Short but Swede: Meet the XC60, Volvo’s Concept Cute-Ute

Break out the cigars. The enormously successful Volvo XC90, the Swedish maker’s first true SUV, is going to be a big brother. This blessed event – the arrival of the XC60 mini-ute – is expected by 2009 at the latest.

The world has been watching this dragged-out gestation period for some time now, as various incarnations of the XC60 concept have appeared at the world’s auto shows. It’s even gone through a name change, having grown up a notch from the original XC50 moniker.

It will compete with an impressive list of premium compact utes, including the BMW X3, the Acura RDX, and the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz GLK. The XC60 will get its drivetrain and platform from the Land Rover LR2, which awaits its U.S. launch in May.

Although it greatly resembles its XC90 idol, the new Swedish SUV is also based significantly on Volvo’s C30 sports coupe – look at the roofline, for instance. To be sure, its developers have consciously aimed for a beautiful blend of coupe and utility vehicle.

At the moment the XC60 concept has an innovative split tailgate, which features radical, form-following taillights along its angled edges and is heavy on the glass for better rear visibility. Its design also allows it to be opened in tight situations, for instance if another car is parked close to its bumper. Up front, the traditional Volvo iron-symbol grille is beefy, and it accents a new V-shaped “face” with ultra-modern rearward-reaching headlamps that may find its way across the product line.

The most notable feature on the inside is a very modern, slim-line center console that “floats” to save space and calls to mind a chrome-framed iPod. But this is a Volvo, so the big story will be the abundance of integrated safety features. Expect it all, from reinforced construction to whiplash-protection head restraints and every kind of airbag to electronic stability control.

Look for a 3.2-liter DOHC inline six (similar to the one in the S80 sedan and the Land Rover LR2) to provide the power, in the range of 230 horses. There’s no word yet on what the XC60’s towing capacity or offroad capability may be, but the concept model has been outfitted with front and rear skid plates that may or may not make the cut.

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