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Tough birth, but Volvo E-power's here

2014-03-09 08:20

NEW ENGINES FOR '14 VOLVOS: The first examples of Volvo cars with smaller but more powerful engines were shown to Wheels24 in Mpumalanga. Image: SUPPLIED


The second of Volvo’s three concept cars is headed for the Detroit auto show - the Concept XC Coupe. Check out gallery images of Volvo's new crossover!


Volvo has launched Drive-E power and given its D4 and T5 engines a completely new identity. The first are now available in SA across the Volvo 60 range – theS60 sedan, V60 sport wagon and XC60.

A top-of-the-range T6 Drive-E petrol engine will follow sometime soon.

Over the past few years Volvo has moved away from its former somewhat-boringness. Styling has moved away from boxes to flowing lines and assertive looks. The 60 range - S60, V60 and XC60 - was refreshed in August 2013.


Volvo has moved on to what it calls "scalable platform architecture" which will be introduced throughout its model line-up "from here on forth". In other words, the automaker says, "there’s a whole new Volvo in progress”, each of them a same-platform clone.

Volvo told the assembled crowd (many of whom had been under the mistaken impression they were going to get to drive a new Volvo E-lectric car: “It is the ultimate modern engine – compact and efficient with extreme power capabilities.”

Exciting? Er, most people probably think "so what’s the big deal?" but, to the Swedes, this is historic and, to give credit where it’s due, is rather amazing. Until now Volvo had eight engines across three platforms; cost was overwhelming. So, eventually, the eight will become two: a four-cylinder Drive-E petrol engine and a four-cylinder Drive-E diesel.

Each can be configured to meet the power required by each of its automobiles from the V40 hatch to the upcoming XC90 SUV.


Volvo SA imported a very bubbly personality for the launch occasion: Malin Labecker, project manager for Volvo power trains, introduced the new two-litre, four-cylinder engines. In fancier terms, she’s the programme launch manager for cylinder systems.

She’s cute as a button, tiny, and gave probably the most exciting technical presentation I've ever endured. If you picture Scandinavian types as somewhat stolid; she’s the complete opposite and the D4 and T5 engines are her babies. She's been involved since the very beginning, even before Ford sold off the companyin 2011. Back then Volvo, didn't have the money; the 2007 US financial crisis didn’t help much either. Labecker and her team had loads of ideas to create a better engine but were told off many times and there was talk of Ford wanting to sell the company.

There was also a new global awareness around CO2 emissions.CO2 regulations were imposed in the US and the EU. At the time, Volvo’s six-cylinder engines were producing CO2 at a rate of 231g/km and the automaker had to find a way to get that down to 95g/km across the fleet.

Suddenly, money came in for Volvo to start a new engine family. Labecker her pals could at last build an engine from scratch and focus not only on performance but also reducing CO2 emissions.

Then, in 2011, Chinese automaker Geely made Volvo a standalone entity within its holding group.


Planning for the new engines had started in 2007/2008; the concept was developed in Gothenburg and went on right up until production started in November 2013 at Volvo’s factory in Skovde, Sweden. Now Volvo has two-litre, four-cylinder, petrol and diesel engines, each rolling off the same production line.

Labecker says they share sump, crankshaft and many other components - the same bottom end and a 50% split of parts - 25% unique and 25% shared.

Volvo’s powertrain engineering boss Derek Crabb said: “The sophisticated Drive-E technologies give the customer high performance, improved fuel economy, considerably lower emissions and a powerful sound character. Our four-cylinder engines will offer better performance than today’s six-cylinder units and lower fuel consumption than the current four-cylinder generation.

“There’s a huge weight and size reduction for the same power. Fuel savings are anything from 10 to 35%, depending on engine.”

The new S60 T6 engine makes 225kW and 149g/km CO2 with a claimed 6.4 litres/100km and gets to 100km/h in 5.9sec.

Drive-E stats:
  • New eight-speed auto gearbox produced alongside new engines
  • Complies with all global 2013-2017 emission legislation
  • Reduces fuel consumption by 15-35%
  • Delivers powertrain weight savings of 30-50kg


Volvo SA brought along to the launch in Mpumalanga cars with the previous andthe new D4 and T5 engines for us to drive and it was immediately obvious that the new cars feel livelier and the new eight-speed gearbox is much smoother.

There's also less turbo lag than I recall in the T5, making the sweeping bends near White River much more, er, interesting. There's less hesitation between gear changes and the clucketty regurgitation of the diesel engine is much quieter.   

Volvo says “To deliver the desired responsive, smooth and fuel-efficient drivability, the engines are teamed either with a new eight-speed auto gearbox or an enhanced six-speed manual, tuned to use less fuel.

“The diesels have world-first i-Art technology. By featuring pressure feedback from each fuel injector instead of using a traditional single pressure sensor in the common rail, i-Art makes it possible to continuously monitor and adapt fuel-injection per combustion in each of the four cylinders.”


Labecker said increasing the rail pressure to 2500bar and adding the i-Art technology was a second step in the diesel revolution. “It is a breakthrough comparable to our invention of the lambda sensor for the catalytic converter in 1976.

"Each injector has a small computer chip that monitors injection pressure. Using this information, the self-adapting i-Art system makes sure the ideal amount of fuel is injected during each combustion cycle.”

The new two-litre, four-cylinder, T6 engine has a supercharger and a turbo. “Using the supercharger to fill in the bottom-end torque (before exhaust flow is strong enough to spin up the turbocharger) gives the petrol engine a big, naturally-aspirated, feel," she said. "The mechanically linked compressor starts to function immediately at low revs, the turbocharger kicks in when the airflow builds up.”

Not a new idea, but still...

Other improvements to the Drive-E petrol engines include friction reduction - ball-bearings on the camshaft - high-speed and continuously variable valve timing and heat management with a fully variable electric water pump.

The Volvo S60 T5 with 180kW and the new eight-speed auto is also exceptionally competitive. CO2 emissions are down to 137g/km, which translates into fuel consumption of 5.9 litres/100km.

Drive-E engines roll-out plan for Europe:
  • Volvo S60, V60 and XC60 – D4 and T5 variants available from March 2014.
  • Volvo S60, V60 and XC60 – T6 variant late 2014.
  • Volvo V40 - T5 available from July 2014. Volvo V40 D4 to follow at the end of 2014.
  • The rest of the Drive-E engine variants will be phased in across the Volvo range over two to three years. Roll-out is expected to be completed in 2016.

For now, the new engines are only available in the 60 in SA with the next phase rolling out in 2015.

Read more on:    volvo  |  mpumalanga

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