New Volvo V60 exterior

Opinion: is Volvo the new Audi?

After a long period of scoops, previews and teasers, Volvo finally revealed the new V60 wagon yesterday. And it’s a bit of a stunner – elegant, well-proportioned, with a great-looking interior and plenty of those little touches that make Volvo stand out from among the competitors. The model’s debut means that the brands quest to replace its entire lineup with new cars, a process which began with the new XC90 two years ago, is almost complete – only the S60 and V40 remain, and both are likely to be replaced by year’s end. With a newfound confidence and a spring in its step, the brand seems to be effortlessly succeeding where so many others have failed – putting itself on an even keel with the German premium titans: Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. Of the three, it feels that it’s Audi that should be worried most – after all, Volvo seems to be walking a path that Audi once treaded, and in a way is targeting the same customers.

Wait, wait, wait… Audi and Volvo are nothing alike!

OK, I will admit the Volvo/Audi comparison is not perfect, but consider for a moment the many ways in which they are similar. First, Volvo new range of cars has a similar appeal to the Audi models that helped the German brand explode in popularity in the period 2000-2015: they are conservatively elegant, feature immaculately-made and practical interiors, and make good use of their FWD architecture to deliver spacious interiors and good economy. Second, while Mercedes-Benz and BMW have, for better or worse, a strong, immutable image, Audi first and now Volvo appeal to people who do not buy into that image. Instead, they attract buyers who prefer a more straightforward approach to premium: stylish but not brash, practically-FWD rather than wannabe-sporty RWD, spacious and embracing technology that makes the drivers’ and passengers’ lives easier. Finally, just as Audi did in the early 2000s, Volvo seems to have hit upon a winning style and is now happy to use the “one sausage, different lengths” approach to bring this appeal to all the segments it enters.

Volvo V60 interior

But can Volvo really emulate Audi’s rise to the podium?

The omens are really good. While the sales growth for the Volvo brand overall has not been quite as stellar as I thought, the brand has still been able to increase its European marketshare from 1.42% in 2009 to just under 2% in 2017. More impressively, the “new wave” models have consistently been on or around the podium: the XC60 and XC90 took 2nd spots in the premium mid-sized SUV and premium large SUV segments in 2017, while the new S90/V90 was a very credible 4th in the premium large segment, with sales having grown by over 400%. With the new XC40 gathering great press it seems the little crossover is ready give the Q3/X1/GLA a bloody nose, and now the V60 looks to be the beginning of Volvo’s first proper assault on the premium mid-sized segment in a long time.

OK, so what does this mean for Audi?

With VAG’s resources behind it, it would take a brave person to bet against Audi. That said, with the latest range of cars appearing too conservative (A4), too brash (Q2, Q8) and too, well, under-baked (A8), it seems that Audi is going through a bit of an identity crisis, one that Volvo will be happy to explore. For while the German brands is striving to strike the right balance between driver appeal and futuristic self-driving technology, as well as between aggressive detailing and conservative proportions, Volvo seems to know exactly what it wants to be – desirable, practical, with the added USP (unique selling point) of its whole lineup becoming either hybrid or electric in the next few years. Given the movement of the overall market towards premium brands it’s quite possible that the new Volvo and new Audi brands will happily co-exist alongside one another, plus Mercedes-Benz and BMW. In the short run, however, I foresee many buyers trading in their old Audi models for the new Volvos.

The latest Audi A8

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

  1. I continue to think Volvo will struggle in the US. I don’t disagree with your evaluation of Audi, but from a US perspective if I weren’t driving a BMW, I would look at Acura (new RDX), Infiniti (new QX50) or even Mazda (CX-5 if I am looking for fuel economy) before a Volvo.

    1. I don’t see fuel economy as a major driver for buyers in this segment, at least not in the US.
      Everyone is different. As a past owner of BMWs and Audis, Acuras and Infinitis have never even been on my shopping list. I’d give Volvo a look were it not for their corporate ownership.

