Written by: Calvin Chan
Photography by: Calvin Chan
It's been a quiet few years at Volvo. Without a new model or any significant updates, the Swedes have managed to stray away from automotive headlines, well until now. They've started to pick up the pace this year with the unveiling of their all-new and much anticipated XC90. Also new for 2015 is Volvo's new lineup of Drive-E powertrains (E for efficiency). Developed and produced in Skövde, Sweden, these smaller, lighter, and more compact four-cylinder powerplants are promised to deliver the performance of a V6, but with the fuel consumption of a four.
We spent a solid week with the 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E, and to our amazement, the new powertrain was actually quite good. There are two Drive-E engines available, the T5 and T6, but don't let those trailing numbers confuse you as they only have four cylinders mated to an 8-speed automatic. The T5 engine gets direct injection and a turbocharger that spews out a total of 240 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Now the T6 engine is where it starts to get interesting. While the debate of turbocharging versus supercharging has been going on for decades, Volvo has taken the best of both worlds and married them together. The T6 gets a turbocharger with a supercharger, each mitigating the weakness of the other, to deliver a whopping 302 hp and 295 lb-ft. The fun fact is that despite the added weight from the forced induction, the T6 is still an incredibly light engine, one that is actually 45 kilograms lighter than the standard inline-six T6. So it's more compact, lighter, and more fuel-efficient. How does this play out on the road?
It's like a tag-team event. The supercharger eagerly kicks in at low RPMs to offer an instant surge at the get-go. In the mean time, the turbocharger is slowly spooling up, stretching and warming up if you will, to get ready to fight at the higher RPMs when the supercharger runs out of juice. In theory this could sound like a disastrous mess, but Volvo manages to make this tag-team transition seamless and it results in an incredibly broad torque curve. The belt-driven Eaton supercharger is a little noisy, but it's quick, blisteringly quick. Just one caveat - it's front wheel drive. The 302 horsepower is delivered through a creamy 8-speed automatic that drives only the front wheels (All-wheel drive is in the works but no word on when it will be launched). I haven't felt this much torque steer from a FWD vehicle in quite some time - 302 horsepower seemed like a bit too much for the front two wheels to handle on their own. In spite of that, the S60 maneuvered very well on the snow. There were no signs of understeer under light throttle and even when snow covered every inch of visible tarmac, the S60 digged and digged and always found ample traction.
Now they were right about the V6 performance, but not so much about the fuel economy. Volvo's numbers declare 10.1 L/100km in the city, 7.3 L/100km highway, and 8.9 L/100km combined. We managed an average of 10.9 L/100km. It's not a drastic outlier compared to the manufacturer's numbers and we still think it's more fuel efficient than a six cylinder, but it stands a firm average with other four-cylinders.
A new feature for the Drive-E models is the ECO+ mode with a dedicated button on the center stack. When turned on, it reduces the load on the engine by turning off the air conditioning, shifts the car into neutral when not using the throttle at higher speeds, and utilizes the START/STOP mechanism at 6.4 km/h rather than at 0 km/h. One letdown however was the latter. The START/STOP feature won't operate when it is too cold outside and only turns on when the engine is sufficiently warm and juiced up. In fact, I parked my car overnight outdoors in -15 degree weather, and the next morning the START/STOP would only begin to operate once I've completed my 20 minute commute. What's the point of it in the winter then unless you've got a heated garage?
Aside from the new engine, everything else is in typical Volvo fashion. From the rental silver paint that has no problems blending into traffic, to the flat-chested rear panels and bubbly front fascia - the design is conservative and antiseptic at its finest. I absolutely adore the 18-inch Titania Alloy wheels on our tester. They look sharp, distinctive, and expensive. And no matter how hard you look, you won't find any Drive-E badges around the car. The only clue that gives away the four-cylinder is the whine of the supercharger.
If you've read my previous Volvo reviews, you'd already know that the seats are worthy enough for a king's bottom and comfortable enough to consider buying one separately for your living room. One of my other favourite Volvo features is the ability to configure the weight of the steering - low, medium, high - to tailor to your driving preferences. I personally enjoy a heavy-weighted wheel. The car feels more connected to the road and communicates with more feedback with every inch of steering input. The rest of the cabin is same-old Volvo, not that there is anything to complain about. It is modern enough to impress, and subtle enough to sell.
The Drive-E powertrains were a risky move for Volvo, but they've managed to unify two kinds of forced induction into a coherent and flawless engine. The T6 Drive-E is rich and liquid in character, and provides electrifying acceleration while boasting decent fuel consumption numbers. Our T6 Drive-E tester starts at $43,100, which is in the thicket of mid-size luxury sedans. The T5 Drive-E on the other hand is the cheapest offering in the Volvo line-up (and the only Volvo that costs sub-40k) with a tag of $38,400. After spending a week with the T6 Drive-E, it's safe to say that the Swedes are headed in the right direction. With a new SUV and all-wheel-drive planned for their new pair of promising powertrains, Volvo, just keep the headlines coming.
型号 Model: 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E
顏色 Paint Type: Bright Silver
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $43,100
試車售價 Price as Tested: $51,950
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,776
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,635 / 1,865 / 1,484
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,658
引擎 Engine: 2.0L direct injected, turbocharged, and supercharged I-4
最大馬力 Horsepower: 302 hp @ 5,700 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 1800 - 5,500 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 8-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 10.1 / 7.3 / 8.9
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 235/40R18