With its lineup of Drive-E four-cylinder engines, Volvo is becoming one of the biggest champions of engine downsizing.

Now, the Swedish carmaker is taking that philosophy even further.

DON'T MISS: 2015 Volvo S60, XC60, New V60 Wagon: Fuel-Efficient Drive-E Engines

Volvo will join the ranks of BMW, Ford, and others in offering a three-cylinder in a production car as the next step in the Drive-E program.

Essentially an offshoot of the four-cylinder Drive-E engines--or perhaps an amputation?--the three-cylinder is expected to make up to 180 horsepower in production form.

Volvo three-cylinder engine

Volvo three-cylinder engine

Volvo says it has begun prototype testing of the new engine, but isn't discussing a timeline for its launch just yet.

The engine is intended primarily for upcoming compact cars built around a new platform called CMA, but it won't be exclusive to those smaller models.

ALSO READ: Volvo's Efficient 180-Horsepower Drive-E Diesels Driven

Turbocharged versions will eventually be used in the S60 sedan, V60 wagon, and XC60 crossover--although it's unclear whether that will apply to U.S. models.

Adding this new engine to the lineup will allow Volvo to further downsize as it phases out its larger eight-, six- and five-cylinder engines.

2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E - Driven, April 2014

2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E - Driven, April 2014

It will join existing turbocharged gasoline and diesel four-cylinder engines, as well as a turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder that forms the basis for a new "Twin Engine" plug-in hybrid powertrain--set to debut in the 2016 XC90 T8 SUV.

The company has also shown a prototype triple-turbocharged 2.0-liter four that produces an impressive 450 hp.

MORE: Volvo's Triple-Turbo Four-Cylinder Engine: 450 HP From 2.0 Liters

With future four-cylinder engines potentially making something close to that amount of power, there's plenty of room for the Drive-E three-cylinder engine to act as the base powertrain in many models--a role traditionally performed by fours.

As Volvo and other carmakers work to meet increasingly stricter global fuel-economy standards, the smaller engines get, the better.


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