At first glance, one might think that Volvo’s new “Drive-E” powertrains mean that the Swedish carmaker is rolling out a fleet of pure electric vehicles. But that is not the case. In fact, the “E” in Drive-E stands for efficiency – as in better fuel mileage with fewer emissions — but not through the use of electrified motors.
Not yet, at least.
We went to the Nevada desert oasis of Las Vegas, which knows a thing or two about electricity, to learn about what Volvo calls its “60 cluster” of car models: the S60 sedan, V60 sport wagon and XC60 crossover, all of which in 2015 will feature a choice of two Drive-E engines with a dizzying array of all-wheel-drive and front-wheel drive choices and horsepower.
Here’s how Volvo explains it:
“Two gasoline Drive-E engines are offered in the United States, a 240 horsepower version and a higher performance 302 horsepower version. In the United States, Volvo will continue to offer its current lineup of AWD powertrains, along with DriveE, currently front drive only. As a result, U.S. customers can choose between the new engines and some current engines until Volvo transitions solely to DriveE. DriveE powertrains efficiently deliver performance that was once only thought possible with six or eight cylinders.
Those possibilities will further expand in the future when the Drive-E engines are teamed with electrification. The first model to offer this combination will be the all new Volvo XC90 plug-in
The smaller, lighter engines — by nearly 100 pounds on the higher performance engine — also offer considerably lower emissions and higher fuel economy savings (240 horsepower and 37 mpg highway) — ranging from 13 to 26 percent depending on the engine to which they are compared.”
So there you have it, the Drive-E powertrains are lighter, smaller and more efficient than previous Volvo engines, and are designed to be electrified in future models, with the XC90 plug-in hybrid coming first. For the 2015 “60 cluster” a T6 engine will offer a turbo only or turbo and supercharger to increase air flow through the engine, giving it 302 horsepower. The mechanically linked supercharger compressor starts to function immediately at low revs while the turbocharger kicks in when the airflow builds up.
Another Drive-E benefit is a new ECO+ fuel-saving function that when activated by the driver can improve fuel economy by five percent, depending on driving style, temperate and climate. ECO+ features a start/stop function, ECO coast that disengages the engine “brake” to enable the vehicle to coast at idle when the accelerator is released; and ECO climate that disconnects the air conditioning to reduce the energy load on the engine.
All of these Drive-E attributes translate into estimated fuel averages of up to 37 mpg on the highway (29 mpg combined) in the front-drive V60, which starts at $33,300.
Here’s how the entire “60 cluster” models line up:
Model MSRP City / Highway Combined
S60 T5 DriveE FWD $33,300 25 / 37 29
S60 T5 AWD $34,800 20 / 29 23
S60 T6 DriveE FWD $38,150 24 / 35 28
S60 T6 RDesign AWD $42,700 19 / 28 22
V60 T5 DriveE FWD $35,300 25 / 37 29
V60 T5 AWD $36,800 20 / 29 23
S60 T6 RDesign AWD $44,300 19 / 28 22
XC60 T5 DriveE FWD $35,750 24 / 31 27
XC60 3.2 AWD $37,250 18 / 25 20
XC60 T6 DriveE FWD $40,050 22 / 30 25
XC60 T6 AWD $41,550 17 / 24 20
S60 T6 RDesign AWD $45,800 17 / 24 20