The D4 2.0-litre engine emits just 99g/km of CO2

The D4 2.0-litre engine emits just 99g/km of CO2

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The V8 is already gone, all inline five- and six-cylinder petrols and diesels are to be phased out next: Volvo is taking a big risk in making four-cylinder engines the largest that it will offer. So is the new 2.0-litre Drive-E up to the job?

The short answer to that question is yes. In as-tested D4-branded form, the first diesel Drive-E is quiet, smooth, and bursting with torque. It’s available only as a 2.0-litre and without hybrid or PHEV derivatives but more on the possibility of those in a moment. A weight saving of around 40kg is claimed compared to the existing five-cylinder unit with equivalent power output.

First, the back story, though as some of the details have previously been reported by just-auto, I shall spare you the repetition. The new diesel as well as two petrol variants have begun to replace eight engine architectures on three platforms. Eventually, Drive-E diesels will range from 120 to 230hp but for now, it’s 181hp in the S60, V60, XC60, V70, XC70 and S80, or 190hp in the V40 and V40 Cross Country. As production of the XC90 will be ending this summer, Volvo spared itself the engineering costs of modifying its biggest crossover for Drive-E. Instead, the most advanced powertrains from the range will debut in the second generation model, expected to be seen for the first time at October’s Paris motor show.
The idea being what started life as the VEA (Volvo Engine Architecture) project came to light in 2008, at which time the firm decided that it would take the plunge and develop a new family of high-efficiency engines. All are manufactured in Sweden at the firm’s own Skövde powertrain plant, with the company stating that Drive-E “will be fully implemented in all Volvo cars by the end of 2015”.

In the on-test S60, the new diesel sends drive the front wheels only and a six-speed manual gearbox comes as standard. This is not a new transmission but it has been extensively overhauled with new components, the idea being to reduce weight, oil volume and friction. There is also the option of an eight-speed automatic and these are the only two gearboxes for all Drive-E engines. Not so long ago, there were eight transmissions being fitted to Volvos so there again, the manufacturing cost savings become evident.

The company’s achievement in bringing these engines and gearboxes to market is all the more impressive if you stop to consider the engineering challenge of multiple platform vehicles. All future cars and crossovers will steadily shift to either CMA or SPA, with the next XC90 the first to use SPA. However, as of now, Drive-E units are in cars that have legacy architectures from the Ford era. So the V40’s C2 platform has been modified, as has EUCD, which serves as the basis of most of the firm’s larger vehicles. That makes me think certain future Geely cars based on older-tech Volvos won’t be added to the group’s Daqing and Chengdu vehicle plants. My first suspicions were recently confirmed when VCG stated that the tooling for the XC90 is headed to China. It will be used to make a renamed XC90 Classic, with a Geely model to follow and both will be made in Daqing.

The new engines are also ready for future electrification, with key components, such as the Integrated Starter Generator (first seen in the plug-in diesel hybrid V60), connected easily. The company has previously stated that the compact size of the four-cylinder engines mean that the electric motor can be fitted in the front or rear of the vehicle. And the battery pack? This sits in the centre of the car. Why? Crash protection.

Volvo lists the following as characteristics of Drive-E engines:

  • Reduced Inner Friction - improved surface treatment of cylinder bore and crankshaft, as well as a fully variable oil pump. A thinner synthetic engine oil is also used
  • Smart Heat Management - the facility to ‘short circuit’ the water pump allows coolant flow to be minimised and the warm-up phase to be shortened
  • Fuel Injection with Pressure Control - injections can be controlled very effectively using the advanced i-ART nozzles
  • Advanced Combustion Control - optimised combustion chambers and inlet ducts, together with swirl dampers and an injection pressure of up to 2,500 bar
  • Belt-driven Fuel Pump - the high-pressure fuel pump needed a higher speed to provide for the high rail pressure of up to 2500 bar. The pump is driven at the same speed as the crankshaft via the camshaft's drive belt
  • Exhaust After-treatment with LNT (Lean NOx Trap) - Euro 6 is fulfilled by means of a very precise control of injection, in combination with a change in hardware in the catalytic converter.

Both the engine block and cylinder head are aluminium. The head itself is chill cast while the block and sump are pressed aluminium alloy. As for the crank, this is largely the same regardless of whether it is a petrol or diesel Drive-E. The same crankshaft is used for all variants, while there are small differences in pistons and connecting rods.

The new diesel has twin camshafts and 16 valves. Drive is via a belt at the front of the engine. This is where the timing belt drives the exhaust cam, while the intake shaft is driven by the exhaust camshaft via drive gears at the rear of the engine. The timing belt also drives the high-pressure fuel pump and mechanical water pump. The electric pump in the fuel tank supplies the high-pressure pump with fuel. This high-pressure pump is driven by the timing belt.

The i-ART common-rail system mentioned earlier was developed in collaboration with Denso. The ECM (Engine Control Module) measures the pressure and temperature in each injector via integrated sensors. By monitoring these, the fuel injection can be adjusted for individual cylinders. Most conventional diesel injection systems use a single pressure sensor in the fuel rail, which only controls the injection pump. However, on Drive-E engines, each injector has a pressure and temperature sensor that monitors the injection process so that the i-ART system can inject the ideal amount of fuel into each cylinder. System capacity is up to nine injections per work cycle, but normal driving uses approximately 3-4 injections.

