2015 Volvo XC60 T6, S60 T6, V60 D4 First Drive
Four Score: Sampling Volvo's new Drive-E powertrains
Back in 2012, a financial website predicted that Volvo would not make it to 2014 in the U.S., citing the Swedish brand's miniscule market share. Volvo, still alive and kicking, fired back with $11 billion worth of evidence stating otherwise -- that's the amount China-based parent company Geely invested in Volvo's R&D, factories, and, most notable, new modular engine platform. Hey, that's why they're called predictions.
Dubbed, "Drive-E," the new Volvo Engine Architecture (VEA) initially will comprise three 2.0-liter I-4s -- two gas, one diesel -- all designed and built by Volvo in Skövde, Sweden. Within two years, Volvo will roll out five additional variants -- two gas, three diesel, and, again, all 2.0-liter I-4s -- bringing the total to eight engines, split evenly between gas and diesel. Output for the gas engines will range from 150-302 hp and 199-295 lb-ft, while the diesels will boast 120-230 hp and 184-354 lb-ft. Further down the road, expect Volvo to "electrify" the engine lineup with high-performance hybrids, including plug-ins, with all featuring battery packs located in the center of the platform.
For the U.S., when Drive-E debuts in the first quarter of 2014 in 2015-model-year S60, V60, XC60, XC70, and S80 models, and later in the second-generation XC90, we'll see T5 (240 hp, 258 lb-ft) and T6 (302 hp, 295 lb-ft) gas variants. Currently, Volvo has no plans to bring over a diesel, though, given the growing list of oil-burners from Audi, BMW, Mercedes, VW, and even Mazda, that's likely to change. And if you want an I-5- or I-6, Volvo will continue to offer them in AWD variants, at least until the Drive-Es can be incorporated.
On a recent drive in France, I had the opportunity to sample the gas T6 (in FWD versions of both the XC60 and S60) and diesel D4 (in the all-new V60 wagon); the gas T5, the projected volume seller in the U.S., was not made available.
T6The new Drive-E T6 utilizes both an Eaton roots-type supercharger and a BorgWarner turbocharger to net 302 hp at 5700 rpm and 295 lb-ft at 2100 rpm. With direct injection, integrated start/stop, and a standard Aisin eight-speed automatic, the T6 is estimated to achieve best-in-class fuel economy, so figure around 20/29 mpg city/highway for the XC60 and 22/32 for the S60. Below 3500 rpm, the supercharger is in action, creating the low-end oomph, and above 3500, the turbo spools up to generate the high-rpm motivation. The result is an engine that feels as strong as its numbers suggest, but doesn't quite sound it. With the two chargers bolted on, the T6 emits an artificial tune, neither growling down low nor screaming up high; rather, it comes off somewhat asthmatic throughout the rev range, all the while pulling hard. The forthcoming T5, which will serve as the base engine in all U.S. models, ditches the supercharger in favor of just the turbo, and also boasts a slightly higher compression ratio (10.8:1 vs. 10.3:1) to produce 240 hp at 5500 rpm and 258 lb-ft at 1500 rpm. Moreover, in second through fourth gears, the T5 offers 10 seconds of overboost, giving short bursts of 280 lb-ft.
Naturally, the S60 T6 felt far sprightlier than the larger and taller XC60, though Volvo's bestselling crossover nonetheless offered up sporty dynamics. Both delivered an excellent ride/handling compromise, nice steering linearity (feel is still a bit numb), and a confidence-inspiring chassis. Understeer surfaces when pushed hard (certainly in the XC), but these remain fun-to-drive vehicles that are relatively neutral up to about 7/10ths. In addition to the new Drive-E powertrains, the 2015 S60 and XC60 sport all the changes made to the '14s, including freshened fascias, a new IP, improved sport seats, standard steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, and safety upgrades, including Lane Keeping Aid with haptic feedback via the steering wheel.
D4We'll drive the V60 T5 early next year, but Volvo's global event in France gave us the opportunity to briefly sample the diesel D4. In fact, it was the only engine available in the dozen or so V60s on hand. Equipped with a "variable turbine geometry" BorgWarner turbo and a 16.5:1 compression ratio, the 2.0-liter oil-burner produces 163 hp at 4000 rpm and a substantial 310 lb-ft of torque at 1500 rpm. With all that grunt down low, the D4 exhibited some moderate torquesteer when accelerating out of turns, something the T6 didn't show any signs of, but that's a minor complaint about an otherwise standout engine, which proved smooth, quiet, and plenty powerful. In short, the D4 makes a formidable competitor to the 2.0-liter diesel in the new BMW 328d wagon, which touts 180 hp at 4000 rpm and 280 lb-ft at 1750 rpm. We look forward that that comparison test.
Until then, check back in February 2014 for our First Drives in U.S.-spec 2015 S60, V60, and XC60, all with the new Drive-E powertrains.