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Volvo V40 T4 Drive-E 1.5L I-3 First Drive

Sweden's Triple Threat

Frank Markus
Dec 11, 2014
As we reported last August, Volvo will take its engine-downsizing campaign to the next level, joining BMW/Mini, Audi, Opel, and other upscale brands and introducing a turbo direct-injected inline three-cylinder engine. Because apparently swearing off five-, six-, and eight-cylinder engines isn't enough to make it in tomorrow's CO2-constrained world. The new 1.5-liter Drive-E triple will share its 82.0mm bore, 93.2mm stroke, and cylinder-bore spacing with every other current production Volvo engine. This allows all engines to be machined and assembled on the same line, saving big manufacturing bucks.
The new engine features most of the latest engine-design must-haves, including six-hole fuel injectors located in the top center of each cylinder, variable-pressure oil pump for reduced engine drag, low-friction roller finger follower valvetrain, an exhaust manifold integrated into the cylinder head for quicker engine warm-up, and a high-pressure die cast aluminum engine block. The cams are driven by a dry belt, as on other Volvo engines, which is rated to last 180,000 miles and is claimed to be the more reliable option in emerging markets like China, where oil contamination from bad fuels can cause problems for timing chains.
Photo 2/21   |   Volvo V40 T4 Drive E Front Three Quarter
Being a three-banger, the engine requires a balance shaft to counteract the inherent rocking couple, and here it's mounted alongside rather than below the block to reduce engine height. A torsional vibration damper at the flywheel calms whatever vibes the balance shaft misses.
Full specifications are not yet available, but different turbochargers will be offered, producing a peak power output of between 104 and 178 horsepower. The engine is also designed to accommodate hybridization. The accessory drive layout can accept a belt-alternator-starter, and the coolant pump, which is typically located at the back of the engine and driven by a belt off the intake camshaft, can be moved to the front of the engine for more elaborate PHEV systems that mount an integrated starter generator to the flywheel.
Look for top electrified versions of this so-called GEP3 engine to power some 60-series Volvos, but most will do duty in the forthcoming Compact Modular Architecture products (replacements for the C30, S40, and V40). At the moment there are no plans to produce a non-turbocharged version of the engine, but the design protects for natural aspiration and port fuel injection in future lower-cost/lower-output applications within parent company Geely's lineup. The Volvo V40 T4 Drive-E is pictured here.
Photo 9/21   |   Volvo V40 T4 Drive E Rear Three Quarter 03
When asked to compare/contrast his new triple with BMW/Mini's very similar 1.5-liter (the bores are identical, and the BMW's stroke is just 1.4mm longer), Powertrain VP Michael Fleiss noted that Volvo has managed to match BMW's brake-specific fuel consumption in a simpler, lighter, cheaper package (no Valvetronic).
A top-spec non-hybridized version of the new engine was mounted in a Euro-spec V40 wagon and provided for demonstration drives around Volvo's Gothenburg headquarters handling track. Off-the-line grunt was impressive for such a mini mill, and the engine note seemed burlier than expected, but then most modern turbo triples are sounding pretty good. Don't set your sonic expectations based on the Geo Metros, Subaru Justys, and Daihatsu Charades of yore. The firing pulses of a three-cylinder are ideal for spinning a turbine (which is precisely why a single twin-scroll or two parallel turbos work so well on BMW I-6s), so the engine pulls fairly strongly all the way to redline and generally feels like a bigger engine in most circumstances.
The American psyche seems naturally inclined against anything less than four cylinders (just as it once was against diesel powered cars), but we can commence ridding ourselves of that prejudice, based on the strong performance of this new crop of turbo-triples, all of which seem more than up to the task of motivating B- and small-C-segment cars. That being the case, the fact that they take up less space and weigh less is icing on the chassis-dynamics cake.

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