Before Plug-In Hybrids, Volvo Preps Efficient New Gas Engines

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As German luxury brands have moved to smaller turbocharged engines with much-improved gas mileage, Volvo's entire U.S. lineup has remained powered by five- and six-cylinder engines.

Yet with the introduction of a new generation of so-called Drive-E engines—and eight-speed automatic transmissions to match—Volvo is poised to catch up.

The two new Drive-E engines we'll begin seeing early next year at Volvo dealerships—first in the 2015 Volvo V60, then in the S60 sedan and XC60 crossover (although for now only in front-wheel-drive models)—will arrive in two different outputs: 240 hp for T5 versions, and 302 hp for sportier T6 versions.

Up to 30 percent higher mpg

Both are all-new, all-alloy engine designs, and engineers used a clean-slate approach, then taking Volvo's experience with those fives and sixes, which date back to the early 1990s, and aiming to cut weight, increase efficiency, and produce power that at the upper end can compete with six-cylinder engines.

Altogether, Volvo has achieved up to a 30 percent improvement in fuel-efficiency and nearly a 40 percent improvement in thermal efficiency over the engines they're replacing.

Volvo Drive-E four-cylinder engine - turbocharged and supercharged

Volvo Drive-E four-cylinder engine - turbocharged and supercharged

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The key difference between these two engines is that while both are turbocharged and both have modern variable valve timing and high-pressure direct injection, the higher-output one has both turbocharging and supercharging—with the supercharger helping produce strong lower-rev response and helping decrease fuel consumption versus using a larger turbocharger.

Hybrids part of the plan

Mild-hybrid, full-hybrid, and plug-in hybrid versions are all part of the plan for these engines—including the all-wheel-drive hybrid layout shown in Volvo's recent plug-in Concept Coupe from the Frankfurt Motor Show and anticipated for the next-generation Volvo XC90.

And separately there's Volvo's plug-in hybrid powertrain—currently offered in diesel form for Europe as the V60 Plug-In Hybrid, but destined for the U.S. with one of these gasoline engines.

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