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Future Cars: Volvo's Five-Year U.S. Plan Includes New S40, XC60

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 2/27/2015 Paul Horrell
Future Cars: Volvo's Five-Year U.S. Plan Includes New S40, XC60

I've heard several Volvo people claim that within five years the brand-new XC90 will be the oldest car the firm makes.

I mention this to CEO Hakan Samuelsson. "Five years?" he says. "We said that a while ago. It's only four now. It will be done by February 2019."

This will all be accomplished with two vehicle architectures and essentially one suite of powertrains. The new XC90 is the first full manifestation.

Samuelsson explains the cars will be in three "clusters": the big 90 models, the midsize 60 series, which will use a smaller version of the same Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), and finally the compact 40 series (the European-spec V40 Cross Country is shown below), which will use another architecture, called compact modular architecture (CMA), now under development in Sweden. Each cluster of cars will come in three body styles, he says, talking of a three-by-three strategy: three sizes of car, each as a sedan and SUV and wagon/hatch. There will also be the jacked-up Cross Country versions, but he doesn't regard them as independent models.

Related Link: Research the Volvo XC90

2015 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive E© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive E

I ask him about the rapidly broadening ranges of his German competitors. He says that strategy can add growth and margin but not necessarily overall earnings, because of the extra costs. "Mastering complexity is more important than striving for margin," he says. "There is a sweet spot in the number of models."

The next cars to launch will be the S90 big sedan and its wagon twin, the V90. They replace the S80 (pictured above) and XC70, which really ought to be called V70 Cross Country if Volvo were being consistent. A V90 Cross Country will follow.

These are closely related to the XC90 and will use the same powertrains at first. This means all will be four cylinders. "If you absolutely need a V-8, then maybe you're not a Volvo customer," Samuelsson says. "If you just want a V-8's power and response, then our four-cylinder is OK."

The XC60 will launch in 2017. Along with the 2018 S60 and V60, it uses the same platform as the big XC90, but it's shorter in wheelbase and overhangs and narrower.

Related Video: Volvo XC90 Jumps from Archaic to Advanced

2011 Volvo S40© Provided by MotorTrend 2011 Volvo S40 Volvo engineering chief Peter Mertens says a manual transmission and a DCT are coming for the 60 series cars, as is the XC90's eight-speed auto. As with the XC90, they will also have two AWD systems, either a conventional one with a prop shaft and Haldex center coupling or one with an electric rear-axle drive and PHEV battery. There will also be a cheaper front-drive hybrid system using the DCT and an integrated electric motor. Mertens says this can be produced for the same cost as a conventional diesel powertrain. Volvo has a diesel in Europe, but the bosses say they won't push it to the U.S.

If you absolutely need a V-8, then maybe you're not a Volvo customer. ... If you just want a V-8's power and response, then our four-cylinder is OK.

The V60 and S60 will also be available as Polestar cars. Mertens says the 2.0-liter, turbocharged and supercharged engine in the XC90 can easily make another 10 percent, taking it to more than 350 horsepower. But we have also driven an official prototype with an electric supercharger and twin turbos making about 450 hp.

Volvo V40 T4 Drive E© Provided by MotorTrend Volvo V40 T4 Drive E Volvo's S40 was discontinued in the U.S. in 2011 because it was replaced in Europe with a hatchback. But Volvo recognizes it has neglected the U.S. market, so the next S40 and XC40 will cross the Atlantic. These cars are to be built on the CMA developed jointly by Volvo and its Chinese owner, Geely. The first CMA car to launch will be the XC40 in 2018, followed by the V40 and S40 in 2019, presumably in February.

The Volvo and Geely cars will have entirely different external design, and the Geely versions will have somewhat less high-end equipment and fewer powertrain choices. The CMA platform is effectively all-new, sharing few components with Volvo's bigger architecture because those would be over-specced and too heavy and costly. But the four-cylinder powertrains will be shared, including the FWD DCT hybrid system. Base models in Europe will even get a three-cylinder version of the engine that makes about 170 horsepower.

2016 Volvo XC90© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Volvo XC90 Design chief Thomas Ingenlath says that although all nine new Volvos will have been designed closely together in time, they won't look entirely similar. He acknowledges a need to make them recognizably Volvo: "You won't get bored seeing another Volvo because we are a small company. But the 90 cluster will look different from the 60 cluster and the 40 cluster. The XC90 isn't a template to scale down to the XC60 and XC40. People are fed up with indistinguishable cars in a range."

With those vehicles in place, Samuelsson says he expects to sell 800,000 Volvos a year beginning in 2020. In 2014 the number was 464,000, with China becoming its biggest market. There's clearly room for Volvo -- Audi and BMW, excluding Mini, both sold 1.7 million last year.

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