Volvo Expands AWD Offerings

The auto maker improves its all-wheel drive system, mating it to an inline 5-cyl. engine on the S60 4-door coupe.

Steve Finlay, Senior Editor

August 6, 2012

3 Min Read
AWD now on Volvo S60 T5
AWD now on Volvo S60 T5.

PARK CITY, UT – Volvo introduces a fifth-generation version of its all-wheel- drive system, and offers it on yet another model.

For the first time, AWD is available on the S60 4-door coupe with a T5 2.5L 5-cyl. turbocharged engine. It is a $2,000 option on the car that starts at $31,750.

AWD is offered on several other Volvos, including the S60 with the larger T6 inline 6-cyl. engine. It was a Ward’s 10 Best Engines winner in 2011.

“We expect AWD with the T5 will lift sales 20% for the S60,” says Frank Vacca, Volvo brand manager. AWD on a volume model at an entry-price point, “is a really big deal for us.”

He sees the S60 with the T5 as directly competing against the Audi A4 Quattro.

Several auto makers, particularly international brands, have expanded their AWD offerings of late. That includes BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti and Lexus. Subaru staked a name for itself by switching its entire lineup to AWD in the 1990s.

The system is particularly popular in snowbelt regions, where drivers want the extra traction it provides during slippery road conditions.

In some northern states, more than 75% of S60 buyers opt for AWD. “By offering AWD with the T5, we are responding to customer demand,” Vacca says.

But in sunbelt states, as well as California, Nevada and Arizona, the AWD take rate is below 25%. “A lot of people in southern markets feel they don’t need AWD,” John Maloney, president of Volvo’s U.S. unit, tells WardsAuto.

AWD transfers different degrees of power to the front and rear axles depending on road conditions. All tires are engaged, helping the car stay stable despite tricky driving conditions.

Vacca touts Volvo’s updated electronically controlled Haldex AWD system as smaller and 4.4 lbs. (1.9 kg) lighter than its predecessor, “while still retaining all the functionality.”

Improvements for the S60 T5’s standard front-wheel-drive engine include increasing the compression ratio from 9.0:1 to 9.5:1 and hiking turbo boost 15%. That provides quicker acceleration of 0-60 mph (96.5 km/h) in 6.4 seconds compared with 6.8 seconds before the engine upgrades.

When equipped with optional AWD, the T5 is clocked at 0-60 mph in 6.6 seconds. Output continues at 250 hp and 266 lb.-ft. (360 Nm) of torque.

At take off, there is a 50/50 torque split between the front and rear axles. Under ideal driving conditions, the split is 95% front and 5% rear, helping fuel efficiency.

Combined T5 fuel economy is 24 mpg (9.8L/100 km) for FWD and 23 mpg (10.3L/100 km) for AWD.

Five-cylinder inline engines are relatively uncommon. Most auto makers offer four, six and eight.

Volvo has offered 5-cyl. engines since 1991. “Our engineers are very comfortable with them,” Vacca says. But 4 cyl.-engines will replace them within two years, he tells WardsAuto.

The S60 is Volvo’s best seller, with deliveries of 21,282 units last year in the U.S., according to WardsAuto data. That is 2.1% market share of the lower-luxury segment.

Vacca calls the car “a fantastic success story.” Maloney says the S60s main cross-shopped competitor is the Audi A4. The segment leader is the BMW 3-Series with 94,371 deliveries in the U.S. last year.

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