Volvo V70 D4 first drive

Volvo V70 D4 Highlight of the 2014 model year great estate – the Volvo V70 and other models in the brand’s range – is the new 2.0-litre Drive E, D4 turbodiesel engine.


This is the first of a totally new range of four cylinder direct injection petrol and high pressure common-rail turbodiesel 2.0-litre Euro 6 compliant engines which will replace eight current engines by the end of 2015, including their long standing five-cylinder units.

Launched only recently the 2.0-litre D4 turbodiesel unit currently has UK customer order to delivery times of four months, double that of any other engine in their range.

Drive E diesel units will cover the power output ranges from 120 to 230bhp and the petrol versions from 140 to over 300bhp. Although I tried the first of the engines, the 181bhp turbodiesel with the new eight-speed automatic transmission in the long serving and weighty V70 estate, it is also available in some of Volvo’s other models – the S60, V60 XC60 FWD (front wheel drive), XC 70 FWD and S80. The V40 range D4 models follow later this year.

Why the sudden demand for the new Volvo engine? Well Volvo, now owned by Geely the Chinese automotive group, have soldiered on with long-in-the-tooth models and engines for several years following their departure from the ‘House of Ford’ until Geely took the reigns in financial investment terms. Whilst there have been some new models such as the S60/V60 most models are long-serving. With the new requirement for Euro 6 power units development of the new lower emission Drive E series has been their priority. This family of new engines has been developed in house by Volvo-Cars at their engine plant in Sweden.

Volvo V70 D4 Volvo V70 D4 Volvo V70 D4 The new Drive E engines feature Volvo’s i-Art technology to lower emissions, improve fuel economy and improve driveability. It’s the same process but using a different name being implemented by all manufacturers as Euro 6 legislation looms. Compared to their previous turbodiesel engines fuel and CO2 savings range from 10 to 30% and the weight saving of using a compact four cylinder engine design ranges from 30 to 50kg. The lowering of CO2 tax gathering emissions for the UK market will be of significant interest to company car drivers and fleet operators as Volvo strives to increase its competiveness against the German premium brands of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz as well as the petrol/hybrid models offered by Lexus.

Depending on which model range the new 2.0-litre Drive E turbodiesel engine is used in CO2 emissions can be as low as 99g/km and even in the heavyweight V70 estate they are only 113g/km for the six-speed manual version and 117g/km for the new eight-speed automatic. This means VED road tax is £0 cost for the First Year rate and then only £30 for subsequent years. Company car drivers will pay 18% for the manual model and 19% for the auto models.

The technology used in this new generation of Drive E engines includes aluminium construction, four valves per cylinder operated by twin camshafts, twin turbos and a Denso direct injection system with up to 2,500bar pressure compared to most existing systems which operates at 1,800 bar. The injection system has the capacity to deliver up to nine injections per work cycle of each piston as demands for more or less power is placed upon the engine. The D4 engine has a two stage turbocharging system using Borg-Warner units. A small turbo operates at low engine speeds before a larger unit comes into play to build up power and torque quickly with minimal turbo-lag and also gives a wider and longer torque curve. Other improvements include the reduction of frictions within the engine, thinner synthetic engine oil, heat management to warm the engine up quicker, high pressure variable spray nozzle injectors and a lean NOx trap exhaust filter is fitted as part of the Euro 6 clean-up requirements. None of this technology is radically new; it’s just further refining the engineering process.

The gear ratios for the six-speed manual or eight-speed auto transmissions are matched to the engine’s high torque output and wide power band. The power output is a healthy 181bhp but the torque is a high 400Nm (295lb ft) from 1,750rpm. Now this in real-life terms for the automatic version I tested meant just 1,500rpm was used in eighth gear to maintain 70mph motorway cruising and 2,000rpm produced 85mph. The engine is red-lined at 5,000rpm so at motorway cruising speeds it is not only relaxed but it is using significantly less revs and therefore less fuel.

This was shown on my test drive where the heavy-weight V70 five seater large estate always returned a shade over 52mpg on motorways but with some country road and town driving this dropped the average down to 46.7mpg. This for an estate of the V70’s size and weight was impressive but way down on the official Combined Cycle figure of 62.8mpg.

