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Sat, Nov 22, 2014

2014 Volvo takes a fresh approach with new engines

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2014 Volvo takes a fresh approach with new engines | volvo, auto digest, barbara, bill, schaffer

The T6 2014 Volvo. Photo courtesy of Volvo

Volvo may have introduced their new engine architecture and 2015 models of the S60, V60 and XC60 in Las Vegas, but that’s no reason for “what happens in Vegas” to stay in Vegas. This is the kind of big news car shoppers should know about.

Volvo has been flying under the radar since the Swedish company was sold by Ford Motor Co. to the Chinese automaker Geely in August 2010. It’s not that they weren’t doing anything; actually Geely was investing $11 billion for Volvo engineers to develop a new engine and vehicle architecture along with producing the largest refresh in Volvo’s history.  

Volvo Drive-E Engine Architecture    
The first wave of engines is gasoline powered, but will soon be followed by a series of powerful diesel engines based on the same architecture and displacement as the gas engines.

In Las Vegas, we had an opportunity to drive vehicles from what Volvo refers as their 60 cluster, which includes the S60, XC60 and the all new V60. As the new engines are integrated into these cars the nomenclature is a bit confusing, because the old and new engines share names.

For example, the new T6 Drive-E engine in the S60 front-wheel drive sedan is a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, while the T6 engine used in the XC60 AWD crossover is a 3.0-liter six-cylinder. Volvo confesses the double naming is a bit confusing right now but it will all make more sense as the five- and six-cylinder engines are phased out in the next year or two.

The reason for the duplicate labeling is the new T5 and T6 engines won’t fit the AWD models.  The older T5 (five-cylinder) and T6 (six-cylinder) engines are still very good engines, but the replacement engines have the advantage of being smaller, lighter, more powerful and more efficient new four-cylinder engines.

We had a sampling of the new T6 engine in the S60 and XC60 front-wheel drive models. The new T6 is a supercharged and turbocharged 302-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection – that’s a lot of power from such a small displacement. The engine uses the supercharger to provide the instant response at low rpms, then as the engine speed climbs the turbocharger pressure builds and further enhances the performance. The engine also uses a variety of friction reduction methods including ball bearings on the camshaft, high-speed continuous variable valve timing and intelligent heat management with a fully variable electric water pump.

The fuel efficiency is further improved by nearly seamless start-stop and brake regeneration systems. While at a stop the engine uses an electric pump to keep oil pressure up in the new highly efficient eight-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.   The T6 engine is rated at 24 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. The 0 to 60 mph acceleration time is best in class at 5.6 seconds.

The engine is extremely smooth and quiet with a strong “kick” of acceleration when called on to merge into fast moving freeway traffic or to pass a slow moving vehicle. In city driving, the stop/start system shuts down the engine instantly when the car stops. Then when the driver’s foot comes off the brake it instantly restarts with none of the shake or roughness we’ve experienced in some of the other luxury car system.

The T5 Drive-E engine is also a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with all the enhancements, but with only a turbocharger. Rated at 240-hp, the T5 allows the turbocharger to overboost for 10 seconds to produce an extra 22-ft.lbs. of torque when requested by the driver’s right foot. In the Eco+Mode, the T5 start/stop system will actually shut the engine down at 4 mph to take advantage of the extra engine down time to increase the fuel economy. The T5 has an EPA fuel economy rating of 25/37/29 mpg. Volvo says it will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds making it one of the quickest cars in its class which includes cars like the BMW 320i, Audi A4, Mercedes C250 and Lexus IS250.
The Drive-E engines will also be the basis for some planned plug-in hybrids.

Volvo V60 Wagon
The most visual product change is the return of the Sports Wagon. Volvo has always been known for wagons, but the last few years the only Volvo wagons in the U.S. market were the XC model crossover/SUVs. The drought has ended for the 2015 model year as Volvo brings the popular European V60 to the U.S.

Arriving at U.S. dealers now, the Volvo V60 is offered in three versions including the T5 FWD with the 240-hp Drive-E four-cylinder engine, T5 AWD powered by a 250-hp five-cylinder engine and the T6 R-Design with a 325-hp, 6-cyl and AWD.

The new wagon is beautifully styled with a sleek swept back roof line and wedged body design that gives the car an aggressive stance. We especially like the rear end treatment complete with Volvo’s signature taillight treatment that extends up the rear pillar and the large dual exhaust outlets.

Volvo S60 and V60
The V60 sport wagon and the S60 sport sedans use the same mechanicals or underpinnings to create a sporty, agile road feel with flat cornering and a quiet comfortable ride.

Perhaps our favorite feature is Volvo’s amazing seats which continue to be the most comfortable seats in any car we’ve driven. The T6 trim levels are outfitted with new sport seats which have that same trademark comfort and support along with added side bolstering to provide more lateral support during spirited driving. Rear seats in the V60 are split in a 40/20/40 configuration to adapt to cargo carrying needs.

Both models have a new digital adjustable instrument cluster that allows the driver to select from three themes – elegant, eco and performance to best suit the driving style.

Volvo Safety
We can’t talk about Volvo without mentioning all the new safety technologies available on the new 60 cluster cars. As a group, the Volvo active safety systems are called IntelliSafe. The system is built around the world’s first City Safety technology. Introduced originally on the 2010 XC60, City Safety is a low-speed collision-avoidance technology that works at speeds of up to 31 mph to prevent crashes. There’s also a Pedestrian Detection system that will automatically stop the car should a person or a bicyclist move in front of the car.

Volvo was the second manufacturer to offer a Blind Spot Information System (BLIS). It’s now a radar-based system and is available on all 60 cluster cars.

Other great safety features include the Cross Traffic Alert which warns the driver of another vehicle moving behind as the Volvo is being backed out of a parking space or driveway. Lane Keeping Aid, which is part of the Technology package, will actually guide the car back into the lane when it starts to drift outside the lane lines. The Road Sign Information system helps the driver by displaying road signs, like speed limits, on the instrument display. There’s also a new Park Assist Pilot that helps the driver automatically parallel park.

Inside the new cluster 60 cars Volvo’s Sensus system helps the driver manage information from the audio and navigation systems. The available Sensus Connected Touch connects the car to the Internet using various helpful embedded applications. The seven-inch touch screen can even be used while wearing gloves.

The 2015 Volvo S60 model prices range from $34,215, including the destination charge, for the T5 Drive-E FWD to $43,615 for the T6 R-Design AWD. The V60 pricing starts at $36,215 and goes as high as $45,215 for the V60 T6 R-Design AWD.  XC60 crossover pricing ranges from $36,665 for the T5 Drive-E FWD and tops out at $46,715. All the available options on the all three 60 cluster cars can add as much as $7,000 to $9,000 extra for features like navigation, technology packages, rear seat entertainment, park assist and several other option packages.

The investment and efforts that have gone into the new Volvo has paid big dividends. The new cars are impressive, fun to drive, and very much Volvos. We’re looking forward to spending more time in them.   

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