2015 Volvo S60: Preview Drive

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Zooming upward on a ribbon of road, along a cliff wall, between tight hairpin curves and breathtaking views in the mountains of Southern France, I goose the accelerator from about 2,000 rpm and hear a series of sounds that’s entirely foreign, especially in a Volvo: the wail and whine of a supercharger, overcome as the revs rise by a throaty four-cylinder note that’s then interrupted by the faintest wastegate sounds as I lift off, and click the steering-wheel paddle shifter with my left hand before the next hairpin.

What we’re experiencing is the first of a completely new generation of Drive-E engines designed and built by Volvo (in Sweden); and over the long term, if they prove as strong, smooth, and versatile as what we sampled—and as fuel-efficient as Volvo hopes—it could make the brand more a viable contender against the likes of the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz CLA (as well as anticipated rivals like the upcoming Acura TLX).

Before you get too excited, we need to attach an asterisk to this. Okay, several. This new engine won’t be offered until early next year, likely on early 2015 models; and for now it’s only offered with front-wheel drive.

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

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

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As part of a plan to phase out all of Volvo’s existing in-line five- and six-cylinder engines, which have served Volvo well but date back to the early 1990s, the new super-turbo-charged engine makes a lot of sense, from the standpoint of maximizing performance with miles per gallon in mind. It allows Volvo to bulk up the low-rev torque to six-cylinder levels without moving to a larger turbocharger—which would have made the engine thirstier all the time, say engineers. The supercharger has its effect up to about 3,500 rpm, and like a cross-fade on a mixing board, the turbocharger’s boost is by then coming on strong.

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While that engine, making 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet, is slated to be the top T6 engine for many of Volvo’s models, like the S60, XC60, and soon-to-arrive V60 wagon, the mainstream T5 engine will be a 240-hp gasoline four that’s merely turbocharged (not supercharged) but has a short-duration overboost mode providing 280 lb-ft of torque (258 lb-ft otherwise).

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