Volvo Drive-E: Leaner and meaner

Volvo presents its holistic powertrain blueprint; debuts 306hp/400Nm S60 T6.

volvo_drive-e_01If Proton is seeking inspiration, they only need to look at Volvo. Last year, Volvo sold more than 500,000 passenger cars for the first time in its 89 years of existence, not quite threatening the top three German brands (yet) which are all doing close to two million vehicles a year, but considering that only 335,000 cars were shifted in 2009, you could say that things are looking up for Volvo.

After years of lackluster performance under Ford ownership, Volvo was sold to Zhejiang Geely Holding in 2010. Many wrote Volvo off as its Swedish rival Saab soon shuttered in 2011. But contrary to the naysayers, Volvo has thrived since Geely took over. So if Proton needs to reassure itself that foreign partnership may not necessarily dilute its identify, look at what’s happening at Volvo.

As Volvo Car Malaysia’s Managing Director Lennart Stegland astutely expounded to the media on the company’s holistic approach to powertrain requirements in the next 10 years, it’s evident that Volvo has not only regained its mojo as a forward-thinking carmaker but is now in a position of strength.

Downsizing and down-speeding is the way forward for Volvo, says MD of Volvo Car Malaysia, Lennart Stegland (right)
Downsizing and down-speeding

Well before the Germans embraced turbocharging in a large scale, the Swedes were already force-feeding their cars way back in the 80s. And while Volvo has kept with the T8, T6 and T5 labelling for its engines, the numerals no longer signify the number of cylinders. According to Stegland, engine downsizing and down-speeding – making torque accessible at low engine speeds – mean that the large cubic capacity Volvo V8s, inline fives and sixes will soon be a thing of the past, if not already.

Wholly developed and produced in-house, the new generation Volvo Drive-E powertrains are the culmination of a herculean engineering effort to put the Swedish carmaker at the forefront of drivetrain technology (and emission compliance). The engines are scalable by design, has a high degree of parts commonality (even between petrol and diesel variants) and are electrification-ready.

Aided by direct injection, turbo- and super-charging, and constructed using a high percentage of aluminium with steel reinforcements, the new generation Drive E powertrains are lighter, more compact, cleaner and more efficient than the engines they replace. As of now, engine capacities are set at 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre, in either three- or four-cylinder configurations, in different state of tunes with electrification as the answer in high performance applications.

The ‘official’ introduction of Drive-E in Malaysia

Unveiled in phases over different markets, Drive-E actually made a quiet, unofficial debut in the Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Power SUV that was launched here last year (in CBU form; CKD starts in third quarter this year), so we have already seen and felt Drive-E technologies in action, albeit in plug-in hybrid form. But as a formal introduction to Drive-E for the Malaysian market, Volvo Car Malaysia launched the updated S60 sedan in T6 guise.

The Drive-E T6 2.0-litre engine utilises both supercharging and turbocharging to achieve 306hp and 400Nm!

Powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that utilizes both supercharger and turbocharger for immediate low-end torque (the crank-driven supercharger operates till 3500rpm) and the latter alone for peak power thereafter, the T6 produces 306hp and 400Nm – numbers that easily outdo the equivalent German rival such as the BMW 330i (252hp/350Nm) and Mercedes-Benz C300 (245hp/370Nm), including the Audi TTS with only 285hp and 380Nm.

The S60 also gets a new 8-speed automatic along with steering wheel shift paddles and minor aesthetics enhancement inside and out (note the larger iron mark). It is of course well stacked with a host of cutting edge safety features (Lane Keeping Aid, Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning, Cross Traffic Alert, to name a few) befitting a Volvo, only that this one does 0-100km/h in under six seconds.

volvo_drive-e_02Volvo S60 T6
Price: RM280,888 (incl. GST, w/o insurance)
Engine: 2.0-litre, 4-cyl petrol, supercharged & turbocharged, FWD
Output: 306hp@5,700rpm, 400Nm@2,100-4,800rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/ shift paddles
Performance: 0-100km/h in 5.9 sec, top speed 230km/h
Wheels/tyres: 17in alloys, 235/45 R17
Safety: 6 airbags, Electronic Stability Control
Warranty: 5-year/unlimited