2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E Platinum
Change is a-comin’.
You may be forgiven for passing over the S60 you see here as just another Volvo, albeit one with a healthy level of optional equipment in Platinum trim. The ordinary vehicle you see here is actually much more than that; it packs some serious tech under the hood, thus making it a harbinger of the sorts of things to come from Volvo in the future. The Swedes are betting the farm on new engine technologies that promise to deliver the efficiency we expect nowadays while prolonging the weaning of our long built up dependency on the instant gratification of power afforded by larger sized mills.
How do they aim to do this, you ask? A serious weight reduction regimen? Diesel engines? None of the above. Volvo is heading down a decidedly more complex road to achieve their goals, and their new “Drive-E” engines will be small displacement four cylinders with artificial aspiration. In the case of our T6 tester, our 2.0 lump under the hood was a double pumper, meaning it possesses a turbocharger as well as a supercharger. The supercharger fortifies the engine with good low end response, and above 3,500 rpm the turbo takes over. It’s all completely transparent, but more on that in a moment.
- Drive-E engines offer big power in a small package
- 8-speed automatic is much improved over the old 6-speed
- Typical Volvo comfort and safety
- Naming strategy is confusing; where’s the Drive-E badge?
- Wooden brake feel
- Can easily overshoot mileage targets if you get into the boost
- The Drive-E family of engines promise a bright future for Volvo, and will become better as the years go by
Even Volvo cognoscenti (assuming that’s a thing), will have to go back to school if they’re ever going to understand the brand’s evolving naming strategy. Here’s what we mean: the two Drive-E engines in their various state of tune will continue to wear T5 and T6 badging, although rest assured they’re packing 4 pistons, not the 5 or 6 as suggested. The T5 designation means your Drive-E powerplant is augmented by a turbo only, and it’s able to churn out a competitive 250 horsepower. Throwing a supercharger into the mix nets you 302 horses and 295 lbs/ft. of torque. The whole Drive-E program is pretty modest; there are exactly zero badges or indicators to tell your fellow motorists how much you embrace innovative technologies.
All this adds up to a small four cylinder that punches far above its weight. Volvo isn’t done with this concept, and promises that hybridized versions due out in the future will be able to summon as much power as a V8. It’s welcome, then, that the details have been sweated and the engine exhibits a remarkable amount of polish. For example, observe the idle quality on a cold morning. Most direct injection engines sound like diesels as they come up to operating temperature (I’m looking at you, BMW N20) but not the Drive-E- it simply fired up and settled into a calm, quiet idle. And you get robust power matter where the tachometer’s needle happens to be, and the whole experience is never harsh, even if the soundtrack is somewhat uninspiring. Volvo engineers achieved what they were looking for here- a small engine that ostensibly subs in for a bigger one- but like any folks upset about their real world consumption, remember the phrase “your mileage may vary”. I was a bit upset to only achieve 11.6L/100km, but that’s not too bad for a week spent mostly in the cut and thrust of urban traffic. There is a stop/start system as standard kit and an Eco mode that will coach you on the best way to wring every last ounce of energy from a drop of gasoline, but I found that using good planning and disciplined throttle openings netted similar or better fuel economy numbers.
Also new for the Drive-E stable of models is an 8-speed transmission. There are paddles, but no rev-matched downshifts, so those with a particularly sporting bent shouldn’t get too excited. The transmission’s greatest trick is how well it’s suited to the twin-charged engine- any lapses in power delivery and response from under the hood are smoothed out by closely spaced, well-chosen gear ratios.
The future looks bright indeed- we look forward to see how the Drive-E tech evolves over the next few years.
2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E Platinum- Specifications
Price as tested: $53,750
Body Type: 5-door, 5 passenger Sedan
Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
Engine: 2.0 litre inline-4, turbocharged and supercharged, DOHC, 16 valves
Horsepower: 302 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque (lbs-ft.): 295 @ 1,800-5,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: 1,658 kg (3,655 lbs.)
Observed Fuel Consumption: 11.6L/100 km (20 mpg)