By ‘high-powered’, we mean, of course, even more powerful than the already impressive 298kW/640Nm outputs of the four-cylinder T8 petrol-electric hybrid that headlines the new XC90 range.
This new technology, dubbed simply the High Performance Drive-E Powertrain Concept, sees that 2.0 litre four-cylinder design mated to a triple-boost turbo system that churns out a mean 335.5kW (450hp).
For those keeping score at home, that’s the sort of power developed by the mighty twin-turbo six-cylinder engine that drives BMW’s new M3 and M4 cars. More, in fact, with those heroes producing ‘a mere’ 317kW.
Figures so large from such a small engine would immediately invite concerns over the dreaded ‘turbo lag’, but Volvo says it has that base covered.
For its new HP Drive-E powertrain, Volvo ties two parallel turbochargers together with an electric turbo-compressor - not an especially new concept, but not one seen often with a four-cylinder engine.
The compressed air from that unit is used to spool up the parallel turbochargers, with fuel fed by a dual pump system working at a whopping 250 bar.
“There are several high power small size applications where one large turbo is used to create a high level of power available from other manufacturers, but the driving experience suffers due to slow engine response,” Volvo’s powertrain vice president Michael Fleiss said.
“We felt that with our heritage of being among the first car companies to embrace and offer a broad range of turbo technology since 1981, that we could improve this.”
Initiated by Volvo’s own in-house powertrain team, the High-Performance concept went on to become a collaborative project with partner Polestar Racing, along with suppliers AVL and Denso.
Volvo Polestar Racing’s engine boss Mattias Evensson said that the advantage to this concept is the combination of huge power, small dimensions and low weight.
“This was a very exciting project as we pioneered a combination of technologies in the same application, and the result is a quite unique engine with its high power yet quick response,” Evensson said.
“Above all, its compact size improves weight distribution between the front and rear axle and lowers the center of gravity - two factors that have a significant effect on the handling, whether it is a race car or a street car.”
For now, the carmaker remains quiet on production plans. But, if it it plans to introduce an M3-rivalling halo model some day - and with no larger engines planned - the HP Drive-E concept could be just the ticket.
Of course, it could have other hugely powerful four-cylinder models to contend with, if Audi's conventionally-turbocharged 309kW 2.0 litre four-cylinder TT quattro sport concept is any preview of things to come.
If the range of high-powered small-engined performance cars available right now weren't impressive enough, the four-cylinder fight of the future is bound to impress...
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