People often use rational words, such as functional, simple and minimal to describe Scandinavian design.

In creating the all-new ’11 Volvo S60’s interior, designers added excitement, sportiness and a dynamic elegance.

The interior’s quality and craftsmanship, bold lines and, yes, functionality, helped earn the sedan a spot among Ward’s 10 Best Interiors for 2011.

Ward’s judges laud much in this car, particularly the comfortable sculpted leather seats with extra-wide support. They look and feel great.

“Best seats in the business,” Ward’s associate editors James Amend and Byron Pope declare independently on score sheets. Fellow judge Drew Winter, editor of Ward’s AutoWorld, stops just short of that, deeming them “among the best.”

In creating the new S60, Volvo wanted to shed the image of only making safe but staid vehicles for the sensible set. That’s why the car’s stylish interior takes on the personality of an extrovert, not a typical Swedish automotive trait.

For instance, the two-tone leather in our test vehicle is black and what Volvo dubs “Beachwood Brown,” generically known as burnt orange.

Such a color scheme in any car might risk going over the top, let alone in an upscale model starting at $37,700. But the hue works in the S60, particularly as it plays off the black accents.

“Who would have ever thought an orange-accented interior could look so good?” Amend says. It may be bold, but “it’s not garish by any means,” Pope adds.

Enhancing the smart look of the S60 are rich materials and surfaces. Whether leather, metal, wood or plastic, they are used for Scandinavian design at its best.

The interior sports a dynamic element, with flowing lines that look like they are in motion. Instruments and the center stack angle toward the driver, but the rest of the 5-seater is passenger-friendly. Rear passengers get 2.1 ins. (5.3 cm) more leg room than in the previous model.

All occupants receive the benefits of a new 12-speaker audio system. The Volvo S60 is one of the first cars to use Audyssey Laboratories MultEQ technology, similar to that used in movie theaters.

MultEQ removes distortion caused by cabin acoustics, providing improved sound quality for all occupants, regardless of where they are sitting.

True to its Volvo roots, this is one of the safest vehicles on the road. For starters, the S60 is fitted with a generous supply of front, side and curtain airbags, as well as active head restraints with a whiplash-prevention system.

The car also is equipped with adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, park-assist cameras, a collision warning with full auto brake, blind-spot alerts and the market’s first pedestrian-avoidance auto-braking system.

Previous-generation Volvos were staid and safe. The ’11 S60 is sleek and safe as evidenced by its striking interior. It’s comfortable, too. Just sit a spell in those orange seats.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com