Volvo’s transformation continues from mild-mannered family conveyance to main-stream performance car with the roll-out of more Drive-E powertrains across the range. Specifically the V40; Volvo’s smallest and most agile model.
‘Drive-E’ is a completely different concept to the ‘DRIVe’-badged cars you might have seen fitted with Volvo’s 113bhp 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine. That was a purely eco-motor, frugal and efficient, but a long way short of being driver-focused.
The new Drive-E powertrain is the result of an $11 billion investment from parent company Zhejiang Geely Holding Group and replaces the company’s long-running five and six-cylinder engines with a new generation of four-cylinder units; a single architecture serves both petrol and common-rail diesel variants ranging from the 118bhp D2 right up to the 302bhp petrol T6.
We tested the 187bhp/400Nm D4 engine S60 and XC60 earlier this year, praising its class-leading balance between power and efficiency, while we’ve yet to sample a petrol variant built on the same architecture.
How do you like yours? Hot or piping-hot?
From May 2014, the V40 will be available with the new 187bhp Drive-E D4 engine, powering both hatch and V40 Cross Country versions. Even in diesel form the V40 is quick, not as fast as BMW’s mighty 125d (215bhp/450Nm, 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds) but the D4 still offers sub-7 second 0-62mph performance combined with 74.3 mpg and CO2 emissions of 99 g/km – that compares with 60.1 mpg and 124 g/km for the BMW.
But the headlines will be reserved for the petrol variants, specifically the 242bhp turbocharged T5 and the 302bhp “twin-charger” T6 fitted with both a supercharged and turbocharger.
Both are front-wheel drive and fitted as standard with Volvo’s new 8-speed automatic gearbox. Production of the D4 and T5 begins in September, while the T6 follows a little later.
So, for the time being the hottest V40 is the T5 – 242bhp, 258 lb-ft (350Nm) of torque with an extra 22 lb-ft (30Nm) available on overboost. This accelerates from 0-62mph in 6.0 seconds with a top speed of 149mph which compares more than favourably with established hot-hatches in its class.
Volkswagen’s 217bhp Golf GTI accelerates from 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds (with the optional six-speed DSG gearbox) while managing 47.1 mpg and CO2 emissions of 139 g/km, Volvo’s V40 T5 looks not only quicker on paper but also more frugal, with a combined fuel consumption of 47.9 mpg and CO2 emissions of 137 g/km.
You can see where Volvo are going. Volkswagen’s 296bhp Golf R is clearly within reach, so the 302 bhp V40 T6 looks like being the first sub-5 second Volvo in the company’s history.
If you’re a committed diesel driver there’s a hotter D5 on the way, with 227 bhp and a whopping 480 Nm (354 lb-ft) of torque, so the choice as they say is yours.
For the time being, Volvo’s AWD V40 Cross Country sticks with the 250 bhp five-cylinder T5 engine, but is available to order now with the new Drive-E D4 engine.