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 Jaguar's first small compact exec in the 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.