  2. It’s even worse than Audi exactly the same interior on all vehicles in the range what lack of creativity on the part of Volvo when you compare to Peugeot with its 308, 3008 and since yesterday the new 508 which all have a unique interior universe.

    After for the exterior yes she is nice but no surprise it’s just a small s90.

  3. I think the strongest advantage that Audi have over competitors is that they don’t need to develop any specific mechanic (engine, transmission, suspension). They can get it ready made from mother VW. So they can invest their budget for interiors, finishing and materials (if they want, or just save the money in the bank). Neither Volvo, nor BMW can catch up with this advantage, right now. Let’s see what Geely can do.
    Regarding design and style, I think the exact opposite. Audi is the new Volvo. Audi always remind me somehow what Volvo was trying to do in the 80’s. They were trying to challenge the Mercedes and BMW status quo as leaders in luxury car. Not trying to emulate German brands, they were evading wealthy interiors, focusing on simplicity, effortless design, and trying to catch up on reliability. I had a Volvo 940 many years ago and I always thought it looks like much more smarter than equivalent “C” or “5” series from German brands. It was that Swedish feel. This is the same way Audi today is imposing his font wheel drive over the German’s RWD competitor.

  4. Interesting view on image of Audi, being bought by people that don’t care about image. Over here the image is the only reason why people buy it, it has stronger image then Mercedes Benz over here. It is however true, that Volvo doesn’t make people envy you, if you buy a BMW, AUDI or Mercedes over here people will start to discuss where you got money for it from etc. Not the case with Volvo, that’s why I like Volvo, together with their spot on design outside and from 60 series upwards also class leading interiors.

    1. Just a note: if you’re going to use “over here” as your point of reference, you might want to let us know where “here” is.

  5. Volvo has improved a lot but they are way still behind the German premiums, Volvo is in the same level of Lexus, Land Rover, Acura and Infiniti. The German premiums have their own World and it’s almost impossible to bother them. Volvo will need at least two decades of continuing great products to be considered at the same level of the three Germans kings.

  6. I agree that volvos will be bought instead of Audi’s bacause they offer much more, and I agree that Audi seems to of lost its identity. However I don’t think volvos have that same pecipetion of quality: less quality materials tha Audi- journalists say all the time.Also audi still has a huge foothold in Germany, Volvo cant replicate this, but will prove big competition. “Volvo the new Audi”

  7. Volvo is not the new Audi, because the Swedes are innovative and not focused on being ‘premium’. Sure they want to sell cars with high profit margins, but the fact the CEO mentioned they’re not going to build an F-segment car says it all about the need to copy others. Go your own way. Besides, Volvo doesn’t need to develop defeat devices and they don’t fill every niche with smaller cars, crossovers and/or SUVs.
    The new V60 only shows what almost all luxury brands are doing. Using the same design (interior/exterior) for their line-up. Zero creativity, zero personality, zero distinctiveness. Factory-tailored cars. In the case of Volvo it’s still not as bad as the Germans, because although the XC60 can be seen as a smaller XC90, the XC40 is a totally different car. The new S90/V90 are completely different than predecessors S80/V70. Sadly the new V60 looks like a smaller V90. I don’t like it. It can’t match the elegance of his larger brother. The rear of the V90 is less ‘boxy’ and the lower window line is more supple. Hopefully, the new S60 is not going to be just a smaller S90 with some crappy details.

  8. I like Volvo. Today, if I would consider to buy a Volvo or an Audi, I think I prefer Volvo. But Audi has a huge range of models, engines, transmisions, personalization options… its range is deeper and wider than Volvo. But, between a new S60 and a new A4, I go for the swedish.

    About the question about all Volvos look the same car outside, and inside, I think is the same problem with most of makers. Look new E class and C class. Or a4 and A6. New A7 has the similar interior than A8 and probably the new models will copy it. But new Volvo, doesn’t look like old Volvos, meanwhile Audi has the same design language since years ago.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.