Volvo Drive-E powertrains

Frank Washington | 3/4/2014, 11:11 p.m.
If Volvo had not built up a certain amount of capital in the market and within the automotive press, it ...

If Volvo had not built up a certain amount of capital in the market and within the automotive press, it would have been written off as dead a few years ago.

Ford purchased the company in 1999 for $6.4 billion. There were a few good years but then as misfortune befell Ford, Volvo’s fortunes in terms of product declined resulting in the company being put up for sale in 2008. It was eventually sold to Geely Automobile of China in 2010.

Now, after four years and an $11 billion influx of capital, Volvo seems ready to reassert itself in this market. It debuted what it called its 60 cluster of automobiles: the Volvo V60, S60 and XC60. Well, actually the XC60 was not here.

The existing models have been refreshed for 2014 and their look will remain unchanged for 2015 model year. The sheet metal has been tweaked a little bit from the A-pillar forward but the cars remain unmistakably Volvos.

Still, previously visible washer nozzles are now under the hood, the radar cover has been redesigned to mesh better into the grille and the grille itself has been redesigned. The Ironmark badge is bigger. There are also more wheel design choices which can differentiate the look of the vehicles.

But the real news is under the hood and it is not the repositioned washer nozzles. Volvo’s much awaited family of Drive-E engines is ready for roll out; initially, two four-cylinder engines will be available in the U.S. market. One of them with a single turbocharger produces 240 horsepower while the second with a supercharger and turbocharger working in tandem produces 302 horsepower.

Still available are Volvo’s five and six cylinder engines but eventually they’ll be phased out in favor of the Drive-E powertrains. Right now the 60 cluster of vehicles with all-wheel-drive will be equipped with Volvo’s five and six cylinder engines and the front-wheel-drive models get the Drive-E powertrains.

Only front-wheel-drive models of the S60 and V60 were here as Volvo unveiled its new Drive-E power plants. The four cylinder engines are lighter by almost 100 lbs., more compact but just as powerful as six and eight cylinder engines. They have lower emissions and better fuel economy, the 240 horsepower version getting 37 mpg on the highway.

Friction reduction including heat management and an electric water pump as well as stop start brake technology aids in the reduction in fuel consumption.

The 302 horsepower four cylinder is the first of its kind in the market, using both a supercharger and a turbocharger. The former is most efficient at injecting massive amounts of air into the combustion chamber while the turbocharger is far more efficient at doing the same thing at higher speeds. The result is a powerfully responsive engine at any speed.

This technology is nothing new; it was first used in WWII airplanes like the P51. At the time quiet and smoothness was nor a prerequisite. The main focus was power. Today, Volvo uses more than 50,000 pages of code to make the two blowers work in harmony and do so quietly without a noticeable transition between the two.