The new D4’s turbochargers are supplied by BorgWarner. There is a small compressor plus a larger one - similar to the system on the existing D5 five-cylinder diesel. The small turbo helps at lower engine speeds and when higher revs are reached, the second turbo kicks in. It was clear from driving the S60 in all manner of conditions that Volvo and Borg-Warner’s engineers had done a good job at ensuring that this 1,580kg car never felt slow or reluctant to surge off the mark or between gears. Ideally, I would have preferred the automatic gearbox - it’s just a personal preference - but as well as the financial penalty at the dealership, the CO2 average climbs from a remarkable 99g/km to 109g/km. That still means zero road tax in your first year but the auto’s tax band is B, while the manual’s is A.

Not just the D4 but all Drive-E engines fulfil the requirements for consumption and emissions with environmental impact and meet all global exhaust requirements in force between 2013-2017 (Euro 6b, LEVIII and PZEV).

No apologies for listing so much detail on the D4 - it’s the reason I asked to borrow the car, but still the S60 needs commenting on too. I really liked the first generation car and there’s a lot of them still on British roads. The current car was a step up in styling and quite a move forward in handling. It can’t compete with the BMW 3 Series but versus the admittedly aged but strong selling Audi A4 it performs strongly. For rear seat passengers especially, it’s a properly premium experience - like being in a CLS-Class. You’re more or less cocooned but without the lack of headroom that designers are often allowed to get away with. The old S60 was one of the worst offenders for that, and current CLA-Class still is.

What I also like is that Volvo keeps tweaking the S60. For example with the model year 2015 cars, you can specify 19-inch wheels which keep the same profile height as 18-inch ones, the benefit of course being no compromise in comfort. It’s also a clever way of clawing back some additional profit for company and dealers alike.

Interior tweaks for MY2015 extend to a so-called ‘Piano Black’ deco option, rotary ‘jewel-like’ knobs in the centre stack and a frameless rear-view mirror. Sensus Connect, the car’s infotainment system, has also been updated. This has new features such as cloud-based services which let you find and pay for parking from within the car, plus Volvo has caught up with the competition as SMS messages can now be read to you.

An app called Connected Service Booking is also new. In short, it means the car will not only tell the driver when a service is needed but it also suggests available appointment times at your dealership.

Looking at the future of the S60 model series, more Drive-E engines are without doubt on the way, and there might well be a second facelift in late 2015. The first update was subtle and came exactly three years after the car first appeared in production form at the 2010 Geneva motor show.

China’s special long wheelbase model, which is locally built, gains what might well be a Volvo world-first in the form of a plug-in petrol hybrid derivative. An insider also tells me it won’t use the clunky PPHEV suffix of the concept which debuted at last month’s AutoChina show in Beijing. I say might, as while production is due to commence at the Chengdu plant in January, the new made-in-Sweden XC90 will soon be announced and there will be a PHEV version of that one too. Will it be a diesel or a petrol? For the moment, Volvo isn’t saying and perhaps both will feature. That would mean diesel-electric for mainly Europe, and petrol-electric for the US and China.

Volvo is also maintaining silence on which models it will export from China but the S60L and/or its PHEV variant seem a fair bet. Vehicles will be shipped to the US "fairly quickly" VCC president and CEO Håkan Samuelsson told attendees at a conference in Detroit in January. Only the S60L and S80L are made in the PRC and the latter is almost at the end of its lifecycle, so it’s probable going to be the former, or perhaps the forthcoming XC60L or the future S90(L). I can’t imagine that European markets would want the PHEV petrol S60L but there seems no reason why certain other models - perhaps a hypothetical S40 to take on the Audi A3 saloon and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class - would be shipped to this region if they weren’t also being made in Sweden or Belgium.

The continued rise of Volvo’s Chinese manufacturing operations and local market sales is in step with a general comeback for the company. The latest numbers show global registrations up by 10.5% in April to 37,256 cars and up 9.7% to 145,426 units for the year to date. China was up by 39.7% and the number one market in April, with 6,581 registrations. Next came the home market with 5,602, then the US with 4,635. In fact, Sweden now leads what had once been Volvo’s number one market with 18,659 sales for the year to the end of April versus 18,333. The V60 has (finally) just gone on sale in North America so an extra model will be very welcome for VCNA’s long-suffering dealers who are still denied the V40 and all the company's diesel models.

Britain, long a Volvo stronghold, is in fact one of the best performers of 2014, beating even the 15.8% advance in Sweden. Here, sales shot up by 20% in April to 2,889 cars in a market up by eight percent. Its 12,798 total for the first four months represents a 12.96% gain compared to 12.54% for the overall market. Share has also improved just slightly to 1.48% (YtD) from 1.47%. Volvo should also be proud of another achievement: it now leads Mini, which has sold only 12,759 cars for the year to date. OK, BMW’s brand is suffering from a slow ramp up of the new three-door but nonetheless, Volvo is ahead. All figures, by the way, I have taken from the SMMT’s monthly by-brand sales chart.

The Volvo S60 D4 R-Design Nav press review car is priced at GBP30,895. Extra cost options include Sensus Connect with Premium Sound (GBP400), R-Design Leather (GBP500), a heated steering wheel (GBP200) and Volvo On Call (GBP550).