Five years after being purchased by Geely, Volvo is well on its way to eliminating all remnants of previous owner Ford. The Swedish company recently announced its second Volvo-designed modular platform and is emphasizing its embrace of hybrid and electric powertrains. As Michael Fleiss, Volvo’s VP of powertrain R&D told us: “All future Volvo products can and will be electrified.”
The Volvo XC90 is the first drivable example of the firm’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) modular architecture (shown above in PHEV form), which very soon will spawn an S80-replacing large sedan called the S90. In the longer term, the platform will underpin new vehicles in the “60” family (S60, V60, XC60). The only fixed measurement in SPA vehicles is that between the dashboard and the front axle.
Now the company has detailed a new, smaller platform, called Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), that will be the basis of the next generation of its 40-series vehicles as well as some Geely products. The old S40abandoned our market in 2011, but CMA-based compact Volvos will return to the United States sometime in 2017. Like SPA vehicles (and MQB products from the Volkswagen Group), those riding on CMA underpinnings will have a fixed dash-to-axle length but will be extremely customizable in wheelbase, track width, and body size and shape. As we’ve previously reported, future Volvo engines will have no more than four cylinders.
Some future Volvos won’t have any cylinders at all. SPA and CMA were designed from the start to accommodate both hybrid and full-electric powertrains in addition to traditional gasoline and diesel engines. This reflects Volvo’s new focus on electrification. The company expects that by early next decade, at least 10 percent of its overall production will be plug-in hybrids. (This, executives say, will amount to roughly 80,000 vehicles globally each year.) It appears as though all SPA vehicles will be available with all-wheel drive; CMA cars all will be front-wheel drive, at least in the near term. SPA plug-in hybrids will have a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, 9.2 kWh of battery capacity, a 27-mile EV-only range, and an 87-hp electric motor; CMA PHEVs—which likely will carry T5 badges—will use a 1.5-liter three-cylinder in tandem with a 74-hp motor and a 9.7-kWh battery, for 31-plus miles of emissions-free driving. While SPA PHEVS utilize an eight-speed automatic transmission, CMA PHEVs will have an unusual seven-speed dual-clutch automatic setup, which in EV mode will use only the even-numbered gears. This may sound strange, but remember that most electric cars have single-speed transmissions. (Even in non-PHEV form, the CMA’s three-cylinder will develop close to 200 horsepower, we’re told.)
The upcoming XC90 T8 is the first Volvo hybrid that’ll be available on American shores, but in other markets, Volvo has sold diesel PHEVs since 2012 (the V60), and this year they released a Chinese-market, Chinese-built S60 hybrid. A fleet of 400 full-electric C30s began traversing (mostly European) roads in 2010. Volvo promises an SPA-based “high-performance, long-range, fully usable, quick-charging” electric car by 2019. What does “long-range” mean? 500 kilometers, or 310 miles.
We also experienced the first U.S.-market step in Volvo’s electrification plan—the plug-in-hybrid XC90 T8—and we found it to be well-behaved and powerful (not to mention great-looking, spacious, and comfortable, like all XC90s). The brakes are a bit grabby, especially when you initially push the pedal, but they’re no worse than most hybrids. Volvo says this is the “performance product” of the XC90 lineup, but it feels much more akin to a BMW X5 xDrive35i than an X5 50i, let alone an X5 M. Still, this is the most-powerful non-Polestar Volvo ever, and its so-called Twin Engine setup (there’s actually one gasoline engine and two electric drive motors, and none of them are twins) creates 400 horsepower in total. Its maker says the 5000-plus-pound SUV is good for a 5.3-second sprint to 60 mph.
Volvo considers our market to be the biggest for the XC90 T8, and we look forward to testing one on our home soil. The first T8s should reach U.S. dealers around Thanksgiving. No one knew quite what to expect when Volvo was sold to Geely, but the coming years look to be quite interesting for Sweden’s only remaining major car company.