Currently reading: Volvo targets Mercedes, Audi and VW with 444bhp four-cylinder engine
Future high-performance Polestar-badged models from the Swedish manufacturer could make use of experimental new 'triple-charged' unit
Matt Burt
3 mins read
2 December 2014

Volvo’s R&D boss Peter Mertens is confident that the company’s experimental 444bhp triple-charged four-cylinder engine has a future in high-performance production models.

Having unveiled the most powerful version yet of its new 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, Drive-E engine line-up in October, the Swedes have now installed the system in a Volvo S60 Drive-E for further assessment.

The technology – called Drive-E High Performance Concept by Volvo – combines two turbochargers with an electrical ‘e-booster’ to provide a strong power output throughout the rev range.

The ‘e-booster’ is used to spool up the turbochargers when the engine is running at low revs, dramatically reducing turbo lag and enhancing off-boost performance. As well as 444bhp, the engine possesses peak torque of 369lb ft. By comparison the most powerful standard variant in the Drive-E engine family currently produces 304bhp and 295lb ft.

Mertens said the engine could be a natural fit in Volvo’s Polestar performance models in years to come: “We haven’t yet decided whether we will bring it into production, but speaking as the boss of research and development my personal opinion is ‘of course we are’. It would be a pity if we did not. Assume that it was one of the next-generation of Polestar engines. Wouldn’t that be a nice solution?”

Should Volvo build a road-ready version of the Drive-E High Performance Concept, it could set new standards for specific output from a two-litre, four-cylinder mass production engine. The 355bhp unit in the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG currently sets the pace, although that car is likely to be usurped when the Volkswagen Golf R400 reaches production with its anticipated 395bhp.

Volvo chiefs admit that it is partly the performance of such engines from its rivals that motivated them to embark on the High-Performance Concept.

“We saw that Mercedes had got 360ps,” said Michael Fleiss, boss of the powertrain department. “I thought, ‘wait a minute, we are the best at developing two-litre engines, so we have to do more’. Then VW and Audi showed that 395ps [in the Golf R400] and 420ps [in the Sport Quattro] is possible. 

“So then we started to think about doing an engine with 450ps, just because we can do it. At Volvo we love a challenge.”

The unit is based around Volvo’s standard VEP engine architecture, but has a lower compression ratio, reinforced conrods and stiffer valve springs.

It also features additional measures to improve the cooling and lubrication systems and the new petrol unit is also supplemented by a fuel pump develop in conjunction with Denso that runs at an unusually high 250-bar pressure, up from the standard engine's 200 bar. The size of the fuel injectors has increased from 20cc to 25cc. “It’s a unique system but reliable,” says Fleiss.


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Volvo engineers claim that this new forced-induction set-up “enables a very dynamic drivability without any turbo lag.” The company's suppliers AVL, Denso and Volvo Polestar Racing have all been involved in the system’s development, while the e-booster has been sourced from Valeo.

Mertens said: “When we launched the Drive-E powertrain family, our aim was to deliver the most advanced four-cylinder engines in the industry based on emissions and fuel consumption relative to performance and drivability. The 444bhp High Performance Drive-E Powertrain Concept demonstrates this ambition and the versatility of the Drive-E powertrains.

“It may sound odd, but this 444bhp powertrain concept is an important part of the Drive-E development program. Down-sizing must offer customers attractive and usable power for broad scale emissions reduction to work. Compact powertrains also free up space and weight in the structure of the car, which can be used for electrification and even further emissions reduction. And that is our ultimate ambition."

Other manufacturers have been experimenting with variations on the e-booster theme, including Audi, which plans to bring its system to market on a high-performance ‘S’ version of the next Q7 SUV in 2016.

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7 October 2014
GET IT IN A SMALL SPORTS CAR NOW!! Lotus get on the blower and beg to Volvo to let you use them!

7 October 2014
....imagine what they could do if they follow their downsizing plan;
1.2's producing around 260BHP or even an easy 200 in a less stressed state of tune. Things could get interesting with this engine format.

7 October 2014
What with their current class leading diesel engines as well Volvo have got some real bright sparks over at engine development, I hope they pay them enough to keep them out of their competitors hands.


7 October 2014
With manufacturers finally taking the idea of downsizing seriously, the end of series built 6 and 8 cylinder engines is in sight. This can only help to reduce emissions, and also lower the overall weight of today's cars. I remember the days when people longed for production engines to produce 100bhp per litre, now 250 doesn't seem so far away.............

7 October 2014
Do you really think this is the way to go? I hardly doubt that 444 bhp 4 cyl will get better mileage than 8 cyl but it will surely be less reliable, worse to drive and with lacking decent engine note. And talking about emissions... Have you heard of particulates?

11 October 2014
XTad wrote:

Do you really think this is the way to go? I hardly doubt that 444 bhp 4 cyl will get better mileage than 8 cyl but it will surely be less reliable, worse to drive and with lacking decent engine note. And talking about emissions... Have you heard of particulates?

on what basis are you making the supposition that a 4 cylinder petrol engine emits more particulates than an 8 cylinder one? or did your bias simply blind you to the word petrol in the article? i presume that you did bother to read it.


3 December 2014
XTad wrote:

... I hardly doubt that 444 bhp 4 cyl will get better mileage than 8 cyl but it will surely be less reliable, worse to drive and with lacking decent engine note. ...

The main issue with large output engines is that most of the time they are producing low outputs. At 400hp output the specific fuel consumption is more or less going to be the same across engines (the turbo will be extracting exhaust energy and so will be more efficient than a non-turbo at that output). But at 50hp output the extra weight and friction in the bigger engines will take a toll. Which is why no-one builds an enthusiast's 12-cylinder 2 litre petrol these days...

7 October 2014
As long as the service intervals aren't every 1.5 miles and the real world emissions and fuel economy are better than a larger engine it's got to be a game changer.

7 October 2014
That's an impressive number of horses from a 2L engine. This sort of horse-power-to-capacity ratio has been unheard of in production models. If the economy translates into real life and stress issues can be sorted out then it's a great development.
This engine with this output can be used in pretty much everything that Volvo has on offer, from a high performance V40 to their new XC90. Coupled with a mild hybrid system this should be able to beat the increasingly stringent emissions controls.

7 October 2014
Makes you wonder , just like the reports of stop start reducing engine life .


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