Four. That’s the number of pistons you’ll find in all future Volvo engines, petrol and diesel. I don’t blame you for the puzzled look on your face – I had the same one when we first got the news during the trip to Nice in the south of France to attend the launch of Volvo’s Drive-E powertrains. And yes, they will be quick enough. That final question was answered while driving a Volvo S60 T6 fitted with the 225 kW forced-induction petrol engine.
Volvo, after they were acquired by Geely in 2010, decided it needed to develop its own powertrains. As this is an extremely expensive research and development project for a relatively small company like Volvo, reducing the engine layout derivatives across the range was key. As fuel efficiency and low emissions are crucial these days, the end result of the Volvo engine architecture (VEA) project was two downsized 2,0-litre four-cylinder engines: one petrol and one diesel. Even the bore and stroke of these engines are similar, which means they can be assembled on the same engine production line in Skövde, Sweden. The various power levels needed for the entire range are provided through different levels and methods of forced induction. Future electrification in the form of hybrids will increase the performance envelope even further.
The T6 turbopetrol engine
The T6 engine is the range-topping petrol unit delivering 225 kW and 400 N.m of torque. It’s thanks to both supercharging and turbocharging that these elevated figures are possible from the 2,0-litre unit (not dissimilar to Volkswagen’s approach with their 1,4-litre unit found in the Polo GTI). The supercharger is there to eliminate any response lag at low engine speeds where the larger turbo is not in its optimum boost range. A clutch disables the supercharger at idle and also when the engine speed passes 3 500 r/min to increase efficiency.
Performance in the S60
It was quite exciting to experience these engines first-hand. Thanks to the direct injection, pressing the S60’s starting button sparks the engine into a rough sounding idle. The faint supercharger wine is audible at lower revs, but is replaced by a turbo whoosh once you reach the upper regions of the engine speed. The muted four-cylinder engine sound is artificially enhanced in the cabin through the speaker system, which still doesn’t quite manage to stir the soul like a V6 or V8 soundtrack would. The power delivery is right up there though, and provides the S60 with decent shove given the size and weight of the car. The technology employed is impressive, but a tiny part of me still longs for a more free-revving unit in a fast saloon like this.
The new eight-speed transmission is of the conventional torque converter type. Under normal driving situations, it is very smooth and capable and never found wanting. When pushing on though, it is clear that it is not as responsive as a dual-clutch unit, even if you opt for the manual shift paddles behind the steering wheel.
The mountainous region behind Nice is a wonderful place to put a car through its paces. The problem in this case is that I was on these exact roads a while back with the Ford Focus ST. Therefore any comparisons are unfair as the bigger and heavier Volvo had no chance to handle like a hot hatch on these twisty bits of tarmac. The S60 still carries brisk pace through the bends if treated with care, but any over-zealousness with the loud pedal will coax it into safe understeer before the nannies cut the power.
The slight tweaks, inside and out, have managed to increase the perceived premium qualities of the model. On the outside, the biggest changes are on the grill up front and integrated tailpipes at the rear. Inside, the cluster has the same treatment as found on the V40 with three themes to choose from depending on intended driving style.
Volvo are to be congratulated for their braveness in opting for a single engine layout for its entire range of the future, and this might be a very clever decision with tough economic times to come. In the S60, the T6 engine acquaints itself well with the task at hand – providing excellent thrust without being overly racy. This fits in with the strong points of the vehicle – effortless and comfortable cruising. When driven with restraint, it even promises to return fuel consumption figures below 7,0-litres/ 100 km.
Model: Volvo S60 T6
Engine: 2,0-litre, four-cylinder petrol, super and turbocharged
Power: 225 kW at 5 700 r/min
Torque: 400 N.m at 2 100 – 4 500 r/min
Transmission: 8-speed auto
0-100 km/h: 5,9 seconds
Top speed: 230 km/h
Fuel consumption: 6,4 L/100 km
CO2: 149 g/km