Designing the new Volvo 9700 and 9900 required meeting many different demands. They had to be intuitive and user-friendly for the driver; they had to provide a level of high-end comfort expected of a premium coach; they had to be functional and meet all expectations when it comes to fuel efficiency and safety; and they needed a distinct and unique appearance that was unmistakably Volvo.
“I had three clear goals,” says Dan Frykholm, Design Director at Volvo Buses. “I wanted the exterior design to combine a clear Volvo brand identity. The driver’s area had to make a quality statement and focus on driver control, and I wanted to create a truly premium interior, where passengers could feel relaxed and safe. We are very proud of the result.”
A friendly face
The front emblem carrier and windscreen have been integrated to enlarge the front window view and create a sense of transparency. The smooth rounded front with lines bending upwards, creates a positive impression on the front of the vehicle, while Volvo’s signature V-shaped lights add confidence and strength.
“The front of the coach is designed to look friendly but decisive and professional,” says Dan Frykholm. “It is also instantly recognisable as a Volvo from a distance, and with that comes all the values Volvo stands for. This is important because many passengers will form their impression of the coach from its first approach.”
The Volvo 9900 features distinctive Z-shaped window lines along its sides, which adds a sense of speed and motion. The angle of the lines also follow the vehicle’s inner gradient theatre floor. “The theatre floor is a way of positioning the seats a little higher in the end and low in the front, so everybody will be able to see the view ahead,” explains Dan Frykholm. “It is a really unique feature so it was important that it was emphasized or reflected in the exterior design.”
The theatre floor is unique to the Volvo 9900, whereas the more versatile Volvo 9700 features a conventional horizontal floor. The sidelines therefore help distinguish the 9900 as Volvo Buses’ flagship premium model.
Smooth, rounded corners
One of the most noticeable features of the new 9000 range, is the smoother, rounder front. This is part of an aerodynamic design, which was a key objective due to its importance for fuel efficiency and environmental impact.
The smoother, rounder front helps prevent the build-up of air pressure when the vehicle is in motion, while perfect straight and aligned sides minimise drag. At the rear, rounding the vehicle at a slight angle, followed by a sharp break, reduces the vacuum behind the vehicle and improves overall stability.
“The optimal shape in terms of aerodynamics is a tear drop, but that would not be good for accommodating passengers,” explains Dan Frykholm. “When it comes to design, everything is a compromise, and what we have here is a fantastic compromise, a holistic solution. We have a design that improves aerodynamics, while at the same time helps express things like speed, environmental care and quality.”
Less is more
As a premium coach, passengers have high expectations when it comes to comfort, and it was important to create that sense of comfort and luxury in the design. Passenger seats are a key component and the Volvo 9000 range features ergonomic designs and a range of adjustments to ensure a perfect fit. However, it was also important to create an open uncluttered atmosphere. The interior roof has been raised by eight centimetres, and straighter transitions between walls and roof increase the sense of space.
“We have made the interior as clean as possible, with high quality materials, coherent lines and minimal features,” says Dan Frykholm. “This means that nothing sticks out, everything is intuitive and self-explanatory. As soon as a passenger steps inside, they should get a feeling of comfort and calmness.”