling while driving. And that is something that also benefits safety.
"The driver should feel confident that the car will behave exactly as expected. That is an important part of our safety focus when we develop new chassis. This feeling of security also means the driver can fully enjoy the sporty driving characteristics," says Sällqvist,
Good test results, clear differences
Volvo's chassis experts have put the new R-Design chassis through a regime of intensive tests throughout Europe: On narrow, twisting lanes in England, at high speed on the German autobahn, on icy winter roads in the very north of Scandinavia and the results are highly gratifying.
"A customer who test-drives the new C30 R-Design will immediately feel the difference. Even before the car has covered fifty metres, the driver will be aware of the crisp steering and the distinct chassis response. We are very pleased with the result and have considerable hope that keen drivers will feel the same way," continues Sällqvist.
New color-matched body kit
The most noticeable design change is an all-new body kit featuring a redesigned front and rear. The body kit is painted the same color as the rest of the body, giving a visual impression that the car has been lowered by much more than the actual 10 mm reduction in ride height. The new C30 R-Design is also equipped with five-spoke Cratus wheels, just like the rest of the R-Design range. The interior is now available with dramatic new black upholstery as an alternative.
C30 R-Design - an overview
The R-Design package allows customers the option of choosing between seven exterior body colours and offers a range of specially designed exterior and interior details.
* R-Design badge in the grille
* Grille and door mirror housings in special silk metal finish
* Body kit with front and rear spoilers, lower door trim moulding and side-skirts colour-matched to the rest of the body
* New 17-inch five-spoke Cratus aluminium wheels (18-inch optional)
* Tailgate spoiler
* Visible chrome-plated sports tailpipes (90 mm)
* Upholstery in two colour combinations: cream-coloured leather with sides in dark grey Flex-Tec, or off-black leather with edges in off-black (new)
* Embossed R-Design emblem in the front seats
* R-Design centre stack and panel inserts
* Gear lever knob trimmed in leather and aluminium
* Sports pedals in aluminium, with rubber ribs
* Sports steering wheel trimmed in leather, with R-Design emblem
* Blue speedometer and rev counter gauges
* Textile floor mats with contrasting piping
R-Design attracts new customers
The R-Design appeals to the discerning younger customer segment that is looking for a personalised car with an exclusive, sporty nature. At the same time, R-Design has become a way for Volvo Cars to boost the company's attractiveness as a brand and to enhance a more emotive connection to its products. And customer surveys show that this strategy is paying off. On some markets, no less than 80 percent of all C30 customers choose R-Design. A large proportion of these customers are under 35 years old. More than in any other instance, these are customers who have come from a different car make.
"What has enticed these customers to Volvo are the design and attitude of the R-Design model. In this way, R-Design has helped both increase our sales and bring down the average age of our customer base, both of which are very positive moves," says Lennart Stegland, president of Volvo Special Vehicles.