Set to hit the auto show stage next month in Detroit, the XC60 Concept is a preview of the production XC60 that is scheduled to go on sale in early 2009 as well as a first look at the future of Volvo's styling under new design director Steve Mattin.

In an interview with Motor Trend, Mattin said that the XC60 concept "will indicate our new design DNA. It will have technical as well as design innovation. But it's a real concept car, not just a disguised production car." In other words, its relationship to the real thing will be as the 2000 ACC concept was to the XC90. "It takes the emotion of the C30 a step further," Mattin says.

Mattin also discussed his vision for Volvo's design future. He said, "We need to be recognizable as Volvo. We're still about Scandinavian simplicity; we can't be playful or do styling for the sake of styling. Volvos last a long time, so our design must have legs. But we can't be too simple or we'd edge toward blandness. And we can't not change; we must be fresh. I want to broaden our design and have more variation between car lines."

With its glass roof, aggressively styled front grille with angles positioning lights on both sides, and high-tech interior, the XC60 Concept is anything but bland.

When it goes into production, the XC60 will be one of the first models equipped with Volvo's new City Safe active safety system(for more detail, see our blog on the City Safe system ) that helps the driver avoid or minimize damage from low-speed rear-impact accidents. The vehicle will fall into into what Volvo calls the "Small Premium Utility" segment, aka small luxury crossovers like the BMW X3. Volvo believes that the segment will expand by 75% to 443,000 cars sold between 2007 and 2009.

Volvo hopes that the XC60 will attract buyers that have an active, urban lifestyle. According to Volvo president Fredrik Arp, the XC60 will be as important as the C30 in expanding the brand's sales. Arp says that the concept is a good indicator of what the production model will look like.

Stay tuned to Motortrend.com for more information about the Volvo XC60 concept and the rest of the Detroit Auto Show during the show press days of January 7th to the 9th.