He’s balanced and smooth
STEFAN Sallqvist is the man who makes Volvos dance. He is the head-down boss of chassis and suspension development at the Swedish maker, but it’s his flair and commitment to driving enjoyment that have just made a fundamental change to the safety-first brand.
The new S60 sedan is a car with the sporty enjoyment of a BMW, as well as ride quality that trumps an Audi.
It even comes with a Momo-style sporty wheel, instead of something that feels as if it belongs in a Volvo bus.
So, how does he do it? Firstly, he has backing from senior management to create cars that sell on more than safety.
Secondly, he has the engineering brain and experience to do the job right.
Thirdly, he has a suspension team who are better than anyone on stuff like the black-art work of shock absorbers, springs, bushes and even the basic chassis design.
And he cannot help himself. Sallqvist has a wicked sense of humour, rides motocross bikes for fun, and has a bunch of Aussie mates.
Then again, he is scared of spiders and snakes, something he realised when he was riding in Australia a while ago.
‘‘When I was trail riding near Noosa I fell off and the bike went into these bushes. I made someone else pull it out because I was scared of being bitten,’’ Sallqvist says at the press preview of the S60.
Volvo is doing more tuning work on its cars but Sallqvist does not believe in all-out laps at the Nurburgring.
Instead, he sends his team to B-road twists and turns in Britain, where the bumps and lumps also create unique suspension challenges.
He is not a fan, either, of hi-tech electronic suspension systems, even though Volvo has them — and driver-adjustable steering loading.
‘‘You have to get the basics right. You cannot mask things with electronics,’’ he says.
The S60 shows what Sallqvist and his team can do and he promises more.