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How can an automaker create a focused environment for the driver and an airy, welcoming space for passengers in the same car? Volvo appears to have the answer with its latest upscale concept, shown at the Frankfurt Auto Show.

Called the "Concept You," the front passenger area is quite dark, with "off-black" seats, but that fades into lighter shades for rear passengers, where seats in soft beige are found. Even the feel of the carpeting changes, with a "sporty firmness" (Volvo's description) at the front to "luxuriously soft" at the back.

Modern Volvo cars have become increasingly streamlined in their cabins. The Concept You takes things further. "We use a number of touch-screens to replace buttons and controls," said Volvo design VP Peter Horbury. "The technology helps us to create a refreshingly uncluttered interior."

Bringing more than a little ingenuity into the mix, information displayed on one touch-screen can be "flipped" to show on another. One screen, in the upper part of the center console, only comes to life when a concealed infra-red camera detects the driver's eyes moving toward it. A radical new audio system, from Alpine, deploys small and light components that can use the air outside the car to help create its sound.

All this in a package that, according to Volvo's CEO, Stefan Jacoby, "gives a good indication of what you can expect from our next large sedan." The Concept You's body shape has that sloping coupe-like roofline made popular by the Mercedes-Benz CLS and taken up by the Volkswagen CC and Audi A7. The large sedan to which Jacoby is referring is most likely the next generation Volvo S80.

Jacoby also revealed another intriguing nugget of information. He said that Volvo (now owned by Chinese company Geely) is considering a manufacturing base in the United States.


See more coverage of the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show.


COLIN RYAN has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.
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