First Drive: Volvo S60/V60 D4 Drive-E
Sector: Compact Executive Price: £23,195–£35,045 Fuel: 65.7–74.3mpg CO2: 99–112g/km
Volvo’s new Drive-E engine range may have arrived as a single diesel unit, but this one engine is big news. It marks the start of a competitive new range of drivetrains, but also a step further towards independence from former owner Ford’s parts bin.
The new drivetrains address several problems, top of which is a legacy of Ford-sourced drivetrain parts. Despite a compact model line-up, Volvo had to contend with eight engines and eight different transmissions, each mounted differently and sharing almost no components.
Developed in-house, Volvo will have a Drive-E engine for all of its familiar denominations by the end of 2015, removing this complexity. The range comprises four petrols, producing between 140 and 300bhp, and four diesels from 120 to 230bhp. All are 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engines with plenty of shared components and standardised mounting points, while gearboxes are reduced to a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic, each with two different gear sets.
Standardising internals and mounting points will drastically reduce the number of unique parts, cutting manufacturing costs and allowing Volvo to shed further cylinders as necessary. All of the Drive-E engines are also designed to work as part of a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, launching in the XC90.
For now, though, the new D4 gives Volvo a competitive diesel in the 60, 70 and 80 clusters without resorting to expensive hybrid technology. Low in friction and featuring an advanced i-ART fuel injection system to minimise wastage and coolant system designed for faster warm-ups, the engine brings CO2 emissions for the fleet-heavy S60 and V60 down to 99g/km, though the V60 is restricted to smaller wheels and tyres to bring that figure down from 103g/km.
It suits both cars perfectly. Performance is lively, reaching 62mph in around eight seconds with a strong shove of torque from just under 2,000rpm. While the test route didn’t lend itself to discovering the cars’ economy, 2.0-litres is a good fit for a vehicle of this size and it shouldn’t be overworked, which will benefit real-world efficiency. What was evident is incredibly low noise, both from cold and while cruising.
Just as significant is the new automatic eight-speed automatic, which broadens the choice of low-carbon drivetrains beyond manual models.
Eco and Sport driving modes mean gearshifts, throttle inputs and air conditioning can be tailored to the journey, and the former includes a coasting function at low loads with Stop/Start technology to cut fuel consumption further. It’s a big improvement on the old six-speed unit, offering smooth gearchanges but still with a tendency to hesitate on downshifts.
With investment under way to expand its fleet presence, Volvo finally has the portfolio needed to get on the same page as the German premium brands, and it looks like there’s plenty more good news to come.
Strong on paper and equally impressive on the road, the D4 is a real asset for Volvo. The rest of this new engine range can’t come soon enough.