Volvo Drive-E Innovation: Goodbye V8

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Volvo Innovation Says Hello to Fuel Efficiency and Green Cars.

Not many years ago, power was associated with big V8 engines, and Volvo was perhaps one of the best in its class.  But when Al Gore’s global warming documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth” debuted in 2006, Volvo listened.

But were fuel-efficient cars even possible without sacrificing luxury and power?

“We started to think about how to reach future CO2 and performance demands. In 2009, we began work on our first prototype engine for the Volvo Drive- E Innovation,” noted Jan-Erik Larsson, Director of Powertrains for Volvo, in an email exchange from Sweden.

I was following up on the recent reveal of a trio of 2015 Volvo 60s equipped with the game changing Drive-E powertrain innovation.

Don’t know what a powertrain is? It’s the main components in a car’s motor that produces energy and then converts it to propel the vehicle. That still might not seem sexy to you, but the bottom line is that a car’s performance can make or break the sale.

Noted as the largest refresh in the company’s history, Volvo’s innovative new 4-cylinder lightweight, low-emission engines increased power output while reducing CO2 output.  Developed in Sweden, the engine will be available on the 2015 models of the V60 station wagon, S60 sedan and XC60 crossover.

Volvo Innovation

Volvo’s Drive-E Powertrain keeps the power in the car and on the road in 2015.

At the test drive held in Las Vegas, Bodil Eriksson, new Executive Vice President for Volvo Cars North America, said: “Intelligent engines will turn V8 engine into dinosaurs.”

Bigger Doesn’t Always Mean More Power.

The 4-cylinder engines are smaller and lighter by almost 100 pounds (on the higher performance model). Volvo is offering two versions: the T6 turbo and supercharged with 302 hp) has a mpg of 24 city / 35 highway; the T5 turbocharged with 240 hp) has a fuel economy of 25 city / 37 highway mpg.

Eriksson also pointed out that the engines are prepped for electrification, which will make for seamless integration in the future. (The first model to offer this combo will be the all-new Volvo XC90 plug-in hybrid.)

You Can Have Your Luxury and Performance — And Be Green.

The concept of the efficient Drive-E is compelling, but I wanted to know more. So I followed up with more email questions to Jan-Erik Larsson.

Q: Is there was any other automotive company that could compare to Volvo’s new invigorated line-up with the Drive-E engines?

Larsson: In the S/V/XC60 segment we are best in class regarding performance vs. fuel efficiency.

Q: Will Drive-E put Volvo into another “ball park”?

Larsson: Yes! Volvo has proven that it is possible to make a luxury car both fuel-efficient and with high performance.

Q: Are we going to see these engines in your racing cars?

Larsson: We have already during a try out in WTCC 2011, used the base engine and we actually set the track record with this engine!

Putting The Fun In Autonomous Drive

Track records or not, I still contemplated the future of Volvo, a company close to my heart, simply because we’ve always had a Volvo in our family.

The good news is that it looks like the company has an edge up. The Volvo car group is undergoing an $11 billion strategy to boost the Swedish automaker’s position in the global marketplace.

Obviously, Volvo has a legacy with safety innovations, going back to 1959 when they introduced the first three-point seat belts.

But these days, Volvo is positioning itself for autonomy.

“Time is probably our biggest challenge,” remarked Joe Haslem, Brand Manager for Volvo’s Drive-E trio. “We’re all talking about power and efficiency but we need to simplify, we need to work on connectivity, and still make it fun to drive.”

To that effect, Volvo just signed an agreement with Gothenburg, Sweden. Their goal is to have 100 autonomous cars in the city for 2017.


Disclosure: I was Volvo’s guest at the event in Las Vegas, which included my travel and accommodations; any opinions expressed are all my own.

Holly has written about travel, cars, culture and health since she bought the first generation Macintosh. Her portfolio includes... More about Holly Reich