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Volvo shows off new technology

The company unveils new engines and a host of enhancements to its IPS pod drives at a media event

The company unveils new engines and a host of enhancements to its IPS pod drives at a media event

In conjunction with its 100th anniversary celebration, Volvo Penta this summer unveiled a host of new products along with important enhancements to its evolving lineup of Inboard Performance System pod drives.

Read the other story in this package: An ‘emergency brake at sea’

I attended the Global Marine Press meeting at the Stenungsbaden Yacht Club on the west coast of Sweden and, as is typical of Volvo Penta, there were numerous boats on hand to allow for testing the operation and installation of these new offerings.

Building on its existing IPS products, which feature twin counter-rotating, forward-facing propellers on steerable pod drives, Volvo has reached a higher level with increased engine output and new, larger drive units. The result is the IPS 750 and 850.

IPS previously had made use of Volvo’s 4- and 6-liter diesels, offering a maximum power output of 435 hp. The new IPS 750 gets its 575 hp from Volvo’s 9-liter inline 6-cylinder marine diesel, the D9, which for the past three years has been used for inboard/shaft installations. The D9 features a centrally mounted twin-entry turbo that facilitates pulse charging, where the power from each exhaust pulse is used to produce turbo pressure, generating high torque at low rpm. The engine has a robust block with ladder frame, high-pressure unit injector system, four valves per cylinder, and an intercooler. Together with a large swept volume (the volume of air/fuel mixture that is swept as the pistons move from top dead center to bottom dead center) and electronic engine management system, the D9 is a smooth performer that I experienced first-hand aboard the Azimut 50 with a twin IPS 750 installation.

The IPS 850 is driven by Volvo Penta’s new D11 marine diesel, with a displacement of 11 liters and producing 670 hp. It should be available by the time you read this, for both traditional shaft and IPS installations. The engine shares the same basic construction as the 9-liter D9 engine, introduced three years ago, along with a number of new features other than the increased displacement. For example, the block is made of compacted graphite iron, which is 50 percent stronger than conventional cast iron, and the cylinder head is a “double deck” design featuring two reinforced layers for increased torsional rigidity.

Like the D9, the new D11 uses a twin-entry turbo system where each exhaust pulse is harnessed to provide boost pressure, providing rapid response and low-end torque. The D11 has added “charge air cooling” and a more advanced exhaust manifold. And the fuel injectors have more precisely controlled opening and closing than on previous engines. The fuel and oil filters, oil dipstick and oil filler are located together at the rear of the engine, making them easily accessible for service.

Both the IPS 750 and 850 drive units are physically larger and stronger than earlier units to handle the higher horsepower and twice the torque produced by the larger D9 and D11 engines. They still have the benefits of twin forward-facing, counter-rotating propellers but have been further refined with the help of advanced computer modeling and extensive testing in a cavitation tunnel, according to Volvo. As with the previous drive units, the propeller series is systematic, meaning the boatbuilder chooses the prop based on the IPS model and the desired top speed.

The IPS 500G is Volvo’s first gasoline powered IPS. Designed primarily for the U.S. market, it is based on the marinized 8.1-liter GM “big block” V-8 engine and develops 375 hp at 4,400 rpm with its multiport electronic fuel injection. This is the same engine that Volvo pairs with its DPS sterndrive.

The drive unit is the same one Volvo uses with the diesel setup, but power is transmitted through a new optimized gear ratio of 2.4:1. “Performance is equal to the diesel-powered IPS 500, which makes the IPS 500G approximately 30-percent more efficient than traditional gas-powered boats,” says Martin Jufors, program manager at Volvo Penta North America. The IPS 500G is very compact and is installed far aft in the boat, maximizing space for living accommodations and storage.

Volvo Penta’s EVC/EC system (electronic vessel control with electronic shift control and throttle) is now available for gasoline V-8 engines. Originally developed for diesel applications, the system features optional trip computer functionality, automatic power trim, and high-integrity information transmitted via gauge and/or digital readouts. This technology is an integral part of the IPS 500G, which, like all IPS packages, includes joystick operation.

4- and 6-cylinder diesels

The D4-300 diesel sterndrive engine is an electronically controlled inline

4-cylinder diesel that features high-efficiency common-rail fuel injection. It produces 300 hp in a compact package and with performance comparable to a big block V-8 gasoline engine.

The D4 uses technology adopted from the 6-cylinder D6-435, which was launched last year, including a new cylinder head design, injectors and valves. The D4 also has a new turbocharger and aftercooler, new engine management system and new engine mounts, according to Bjorn Saljo, product planner at Volvo. There also is more effective sound installation for the compressor, as well as integrated engine balance shafts.

The D6-370, previously rated at 350 hp with the IPS 500, has been optimized for use with the new DPH and DPR sterndrives. The drives have been modified for the higher power output of the D6, which is now 370 hp.


The “QL automatic boat trim system” uses Volvo Penta’s vertical interceptor blades rather than conventional horizontal plates to adjust trim. Through the electronic attitude control unit and its GPS receiver, the boat’s relative attitude (roll and pitch) and position are monitored, and a predetermined level of trim is maintained.

The system is simple to operate. The helmsman initially trims the boat manually, as with conventional trim tabs, using the five-button control panel, followed by a five-second press of the “A” button on the control panel, which enters the trim settings into the system memory. The system will remember the settings even when the power is turned off, but they can be changed by the helmsman at any time.

In automatic mode, the system compensates for changes in boat attitude caused by speed, wind or people moving about on board. The system can be activated at speeds of more than 6 knots, and the operator can switch back to manual mode by pressing the A button again or any of the four other manual control buttons. Through the GPS receiver, the system monitors boat speed and also senses course changes so that it will not attempt to compensate for the vessel heeling in turns.

The “QL wireless thruster remote control” is now available for Volvo Penta bow and stern thrusters, and enables thruster control from anywhere on board. The buttons are large and labeled in a logical manner, and a special button enables the boat to rotate on its axis. The hand-held unit is waterproof and is designed to float if dropped overboard. The radio communications and signals are coded for each installation, with both transmitter and receiver constantly communicating and identifying themselves to eliminate erroneous signals.

From everything I’ve seen, Volvo is continuing its tradition of applying sound engineering, quality manufacturing and installation along with rigorous and lengthy testing to assure that its products are ready for prime time.