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Volvo Drive-E Powertrains Touted as High-Performance, High-Efficiency

Sections: Fuel Economy, Powertrain

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Drive-E engine press photo Volvo

Volvo will launch a new engine family called Drive-E in America this fall. The automaker says the engines offer the best-of-both-worlds scenario of power and efficiency with low emissions. (Photo courtesy Volvo)

A new line of engines from the Swedes promises to be both high-performance and deliver high efficiency and low emissions. Ladies and gents, say hello to Volvo Drive-E.

A press release from Volvo said the Drive-E moniker encompasses everything from a sustainable, efficient, and clean manufacturing processes that include the use of recyclable materials to efficient, low-emission powertrains — and if you believe the Swedes, they can build such powertrains without compromising performance. As an advertisement from Volvo that recently scrawled across my social media feeds said, the automaker’s M.O. could be described by saying, “Luxury means not having to choose between power and efficiency.”

Volvo Car Group Vice President of Powertrain Engineering Derek Crabb said, “We have created smaller, more intelligent engines with power curves that give exciting drivability compared with engines with more cylinders, yet deliver the fuel economy of only four cylinders. In addition, by adding electrification such as plug-in hybrid technology, we will reach power figures in the V8 territory.”

Volvo’s press release said two of the brand’s Drive-E powertrains will be offered in the United States — both four-cylinder gasoline models: One, dubbed T5, will feature turbocharging and will make 240 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs of torque. The other, T6, will be both turbocharged and supercharged and will make 302 horsepower and 295 ft-lbs of torque. Either set of numbers would be impressive enough coming out of a modern V6 engine — consider the base V6 engines in the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Dodge Challenger make similar numbers — but Volvo’s squeezing that kind of power out of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder mill in both cases.

As for how they did it, Volvo offered the following ways it said it has rethought its engines:

  • Friction reduction: Friction-reduction measures have been employed throughout the engine, including ball bearings on the camshaft, high-speed continuous variable valve timing and intelligent heat management with a fully variable electric water pump.
  • Start-Stop and Brake Regeneration: All Drive-E engines feature start-stop and brake regeneration. The technology uses brake pressure measurement to trigger when to stop and start the engine. The start/stop system is programmed to shut down the engine immediately when the car reaches a standstill. An electric pump keeps oil pressure up in the automatic gearbox while the engine is stopped. The system also includes an improved starter engine.
  • Turbo Only or Turbo and Supercharger: Using the supercharger to boost the low end torque gives the gasoline 302-horsepower T6 engine a big, naturally aspirated feel. The mechanically linked compressor starts to function immediately at low revs, while the turbocharger kicks in when the airflow builds up.
  • Eight-speed gearbox: To deliver the desired responsive, smooth and fuel-efficient drivability, the engines are teamed either with a new eight-speed automatic gearbox tuned for improved efficiency. “Think of it like having more gears on a bicycle — you get more chance to operate it efficiently depending on the road conditions. With our new gearbox you get a bigger ratio spread – in essence it gives you better chance of getting good fuel economy from the engine,” said Crabb.

Finally, Volvo’s presser said the Drive-E engines are prepped for hybridization from the start. Crabb said, “A four-cylinder, transversely mounted engine is a way of building up for an electrified future. Hybrids are definitely going to be a dominant part of the top end of our range.”

The first Drive-E Volvos will roll out this fall, according to the release.

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