Back on solid ground

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There are times when you look around and suddenly find yourself in a more intimate relationship than you actually imagined possible or necessary. And such it is with Volvo’s new Drive-E powertrain plan and my good self. Like strangers on a train in the night, we’re getting pretty tight. The windows in the cabin aren’t steaming up or anything, but you get my drift.

With a quiet mega-infusion of US$11bn (a strange quietness that perhaps only Swedish and Chinese industrialists can pull off) from majority stakeholder Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, Volvo seems to be on a solid new path to technological independence from its legacy Ford Premier Automotive Group ties of yore. To me, the era of when the Blue Oval was going to rule the premium car world now seems light years away.

Remember how pleased we all were with the Volvo-spec and Yamaha-built B8444S 4.4-liter V8 engine that was shipped to and finished off at the Volvo plant in Skövde? Toast. The Ford legacy in-line T5 and T6 motors? Burnt toast – or at least they will be very soon.

Like VW Group has wisely done with its modified 2-liter gasoline and diesel in-line-four families in conjunction with the MQB transverse modular architecture, Volvo is doing the same comprehensive overhaul with a range of Drive-E 2-liter gasoline and diesel motors to be mounted in the all-new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). But Volvo is going even further because it can do so seeing as its product line-up is nowhere near as complex as that within VW Group. The result will be that every single Volvo product by late 2016 will

ride on SPA underpinnings and be powered by some calibration of 2-liter in-line-four Drive-E engines.

This is such ecstatically good news for the suffering Swedes on so many levels. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Swedish government and public are now feeling quite sheepish when they think back on their zeal to destroy the Swedish motoring industry during the heart of the global great recession. They were cock-sure about just letting both Saab and Volvo Cars slide into the bottomless sea. This is why I have inadvertently become quite close with SPA and Drive-E within Volvo; I love great decision making exactly when this is all that can save a situation.

Talking with Volvo’s intensely clearheaded R&D engine guru Derek Crabb, one feels the new moxie in the Gothenburg air. This strategy looks down the road a good 10 years or more when – mark my little words, folks – every single major automotive company will be under pressure to execute exactly what both VW Group and Volvo-Geely have pulled off.

What about limiting bigger models to this 2-liter strategy? Won’t the popular XC90 SUV and great-sedan-still-in-search-of-an-audience S80 suffer when compared on paper with certain German and Japanese competitors still hauling around macho sixes and eights? Well, the current top-rated Drive-E T6 gasoline motor hits 306ps and 400Nm thanks to a twincharger setup – Eaton supercharger and 23.2psi BorgWarner turbocharger. And the modular systems are already prepared to seamlessly incorporate variously power-rated electric motors and lithium-ion battery sets.

Those obsessed with engine cylinder capacity would be wise to hoard now because the sixes and eights are vanishing like glaciers into the Baltic.

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