Drive-E Powertrain Offers Volvo Drivers Efficient Performance at High Elevations

A test drive of a Volvo with the Drive-E powertrain up in the Rocky Mountains impressed an auto analyst for its powerful performance.

A Kelley Blue Book analyst has written about driving up in Vail, Colo., where he found that even with the 8,000 foot elevation and grade climbing, the Volvo car’s supercharged and turbocharged engines delivered a smooth ride and consistent performance. Vehicles with traditional engines tend hit the wall on mountain highways where the engine struggles to perform in the high altitude.

Introduced in 2013, Volvo’s Drive-E is currently offered across its lineup, badged as the “T5” (single turbocharger) and “T6” (supercharger and turbocharger). Twin Engine technology, with assist from an electric motor, further improves power output while lowering emissions and increasing fuel economy.

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Combining these powertrain technologies has been rare for automakers, but the advantages became clear while driving at a high elevation. Turbochargers reach their performance peak at higher RPMs through their exhaust driven design; while superchargers cover the other end of the scale, performing best at low RPMs due to their crankshaft driven design. Volvo is able to exploit the strengths of both systems for maximum torque and power.

Volvo Drive-E
It comes at a time when Volvo faces pressure in Europe, North America, and Asia, to improve efficiency and reduce emissions. That led Volvo to eliminate its larger, naturally aspirated, five- and six-cylinder engines.

Volvo has been pleased to report that the Drive-E four-cylinder power train has delivered a 35 percent increase in fuel efficiency. Lightening up the car has also helped efficiency, with the new powertrain 100 pounds lighter than its previous version.

The 2016 XC90 comes with a plug-in hybrid version of the Drive-E engine called the T8. There will be other Drive-E plug-in hybrids coming out soon, including the Volvo V90 cross country wagon.

Electrification allows Volvo to achieve even more, the company said on its U.S. website. “In Power mode the XC90 T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid accelerates from 0-62 mph in just 5.9 seconds, making it a true high-performance car,” Volvo said.

Forbes