2015 Volvo Drive-E Model Line-UpPosted on February 3rd, 2014
New engine family enhances performance on XC60, S60 and V60
By Nina Russin
The media’s initial reaction to Volvo’s announcement two years ago, that the automaker planned to abandon its current engine lineup for an all four-cylinder family was skeptical. Volvo produces some fairly large, heavy cars: the XC60, XC90 and V70 among them. How could small displacement engines provide adequate power’
Volvo’s answer was to boost engine efficiency with blowers, adding electrification down the road. This week, I had the opportunity to drive the first generation of cars in the Swedish automaker’s new four-cylinder lineup: the 2015 S60 sport sedan, V60 sport wagon and XC60 crossover.
There are two new engines: the T5 that produces 240 horsepower and the T6 that delivers 302. That might seem like a lot for four-bangers, but it pales in comparison to the automaker’s Formula 1.5-litre turbocharged block that packed 900 horses under the hood.
Both gas engines are turbocharged, but the T6 adds a supercharger for additional power on the low end. Volvo has also developed a common rail diesel engine, but there are no plans at this point to bring that powerplant to the states.
A new eight-speed automatic transmission extends fuel economy on the new gasoline engines.
Linear power delivery
A long-standing problem with turbocharged engines has been uneven power delivery, due to turbo lag. Volvo first addressed this some time back with light-pressure turbochargers than gave engines acceleration closer to naturally aspirated blocks.
The newest technology adds a supercharger that adds boost between idle and 3000 rpm. Once the engine has spooled up, the supercharger disengages and the turbocharger kicks in. The advantage to this setup is that the supercharger can be smaller, making it easier to package. The driver experiences linear acceleration, with as much horsepower and torque as much bigger blocks.
Three new front-wheel drive models
At this point, the new Drive-E engines are only available on front-wheel drive models. All-wheel drive counterparts will roll out at about the same time as the next-generation XC90, at the beginning of the 2015 calendar year.
Volvo is using the opportunity to showcase its wagon heritage, with a new V60 sport wagon. The V60 gets the turbocharged T5 engine, while both the S60 sedan and XC60 crossover get the more powerful T6.
I had the opportunity to drive all three cars on city streets, highways and rural roads around Las Vegas, Nevada. Our drive routes included the Las Vegas strip and surrounding streets, several interstates, Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire.
Las Vegas is high desert. Base elevation is about 2000 feet, extending up to 4000 in Red Rock canyon. Both superchargers and turbochargers decrease parasitic power loss at altitude by pushing oxygen into the cylinders, as opposed to relying on engine vacuum.
My first drive was in the new XC60. Even though I had read the specifications, the new engine’s power delivery was a pleasant surprise. The engine reaches 295 foot-pounds of peak torque at about 2100 rpm, for exceptional acceleration off the line. Zero-to-sixty time is 6.5 seconds: quite respectable for a heavy crossover. EPA fuel economy estimate is 25 miles-per-gallon for combined city and highway driving.
The eight-speed automatic transmission is equally impressive, with no noticeable shift shock under normal driving conditions. Paddle shifters give drivers the option of more aggressive performance. There are three driving modes: a default (normal), Eco and Sport. Sport mode modifies throttle mapping and gearshift points for harder acceleration. It also disengages the engine cut out feature at idle.
The Eco mode alters shift points and throttle mapping as well, to improve fuel economy. On the T5 engine, it also engages the engine shut off feature when the car is decelerating.
Twenty-inch alloy wheels on the test car provide an ample footprint for high-speed performance. The vehicle also includes Volvo’s optional City Safety system that automatically applies the brakes if the driver fails to recognize a stopped vehicle ahead. Other safety features on the test car include adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and a rearview camera.
Return of the sport wagon
As a longstanding wagon enthusiast, the midsized V60 stole my heart. Cyclists will appreciate a spacious cargo area, big enough to hold a road bike with second-row seats folded flat. Optional roof rails on the test car enable the owner to add a rack up top for stashing kayaks and other large cargo.
Readers having preconceptions about station wagons as being stodgy, boring cars would be pleasantly surprised by the V60’s performance. The T5 engine delivers up to 280 foot-pounds of torque at 1500 rpm. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is 6.1 seconds. A R-Design model in the works takes .7 seconds off that time.
The test car comes with the optional sport chassis that vastly improves on-center response from the power electric steering system. Steering is pleasantly crisp, with ample assist at the low end and a heavier feel on the highway.
Inside, a new seat design offers more support than in former Volvo models. A three-spoke steering wheel includes redundant audio controls to minimize driver distraction. The gauge cluster uses thin film transistor technology to combine analog and digital styles. It is clean, attractive and easy to read.
Visibility around the car is quite good. Blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the A pillars when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. The rearview camera projects a wide-angle image to the back of the vehicle when the driver shifts into reverse. Designers recessed the screen, so that it is easy to read in bright sunlight.
The only deterrent for some potential buyers is the cost of admission. Base price on the V60 is $35,300. Options on the test car bring its final MSRP up to $42,225.
Sleek sport sedan
The current S60 has, in this writer’s opinion, not received the attention it deserves. Those who favor the German brands should really take another look.
The 2015 model raises the bar with Volvo’s new T6 engine, which reaches peak torque, 295 foot-pounds, as low as 2000 rpm. Fuel economy is 30 miles-per-gallon on the highway: pretty impressive for a midsized sedan with a 5.6-second zero-to-sixty time.
Design, both outside and inside the car, is sumptuous. Generous shoulders, most obvious from the sedan’s back end, reflect the brand’s humanistic focus. A coupe-like profile features an elongated hood and snub rear deck.
Inside, existing Volvo owners will notice significantly updated front seats, with aggressive bolsters. Designers used thin film transistor technology to create a sleek, readable gauge cluster. The floating center stack creates an extra storage space within easy reach for the driver.
The eight-speed automatic transmission transitions smoothly through the gears. Drivers can engage the car’s sport mode and use formula-style paddle shifters for more aggressive performance.
Optional nineteen-inch wheels give the sport sedan a fat footprint.
The newest version of Volvo’s pedestrian detection system also includes recognition of cyclists. Blind spot monitoring alerts the driver about vehicles approaching from the rear, as well as those in adjacent lanes. Lane keep assist uses the brakes to maneuver the car back towards the center of the lane if the driver inadvertently starts to drift. If this happens several times in a row, a coffee cup icon illuminates in the gauge cluster, suggesting that the driver take a break.
Base price for the S60 with the T6 engine that rolls out in late spring is $38,150. The test car comes with navigation, premium audio system, 19-inch wheels and sport chassis, adaptive cruise control, auto brake, active high beams and lane departure warning, xenon headlamps, blind spot monitoring, metallic paint and heated front seats. Final MSRP including the $925 destination charge is $47,925.
In the pipeline
The next step in Volvo’s evolutionary engine technology is electrification. All car chassis going forward will have room in the centers of the vehicles for battery packs. The idea is to give four-cylinder engines the power and performance of eight cylinders.
All of this comes on the heels of a 300 million dollar investment in Volvo’s Skovde engine plant. Look for additional information on the all-new XC90 crossover later this year.2015, Luxury, News and Features 2015, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Volvo
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