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Volvo C30 DRIVe litmus test to eco expansion

Watch and wait: Volvo's super-frugal C30 DRIVe could be the precursor to more eco-friendly models.

More DRIVe variants on agenda for Oz, but not before assessing Volvo C30 reception

10 May 2010

VOLVO will be watching the performance of its new C30 DRIVe eco model before pushing the go button on an expanded range of low-emission vehicles for Australia.

GoAuto has learned that the Volvo V50 DRIVe is the next potential recipient of the DRIVe formula for Australia, but no go-ahead has yet been approved.

A green light from Sweden for the high-performance C30 Polestar – a one-off high-performance racing-inspired concept car that adds a hot-hatch makeover to the existing Volvo small car – might also see the company take on the upcoming Volkswagen Golf R.

But for now, according to Volvo Cars Australia boss Alan Desselss, the C30 DRIVe’s goal is to bring a younger buyer demographic to the brand.

“It is a toe in the water exercise,” he told GoAuto at the eco model’s launch in Victoria earlier this month.

“We have introduced the C30 DRIVe to the Australian public to see if they truly embrace the eco concept in a Volvo.

“And if it is a success then we can get in as many as we want. There are 50 (C30 DRIVe) cars in Australia initially.

“We want to expand to the other models as well – from the S40 up to the XC series … starting with the V50 DRIVe.”

Right now in Europe there are DRIVe versions of every Volvo passenger car on sale bar the XC90 – including the larger models like the XC60, XC70, V70 and S80. The upcoming second-generation S60 sedan and all-new V60 wagon version are also in line for it.

“The DRIVe customer is a very specific type of buyer. We’re not 100 per cent sure if the Australian public will actually embrace the quite different change in eco driving (on masse) … but it is an option we can give them.”

 center image Left: Volvo V50 DRIVe. Below: Volvo C30 Polestar Performance concept.

Mr Desselss admits that Volvo has not had the desired success with its diesel-powered C30 D5 product in the past (it was introduced in Australia in early 2008), but the DRIVe’s eco image may snare urban buyers that are prepared to change their driving habits to make a difference in emissions. The ‘changes’ include shifting gears themselves, as there is no automatic DRIVe model currently available anywhere.

Further down the line the C30 will adopt a range of turbo-charged four-cylinder direct-injection EcoBoost engines developed by Ford to replace the ageing and relatively dirty five-cylinder units. These will continue to push the eco message underscored by the DRIVe variants.

“Our position is not to become specialists in any particular area at Volvo – we all offer very efficient engines … and we will continue to get more performance and efficiencies out of our petrol engines,” Mr Desselss said.

“There will be a natural move to four-cylinder engines with turbos – and that to me is the logical way.”

Meanwhile, the C30 Polestar concept car is high on the VCA boss’ wish list should it get the go-ahead.

Unveiled at the Gothenburg motor show in late April, it is an exercise from Volvo Cars' official racing and performance partner Polestar to “... explore what happens when racing engineers and designers get free hands to build a street car without any limitations set by a specific racing regulation”.

Using a high-output 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo petrol engine delivering 300kW of power and 510Nm of torque, drive is delivered to all four wheels via a Haldex AWD clutch and a Quaife mechanical diff brake front and rear. Among the chassis mods are Ohlins shockers and springs, a quicker steering rack ratio, Brembo brakes and 19-inch Pirelli P-Zero 235/35 ZR19 tyres.

“If I had anything to do with it – absolutely,” Mr Desselss said.

“I don’t think there would be huge volumes, but I do think it is good for a manufacturer to have a halo car, a bit of a sports car ... and certainly although the Polestar is just a concept I know from my colleagues around the world that everybody is keen to see it realised in some shape or form for production.”

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