Volvo’s decision to sweep away the eight engine configurations that it currently uses and replace them with a single four-cylinder architecture (sub-divided into diesel and petrol variants) is intriguing – and worthy, we think, of a closer look.
Strategically, it means that the comparatively small Swedish (but Chinese-owned) firm, which has always claimed to represent an alternative to the big premium German manufacturers and the compact Jaguar XE, must now fight its corner without the prestige – and profit – derived from larger engines.
If Volvo did not have much of a stake there to lose, it has chosen to bet the farm on overcoming its rivals in an extraordinarily competitive class.
Volvo has a proud history of building petrol engines, but its experience with diesels – beyond the heavy-duty industrial kind built by Volvo Powertrain – is more recent.
This practice was halted in 2001 by the 2.4-litre five-cylinder diesel developed by Volvo itself – one of the units now made obsolete by its four-cylinder replacement.