Volvo will show a car in Detroit that takes the Volt powertrain concept a few steps further. Drivers press one of three buttons to choose: an EV (battery only, “Pure”) mode, or a hybrid with claimed 50-mpg performance, or a performance version that taps all 350 hp and runs to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds.
This very sharp looking small SUV gets power from a 280-hp turbo 4-cylinder, a 70-hp electric motor and a 12-kwh battery pack. The details are here, in the press release, and tout the modular, compact, light and efficient nature of the new engine.
Range limitations are addressed. You can drive from Detroit to New York without a fill-up, 600 miles; an integrated starter-generator gives an extra 45-hp boost during acceleration; and the battery can be recharged in 3.5 hours (using 220 volts) or 7.5 hours (110 volts). The car has electric 4-wheel drive on command and an 8-speed automatic.
Volvo, we know, is a very smart auto company that has recreated itself from a producer of stodgy, tank-like cars to one that now offers well-styled, well-made vehicles with broader appeal and, occasionally, performance. A gas-powered XC60 has been available in the U.S. for about three years and enjoyed only modest sales—1,128 cars last November—but it’s Volvo’s sales leader!
So, since they have got to sell more cars and hence appeal on a wider scale, technologically advanced cars like the XC60 plug-in might find a market—if and when they get to the U.S. Volvo is being coy, saying that this could happen “in a couple of years.” The company needs to make it happen sooner.
The interior is very tasteful and well-executed, and the car has the usual complement of electro-goodies. Volvo seems to take the opposite approach of Ford’s Sync, for instance. Its Sensus system finds your best route depending on whether you want low energy use, fastest time or shortest distance. It shows you quick-charging stations or those with “renewable electricity.” And so on. You can preset the car’s interior temperature.
The problem for Volvo is and has been tapping into a very select market niche with something a bit different from the competition. So far, they haven’t done it, but if they get this car to the U.S. and run an innovative campaign, that could change.
A car like this should be marketed like an Apple computer.
One thing Volvo could do is reduce its car lineup (it offers 8 models) and concentrate on SUVs. Agree?