When Ford sold Volvo to China’s Geely Automotive five years ago, most onlookers expected there’d be a day when Chinese-built Volvos made their way to American showrooms.
Well, that day is coming sooner rather than later.
Last month at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, Volvo introduced a new, elongated version of its S60 luxury sedan — set to arrive stateside this summer — called the “S60 Inscription.”
It will be assembled at Volvo’s new production facility in Chengdu, China — a city known more for its spicy cuisine and cuddly pandas than its automotive production.
That being said, the Inscription’s Chinese assembly location is logical.
The car is based on the company’s highly successful Chinese-market long wheelbase S60L, which has been on sale there since the end of 2013.
With an extra 3.4 inches of rear legroom, the S60L has sold so well that it has all but replaced the regular wheelbase version of the car.
Which means Volvo’s decision to bring the roomier S60 to America could be a wise one.
Business Insider spent a brief period of time behind the wheel of a 2015.5 S60 a couple of months ago and found the car to be a very pleasant and capable luxury sedan.
But the back seats were very cramped.
Sure, Volvo makes some of the most comfortable seats in the business, but they’re absolutely useless if there’s no room for your legs. Which is what happened on our test car.
With the Inscription’s 3.4 extra inches, that problem has been resolved. In fact, Volvo claims that the S60 Inscription’s rear cabin is the roomiest in its class.
When it does arrive, the S60 Inscription will be available in “T5” trim, and will be offered with 2 engine choices.
Front wheel-drive models get Volvo’s all-new 2.0 liter 240 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder Drive-E engine while all-wheel-drive cars get an updated version of the the company’s venerable 2.5 liter inline-five cylinder engine with 250 horsepower.
Although official pricing has not been announced, Edmunds predicts the Inscription will start at around $US40,000.
Since its acquisition of the Volvo half a decade ago, Geely has refrained from interfering in the company’s day-to-day operations. Instead of making Volvo more Chinese — as some had feared — Geely has actually sought to accentuate the brand’s “Swedishness.”
What Geely has done is sink $US11 billion into the Gothenberg-based car maker with the hopes that Volvo will make the Chinese firm a global player in the auto industry. Volvo hopes to sell 800,000 cars worldwide by 2020.
With Geely’s money, Volvo has developed a brand new “Scalable Product Architecture” chassis that will underpin its cars of the future and a line of highly efficient four-cylinder diesel and gasoline engines — called Drive- E — that will power its entire model range.
So far, it is too early to tell whether Geely’s $US11 billion bet will pay off.
The first completely new model to emerge from Geely-owned Volvo is the second generation XC90 SUV that debuted last August. Although the big SUV has garnered rave reviews from the critics, it remains to be seen whether it will be the sales success Volvo needs it to be.
As for the S60 Inscription, it will mostly likely be sold only in small volumes in the US. More importantly, however, it will serve as a guinea pig for Volvo and Geely’s future plans for America.
So watch out. This is only the beginning.
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