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Despite reducing the number of models available to US consumers in recent years, notably the compact S40 sedan and V50 Wagon, Volvo has now decided to reverse the trend somewhat by adding a T5 all-wheel drive version to its S60 line.
The new model will slot in between the front-drive S60 T5 (which currently stickers for $32,175) and the S60 T6 AWD ($39,325). Apart from utilizing Volvo’s Haldex all-wheel drive system, the T5 AWD model is mechanically almost identical to its front-drive counterpart, meaning that it’ll be powered by the same 250 horsepower, 2.5-liter blown five-cylinder motor.
And although its announcement at the Detroit Auto Show wasn’t huge news, the T5 AWD should at least give Volvo a chance at competing against AWD models of Audi and BMW’s volume sellers, the A4 Quattro and 328i xDrive.
[Source: Car & Driver]
We’ve already been given the scoop on Volvo‘s upcoming V60 Plug-in Hybrid, however, given the nature of that vehicle, it was hardly surprising that Europe was most definitely its target audience.
Considering that North American (and Chinese) buyers clearly have a strong preference for gasoline engined vehicles over diesels, as well as SUVs over wagons, Volvo has now announced that it will build an XC60 Plug-in Hybrid with a petrol engine for these markets, which will make its world debut at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit .
The news is particularly welcomed by US dealers, providing a much needed boost in the shape of a green “halo” vehicle, at a time when much of Volvo’s vehicle lineup is essentially marking time and (apart from volume sellers like the XC60 and S60) significantly new models are still a ways off.
The XC60 gas/electric Plug-in Hybrid will sport an electric motor producing 70 hp, along with a four-cylinder gasoline engine, resulting in a total power output of 350 hp. According to Volvo, this version will be able to travel a distance of up to 35 miles on electricity alone as well as delivering some 50 miles per gallon in Hybrid mode.
It also uses an innovative electric AWD system, with the gasoline engine powering the front wheels, while electric power can be fed to the rear wheels when accelerating or in low grip situations.
“A plug-in hybrid is the ideal eco-car for today’s conditions,” declared Volvo President and CEO Stefan Jacoby. “It gives a large proportion of motorists sufficient range on electricity for their daily commute. More than half of U.S. drivers cover less than 30 miles a day. With its three driving modes, the XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept also offers the owner a conventional model’s interior space, safety, performance and long range. It gives the driver uncompromising flexibility to cover every type of motoring need.”
Although deliveries of the European diesel/electric V60 Plug-In Hybrid are scheduled to begin late this year, so far there’s been no word on US availability of the XC60 Plug-In Hybrid, though it’s likely cars will be on dealer lots sometime during 2013.
GALLERY: Volvo XC60 Plug-in Hybrid
As automakers look at ways to improve vehicle fuel economy across the board, Volvo is taking steps by introducing stop/start technology on cars equipped with automatic transmissions, following on from its introduction in those equipped with manual gearboxes.
The technology will be incorporated on Volvo’s Euro market D3 2.0-liter turbo-diesel five-cylinder engine (shown above), and teamed with the company’s six-speed automatic. The result is expected to reduce fuel consumption by around 0.4 liters per 100 km, meaning that overall gas mileage will be around 5.6 l/100 km (42 miles per gallon) on most Volvos equipped with this powertrain.
Using stop/start in conjunction with an automatic is a tougher technology challenge, compared with manual gearboxes as the engine must shut off when the car comes to a halt and then immediately restart as soon as the driver hits the gas pedal (An electric pump is designed to keep fluid circulating inside the transmission while the engine is stopped).
“Continuously reducing CO2 emissions from conventional powertrains is an important part of our drive towards Zero emissions. It is the most effective way to cut CO2 throughout our model range in the short term,” declared Peter Mertens Volvo’s senior vice president of Research and Development. “This work is running parallel with our innovative focus on electrification technologies.”
Volvo will offer the D3 stop/start feature on the Euro market S60, V60, V70 and S80 flagship. No word on if, or when the technology will reach our shores.
Scary? Perhaps. But according to Volvo’s Senior Safety Engineer Thomas Broberg, the idea of a car train, where a lead vehicle sets the pace and speed and other cars communicate with it from behind will be a reality, at least on European roads by the end of the decade.
Broberg says that closed circuit tests have already proved successful with two cars working together in a car train format; Volvo says field trials are set to be conducted in Sweden later this year.
“Car trains allow a driver to use their time better, drive safer, reduce congestion and improve the environment,” the engineer said. “You’re always following another car, so why not let the driving be done by someone else?”
Broberg also believes that car trains are a further step towards fully autonomous cars but recognizes from a technical point of view, the concept is tremendously challenging, not mention legally and socially hard to swallow for most.
Yet Volvo is taking radical steps, setting a lofty goal of nobody dying in any of its cars by 2020, but says it “needs to understand the mechanisms about how people think,” in order to get there.
Broberg also believes that if Volvo could understand how people think in the seconds before an accident, it could potentially change accident situations from critical to non critical.
With more ambitious sales targets now in the works for Volvo, following its purchase by Chinese automaker Geely, the company has the potential to acquire more crash safety data from more of its cars in a shorter time period, speeding up research and development on future safety programs.
It’s no secret that Saab has been struggling since becoming ‘independent.’ The company, purchased from GM by Spyker last year has continued to face financial and supply problems, which has stunted production and resulted in sales falling far short of projected targets.
As a result, the company, in order to help pay for parts and get production rolling again, has been selling off company assets and or/ re-leasing them in some cases.
However, another issue concerns the outstanding loan given to Saab by the Swedish Government through the European Investment Bank. With the company facing a sizable number of obstacles, there are those who feel the chances of repaying back that money are questionable at best and some assurance is needed.
As a result, perhaps not surprisingly, the Swedish media has been circulating rumors that the government had been encouraging Volvo (now owned by China’s Geely Automotive) to acquire Saab in a possible takeover.
However, Volvo has now gone on the record, stating that no such talks have taken place and nor have any been planned for the future. In the meantime, Saab CEO Victor Mueller, is continuing to look for other sources to tap into for capital, including a number of Chinese automakers.
Back before the Spyker deal went through, Saab had been in talks with China’s BAIC, which had expressed interest in buying the Swedish automaker, lock, stock and barrel from GM. In the end BAIC simply acquired ‘old’ Saab assets, including all the production tooling for the outgoing 9-3. However, given the current situation at Saab itself, there might be a strong possibility that BAIC could get its hands on more than just former assets of the Swedish automaker.
It’s rare to hear about a recruitment drive these days, but Volvo Car Corporation is in the process of hiring up to 1200 new people over the next 12 months.
Most of the new hiring will be in the company’s Research & Development arm, as Volvo pushes forward with advanced powertrain technology in an effort to save fuel consumption on its upcoming vehicles, such as plug-in Hybrids . Other hires will be in areas such as IT; marketing and purchasing, with a few in manufacturing.
Volvo has seen its sales grow in recent months; up by some 11.6 percent versus 2009; spurring increased vehicle production at its manufacturing plants in Ghent; Belgium and Torslanda; Sweden.
“We need to expand our operations to enable development of the highly competitive and fuel efficient products and technologies which are part of our growth plan”, declared Volvo’s President and CEO Stefan Jacoby in reference to the recruitment drive.
[Source: Volvo Car Corporation]