Volvo Cars, the Swedish manufacturer, is celebrating twenty years of mechanical All-Wheel Drive (AWD). Volvo cars are well known for what’s apparently called ‘framkomlighet’ in Swedish – the ability to get you wherever you want to go – regardless of the weather conditions.
This is an important part of the Volvo heritage and a clear reflection on the ethos of the company. With the recent addition of electric All-Wheel Drive to their top-of-the-range products, they have further refined performance in this important area. Advances in AWD technology mean that improved handling, stability and traction continue to provide a confident, agile and enjoyable driving experience while reducing fuel consumption.
Volvo’s research into and testing of AWD systems goes back, as mentioned, more than twenty years. The first AWD Volvo car to go into serial production was the Volvo 850 Estate, launched in May 1996 with the 2.5L turbocharged I5T engine developing 193hp and a five-speed manual transmission.
The Volvo V70, based largely on the 850, came with AWD from 1997 on. The same year, Volvo produced its first ‘Cross Country’ V70XC variant, helping to develop a completely new type of car with a rugged design and capable characteristics that is now a familiar sight both on the road and off the beaten track.
Volvo Cars introduced its AWD programme just as it began development work on the first-generation XC90, its award-winning entry into the SUV segment, launched in 2002 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The first-generation XC90 came with an optional Haldex Traction Generation 2 AWD system on the turbocharged 2.5T petrol version. The T6, a 3.2L powerplant, came with AWD as standard.
In the here and now, “Electrification” said Henrik Green, Senior Vice President, Research & Development at Volvo Cars, “will bring ever more flexibility to AWD. You can see the first signs of this in our XC90 T8 Twin Engine, where we have an electric rear-axle drive unit powering the rear wheels. As we move to full-battery electric vehicles and other powertrain applications, we will see increased opportunities to control each motor and wheel independently, based on either the surface conditions or the desired driving style”.
As AWD technology has advanced, the weight of mechanical systems has come down and efficiency has improved. Since the introduction of efficient ‘Active On Demand’ technology, all four wheels are always engaged to allow for the instant distribution of torque to the rear wheels when needed.
The actual torque applied is controlled to constantly deliver the right properties regarding handling, stability and traction at any moment. Volvo Cars’ current mechanical AWD system is modular in design and used on all Volvo models.
All-Wheel Drive variants account for more than fifty per cent of new 90 series car orders for the Swedish car maker. Across the wider Volvo Cars model range, the figure is more than forty per cent.