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Revealed: Volvo's 2019 masterplan
“It will all be done by February 2019,” Volvo chief executive Hakan Samuelsson tells Top Gear. He’s talking about the company’s amazing plan to replace its entire lineup within four years.
That means three new 90 models - the XC90 SUV that’s just been launched, and next year both a related S90 big saloon and V90 wagon. Those two will replace the current S80 and V70. Volvo once dominated big European estates, so we want to see a properly modern one.
Then in 2017 there’s to be the new XC60. The current XC60 is Volvo’s fastest seller, and it tops the sales chart for its class in Europe. A year later are the next-gen V60 and S60. These three will use the same platform as the 90-series, but cut down in wheelbase, width and overhangs. The result is the size of the Audi A4 and Q5.
In 2018 comes an extra model, a smaller Audi Q3-sized crossover called the XC40. This has the same engine family as the bigger cars, but an all-new platform. It’s followed by a brand-new V40 and S40. The launch deadline for the V40, from Samuelsson’s quote, must be February 2019 (the V40 saloon could technically be a bit later because it’s not a direct replacement of anything on sale now).
Back to the big cars. The XC90 gives us loads of info about the V90 and S90, and the 60-series too. They will all have Volvo’s own 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines, diesels and petrols. The diesel goes to 225bhp. The top petrol does 320bhp by supercharging and turbocharging. “If you absolutely need a V8 then maybe you’re not a Volvo customer,” says Samuelsson gently. “If you just want a V8’s power and response, then our four-cylinder is OK.”
There will be FWD and four-wheel drive. The mainstream 4WD system is conventional, but an option is the clever plug-in hybrid system with electric rear drive, as seen on the 400bhp T8 version of the XC90. The suspension uses a lot of aluminium, with a Corvette-style composite transverse spring at the back, and there’s an air-sprung option too.
But for the 60-series cars there will be some extra transmissions apart from the XC90’s eight-speed auto. One is a manual, the other a double-clutch. The double-clutch will optionally be mated with an electric motor to produce a front-drive hybrid. Volvo’s chief engineer Peter Mertens tells me this will be barely more expensive than a diesel engine.
Having replaced all the engines related to Ford’s, Volvo still has a car closely related to the Focus. It’s the current V40. But not for much longer. A year ago Volvo and its parent company Geely started a new joint-venture to build a platform to replace it. This is called the compact modular architecture or CMA. The engineering for the CMA is happening in Sweden, but it doesn’t use many parts from the bigger Volvos because they would be too heavy and expensive.
Samuelsson says the Geely cars, which are for sale in China, will have entirely different looks from the Volvos and less equipment and fewer powertrain options. “Volvo to Geely will be like Audi to Skoda.”
The engines and transmissions for the Volvo XC40, V40 and S40 will come from the same family as the bigger Volvos, except the cheapest engine option will be a lightweight three-cylinder 1.5-litre 170bhp version of the same petrol engine. They will also use the same screen-based control, entertainment and connectivity setup as the bigger cars.
The first car off the CMA platform will be the XC40 in 2018. It’ll be made in front-drive and four-wheel drive, using the mechanical system not the expensive electrical rear axle. Then in 2019 we get the V40 and S40.
Design chief Thomas Ingenlath tells me all these cars won’t look entirely similar to one another. “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.”
The boss Samuelsson says Volvo will stick to nine cars - a saloon hatch/wagon and SUV in the three sizes. He calls that a 3x3 strategy. Jacked-up Cross Country versions will come too, and long-wheelbase saloons for China (where Volvo has three factories) but he doesn’t count them as standalone models. But despite the lovely 2013 Concept Coupe and 2014 Concept Estate, no low-slung two-doors figure in the plan. Volvo will be too busy.