In the 1990 comedy film “Crazy People”, starring Dudley Moore and Daryl Hannah, Moore plays advertising executive “Emory Leeson”. After suffering from a nervous breakdown, ostensibly brought about from having to craft fictitious attributes for the products his firm represented, Leeson devised a number of bluntly “truthful” advertisements. One was for Volvo. Leeson’s tagline for that ad went “Volvo: They’re Boxy But They’re Good”.
That phrase cut straight to the heart of Volvo’s persona back then. Well known for building exceptionally safe and thoroughly reliable cars that were ugly as, well, you know, Volvo’s product line appealed only to a loyal core of individuals who valued safety and practicality above all else—including and particularly, style.
Then came Peter Horbury, Volvo's design chief from 1991 to 2002, and his 1997 Volvo C70. Readily identifiable as a Volvo, the C70 was nonetheless possessed of a graceful countenance previously unknown to the brand’s mainstream offerings. Yes, there had been an iconic Volvo sports car some 36 years earlier called the P1800, but even its styling couldn’t be considered conventionally beautiful the way the C70’s was.
Horbury followed the C70 in 2000 with the subject of this retrospective, Volvo’s S60 mid-size sedan. With the emergence of the S60, Volvo gave writers of the time new reason to include the words “safe” and “sex” in the same phrase. Here was a mainstream Volvo sedan, which while maintaining the company’s steadfast principles of safety, was simultaneously one of the sexiest four-door sedans of its day.
There have been two generations of Volvo’s S60 since the first one came to North America for the 2001 model year.