Swedish automaker Volvo introduced its High Performance Drive-E concept powertrain on October 7. The small two-liter, four-cylinder engine produces 450 horsepower (hp) with the help of three turbochargers. The engine represents an improvement on the original Drive-E engine revealed last year, which has an output of 320hp. (See Volvo discuss the engine.)

The improvement stems from an unusual turbo configuration. Two parallel turbochargers are fed air from an electrically powered turbocharged compressor. A normal turbocharger receives compressed air from an exhaust-powered pump. The improved cylinder pressure reduces the turbo lag experienced in a mono-turbo engine. Fuel pumps at 250 bar supply gasoline to the cylinder chambers.

Fuel economy continues to drive innovation among auto manufacturers. Volvo's new engine is a high-performance entry into an auto market reconciling itself to new fuel efficiency mandates. The original Drive-E engine has an average efficiency of 28 miles per gallon, a figure that is expected to slightly improve with the new high-performance model.

Volvo says it is committed to "delivering driving pleasure through downsizing" and is in the midst of replacing all of its five- and six-cylinder engines with more efficient four-cylinder designs. The powertrain engineering department is also believed to be developing hybrid and electric versions for future vehicles.

Volvo claims the smaller engine improves weight distribution and lowers a vehicle's center of gravity, thereby improving vehicle handling. The company says it believes there are both racing and consumer applications.

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