Pretoria - Volvo prides itself on its planet-friendly 'Drive-E' approach to automotive engineering, both in the cars themselves and in the way they're made - but that sort of technology is usually expensive.
So the sensible Swedes have gone back to the oldest engineering precept of all, the Kiss Principle: Keep it sweet and simple. They're replacing no fewer that eight existing four, five and six-cylinder engines, across three platforms, with just three new super-efficient two-litre fours (two petrol, one diesel), each built on the same basic architecture and sharing a lot of components.
Volvo says these engines - designed and developed in-house at Gothenburg, and built at its high-tech engine plant in Skövde - can be tuned to suit the needs of the entire range, from the V40 hatchback to the future XC90 SUV.
And two of those engines - the Drive-E D4 diesel and T5 petrol - are already available here in South Africa across the '60' range: the S60 sedan, V60 sportswagon and XC60 SUV.
The top-of-the-range T6 Drive-E petrol engine, delivering 225kW and taking the S60 from 0-100km/h in less than six seconds at a quoted cost of just 6.4 litres per 100km and 149 g/km of CO2, will follow at a later stage.
HOW'D THEY DO THAT?
The D4 two-litre biturbo diesel uses what Volvo claims is a world first system call i-Art, which combines a super-high pressure (2500 bar!) common-rail fuel system with a small computer and pressure sensor on the top of each injector, making it possible to continuously monitor and adapt fuel injection per combustion, in each of the four cylinders.
The self-adjusting i-Art system makes sure that the ideal amount of fuel is injected during each combustion cycle, reducing fuel-consumption, emission and the characteristic diesel clatter.
The 180kW T5 turbopetrol four returns a quoted 5.9 litres per 100km and 137 g/km of CO2 in the S60 sedan, while the T6 engine has both a supercharger and a turbocharger. Using the supercharger to fill in the bottom-end torque gives the petrol engine a big, naturally aspirated feel. The mechanically linked compressor starts to function immediately at low revs, while the turbocharger kicks in when the airflow builds up.
All the Drive-E engines have friction-reducing ball bearings on the camshafts, high-speed continuously variable valve timing and intelligent heat management with a fully variable electric water pump.
They're teamed either with a new eight-speed automatic gearbox or an enhanced six-speed manual, each tuned for reduced fuel-consumption.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE…
The new Drive-E engines were designed from the start to be used in future hybrid and plug-in hybrid models.
Key components, such as the integrated starter-generator, can be bolted straight on and the compact size of the four-cylinder engines means that the electric motor can be fitted either in-unit at the front of the car or on the back axle for a hybrid all-wheel drive power-train rear of the vehicle.
COMING SOON TO A VOLVO DEALER NEAR YOU
The S60, V60 and XC60 with D4 and T5 Drive-E engines are already available in South Africa.
The S60, V60 and XC60 with T6 engines will follow late in 2014.
The V40 T5 will be released in July 2014, with the V40 D4 to follow at the end of 2014.
The rest of the Drive-E engine variants will be phased in across the Volvo range during 2015 and 2016.