Down-sizing the engine in such a large car which weighs nearly 2.3-tonnes hasn’t noticeably dulled the performance or response either. The top speed is 137mph and zero to 62mph takes 8.6 seconds which is impressive and a very good example of how new generation down-sizing in engine terms really has lots of benefits and very few negatives. The Drive E technology certainly works with the added benefit of smoothness, responsiveness and relatively quiet operation and it is pretty close to the refinement provided by the petrol/hybrid units from Lexus which speaks ‘volumes’ for it.

Some of that refinement will be down to the V70 itself. This is a relatively old and solid Volvo which absorbs noise and vibrations due to its steel construction. Many new cars, to reduce weight, use a combination of cast aluminium components, lightweight steel and composite plastic panels, none of which are as capable of absorbing vibrations and noise as steel does. Cast aluminium used in the suspension and other components in lightweight new models is very rigid and transmits noise and vibrations. This is the reason we feel bumps and potholes more often than we should and of course the fashion for fitting big wheels with hard riding low profile tyres doesn’t help. The Volvo V70 is more old-school in construction from an era when motoring refinement and comfort was a priority.

Volvo V70 D4 Volvo V70 D4 Volvo V70 D4 This could be the last generation of the boxy but roomy and practical estates Volvo has been famous for. The latest V60 estate is Volvo’s new way forward, sleek in style but not as practical as the V70. Volvo’s new Concept Estate debuted at the Geneva motor show shows the brand is departing from its traditional family estates to a shooting brake type of design with coupe overtones. It’s a drive more suited to fashion over function and will move even more long time Volvo estate owners into practical SUV 2/4WD models.

The latest V70 though fortunately still has much to offer. Its big, its roomy, its comfortable, it looks classy inside and out and now with the new 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine it’s fuel and tax efficient, the engine is more refined and it is responsive when it needs to be and relaxed whilst cruising.

The latest tweaks to styling and additional items of specification include a wider grille, daytime running lights, redesigned rear bumper and added chrome touches give it a more up-market premium brand appearance. The detailed changes make it looks wider with a lower stance on the road. It is imposing without being old fashioned. Inside there has been a general smartening up with all the controls easy and logical to use and it’s roomy for five adults and their luggage and of course the family dog. The rear seats can be folded down in three 40/20/40 segments. With all rear seats in use the boot space is 575-litres, with them folded this goes up to a cavernous 1,600-litres. The tailgate is power-operated by using the key fob or a switch on the dashboard. There is even a heated steering wheel option plus other convenience functions such as heated front seats and the latest Volvo Sensus connectivity system which turns the 7-inch touch-screen from the navigation display into an iPad type information tablet with the option of internet connection in the car.

The driver can choose Comfort, Sport or Advanced settings to tune the estate’s performance and there is an Eco+ setting to maximise fuel saving. Being a Volvo there is lots of standard safety kit including a new pedestrian and cyclist detection alert, City Safe automatic emergency braking up to 31mph, active full beam headlight control, road sign and speed monitoring, blind spot alerts and much more.

Most of all from this road test I wanted to sample Volvo’s highly rated new Drive E engine technology which was impressive. But I was even more impressed by the latest V70 itself which during its long life has evolved into a highly equipped, comfortable and classy estate and long may it reign.

MILESTONES: Volvo V70 D4 Auto SE Lux 5-door estate. Price: £36,270. Engine/transmission: New Drive E 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, DOHC, twin turbo, high pressure direct injection diesel, 181bhp, 400Nm (295lb ft) of torque from 1,750rpm, 8-speed automatic. Performance: 137mph, 0-62mph 8.6 seconds, 62.8mpg Combined Cycle (46.7mpg on test), CO2 117g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year band then £30 Year Two onwards, BIK company car tax 19%. Insurance group: 30. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,814, W 1,861. H 1,547mm, boot/load space 575 to 1,600-litres, braked towing weight 1,800kg. For: Impressive new generation Drive E engine technology, fuel and CO2 saving without loss the loss of performance even in such a weighty large estate, refined and comfortable motoring, smooth new auto gearbox, the latest V70 still has a classy upmarket image. Against: Some extra cost options should be included as standard to incentivise sales of this long serving estate, real-life fuel economy misses the official figure by some distance. Miles better news agency

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