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This is the Volvo Concept Estate, and goodness, isn’t it rather lovely?

The third study from Volvo’s new design boss Thomas Ingenlath - following the also-rather-nice Concept Coupe and Concept XC Coupe - the Concept Estate is a three-door shooting brake that harks back to Volvo’s P1800 ES of the Seventies. It’s also a hint at the styling of the new XC90 SUV, which arrives this autumn.

But the great Volvo doesn’t want you looking at the exterior of the Concept Estate, however lovely it may be. Volvo wants you to admire the Concept Estate’s dash and centre console, which, it says, previews a new in-car control system that will span the new generation of Volvos.

Said control system is based around a massive iPad-esque touchscreen supplemented by but a single row of buttons, doing away with the festival of switchgear found in the current crop of Volvos. That touchscreen responds to all the pinch’n’swipe gestures you’ll be familiar with from your smartphone, though Volvo is keen to stress the screen won’t distract you with a cheeky game of Angry Birds.

“It is fine for an ordinary tablet to compete for your full attention, but a touchscreen in a car is very different,” says Ingenlath. “Information must be clear and user-friendly, without turning up the visual volume so much that you risk losing focus on the road.”

We’ve tested touchscreens good and bad in recent months, and are yet to be convinced they currently offer an improvement on the, erm, ‘control knob’ systems used by BMW and Mercedes with iDrive and Comand respectively. It’ll be interesting to see if design-focused Volvo can nail it at last.

No word on what engine lurks beneath the Concept Estate, but it’s safe to assume it’ll be a 2.0-litre four-cylinder from the company’s new standardised range of powerplants.

So it’s unlikely to be a BMW M3-beater, but that just gives you more time to admire the Concept Estate’s lovely cockpit, with its Scandinavian-hunting-lodge wood and check seats.

If at least some of this car’s interior and exterior pizzazz makes it onto the next generation of Volvos, are we heading into another golden era for the Swedes?

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