A Small Engine With Big Power

With compactness comes strength
Bruce Benedict

Carmakers have long followed a simple rule: To increase power, make the engine block bigger. Volvo is doing the opposite. It’s phasing out five- and six-cylinder engines in favor of four-cylinder ones that are nearly 100 pounds lighter yet produce the same horsepower. The Drive-E is one such engine and is available in the S60 sedan now.

To overcome the inherent power deficit, engineers did something unusual: They added a turbocharger and a supercharger. The supercharger kicks in immediately to add power at low speeds, where most small engines feel weak. This buys time for the turbocharger to engage once the engine revs up. The system is part of a larger trend among many U.S. automakers that promises to make internal combustion engines more efficient, since, like it or not, gas-powered blocks aren’t going away anytime soon.

2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E

Horsepower: 302

Fuel economy: 24 mpg city/35 mpg, highway/28 mpg combined

Price: $38,150

Other Car News You Should Care About

  1. With help from Waste Services of the Bluegrass, Toyota developed a method to convert gas released by landfills into electricity to power its Kentucky plant. When the system goes live in 2015, it will generate enough energy to run about 800 homes.

  2. Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg is using 3-D–printed parts to optimize its multimillion-dollar Agera One:1. The printed titanium exhaust end piece, for example, is now a single unit that’s one pound lighter than the prior version.

  3. Later this year, Ferrari, Honda, and Mercedes will be among the first automakers to roll out Apple’s CarPlay in-dash system. CarPlay integrates iPhone apps—messages, music, and maps—into a car’s display and incorporates Siri voice control.

  4. In April, Audi launched a unique car-sharing pilot program in Berlin. Customers can switch among three different models a year—say, a hatchback, a roadster, and a crossover SUV—for one monthly lease rate.

This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Popular Science.