Freed from the stifling bureaucracy of the now-defunct Ford Premiere Automotive Group, buoyed by Chinese money from its new parent company Geely, and no longer forced to use Ford’s components, Volvo is making full use of its newfound freedom to make up for lost time to reclaim its rightful place, and the all-new Volvo S90 shows it.
Younger readers might not associate Volvo with German premium brands, but there was a time when Volvo was the leading premium brand in many countries, including Malaysia.
The all-new 2016 S90 is the latest Volvo flagship model to be built on Volvo’s modular Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) – itself an example of Swedish ingenuity.
Volvo has elected to do an Internet-only reveal for now, as the car will only be making its global premiere at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in January.
Unlike the outgoing S80, this all-new S90 has no intentions of being the nice, humble Swedish guy at the corner of the room. Instead, the S90 is brash (who likens their car’s headlamps ‘Thor Hammer?!’), bold, and does not hide its intentions to push aside Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi.
Under the hood, there are enough technical innovations to warrant several separate posts on the powertrain alone, but we will try to summarise it all in a short and sweet manner.
Engines and Transmissions
There are five engines on offer – two diesels (D4 and D5), two petrol (T5 and T6), one petrol-electric plug-in hybrid (T8), all of them using class-leading innovations to extract more horsepower from the same amount of fuel than their German peers.
Similar to Mazda’s and BMW’s modular engine architecture, all these engines share a wide range of components, even among petrol and diesel engines, for optimal manufacturing efficiency. There are even produced on the same line at Volvo’s engine plants. Typically, diesel engines require a different, stronger block due to their higher compression ratio.
Volvo however, uses the same block for all their engines (all 2.0-litre capacity). Even the pistons are similar, with different machining of the piston’s top to accommodate different compression ratios.
Turbochargers, superchargers, electric compressors with compressed air boosting (more on that later), and bespoke engine management software are used to different one engine from another.
The entry S90 model is the T5 variant, which uses a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine.
The T6 adds twincharging – combining a supercharger with a turbocharger – a solution which the once mighty Volkswagen Group abandoned because of cost and manufacturing complexity. Below 3,500 rpm, T6 engine spins both the supercharger and turbocharger for optimal throttle response when exhaust pressure is low. Above 3,500 rpm, the supercharger is disengaged and only the turbo is active.
Both the T5 and T6 use a central mounted spark plugs and direct fuel injectors. Volvo says this central direct injection technique is able to achieve a homogenous air-fuel mixture, and is superior to conventional side mounted direct fuel injection solutions in reducing exhaust emissions (complies with Euro 6 and US LEV III standards).
The T5 engine has a 10.8:1 compression ratio, while the T6 is 10.3:1
Double water jacket reduces knocking, while the oil pump is actuated by solenoids, and is fully variable for friction reduction. The water pump is also electric (400W), allowing precise control of coolant flow for faster engine warm-up and reduced friction.
The 2.0-litre D4 diesel engine uses a two-stage, serial sequential turbo system for better throttle response and fuel efficiency.
The higher range D5 engine adds ‘PowerPulse technology, a world’s first solution that is its debut in the S90. The system works to reduce turbo lag even further by utilising compressed air to spin the turbo when exhaust pressure is not sufficiently high.
PowerPulse works by drawing air from the air filter via a compressor to a pressurised two-litre air tank. When accelerating from low speed, the PowerPulse feeds air into the exhaust manifold to drive the turbo. As the air is drawn from the air filter, the system recharges itself automatically.
Volvo claims the technology allows the S90 to out-accelerate many other competitor diesel-powered models.
There are two transmission options, depending on the engines selected – an 8-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual.
The 8-speed automatic is claimed to offer best-in-class efficiency, and is capable of handling very high torque despite its compact size. The seventh and eighth ratios are overdrive ratios. A lock-up system that uses either a pendulum damper (for diesel) or a super long travel damper (for petrol) allows the transmission to use its lock-up clutch more frequently, at lower engine speeds.
All-wheel drive models will use a Gen.5 Borg Warner coupling that is capable of transferring up to 50 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear axle. Full all-wheel drive mode is automatically engaged every time the vehicle accelerates away from standstill.
The T8 plug-in hybrid is similarly to the one used in the XC90. A 9.2 kWh Li-ion traction battery mounted in the middle of the car drives a 65 kW electric motor in the rear axle, making the S90 T8 an all-wheel drive car.
Like the all-new BMW 7-series, the S90 has a semi-autonomous Pilot Assist driving function that allows the car to drive itself at speeds of up to 130 km/h.
The system can be programmed to work at higher speeds, but for safety reasons, and to comply with regulations outlined in the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (the basis for most traffic regulations around the world), the driver still needs to hold the steering wheel.
Once the Pilot Assist detects that the driver’s hand is off the steering wheel (by way of missing torque application on the steering wheel), the system will disengage.
Like the all-new XC90, the S90 comes with City Safety autonomous emergency braking function. Unlike other systems, the one used by Volvo is able to detect cyclists and pedestrians, as well large animals.
More details when the all-new 2016 Volvo S90 makes its debut at the North American International Auto Show in January.