The flagship won’t dock in Sweden: Volvo denies rumors of a Mercedes S-Class-rivaling luxury sedan

Volvo Universe conceptVolvo has a reputation for building solid, safe, Swedish cars, and apparently it’s content with that. Despite rumors to the contrary, the Swedish brand is saying it will not push further into the luxury segment with a flagship sedan.

“We don’t have any ambitions to go into a segment where we would compete with vehicles that have V8 or V12 engines,” Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson told Automotive News. “We don’t believe it would fit our brand image.”

Rumors of a Volvo that could rival the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class began with the unveiling of the Universe concept at the 2011 Shanghai Auto Show.

That four-door concept (above) was supposed to preview a redesigned S80 (which we’re still waiting for) but its large size led some to believe that Volvo was considering a move upmarket. Who wouldn’t expect big things from a car named Universe?

Instead, Volvo is moving in the other direction. When the redesigned XC90 arrives in late 2014, it will ditch its six-cylinder engine for a four based on the new Volvo Engine Architecture.

The new XC90 will share its SPA platform with a redesigned S80, so it’s likely the sedan will get downsized engines as well.

This sensible step will keep Volvo in the same odd position it has held for decades in the automotive pecking order.

Through the 1980s and ‘90s, Volvos evolved from well-engineered and rugged battle wagons to overtly premium vehicles, leveraging the brand’s reputation for quality and advanced safety technology to justify premium prices and an air of exclusivity.

2014 Volvo S80Today, it’s a given that Volvos are compared with the best from the German luxury trifecta listed above, but the Swedes can’t match them model for model.

Insane Polestar show cars aside, Volvo also hasn’t been as aggressive in areas like performance or infotainment as it has with safety. This is, after all, a company whose signature product is a station wagon.

As much as we love big Euro-brand luxury sedans, Volvo is probably making a smart decision. The most successful carmakers build cars their way, instead of copying others. Hyundai has shown us that, even with a big commitment of resources, building an S-Class rival isn’t easy. Even with its bargain price, the Equus doesn’t quite match the big Benz. It’s not the only one: remember the Acura Legend? Or the Volkswagen Phaeton?

Do you think Volvo made the right move? Tell us in the comments.