Chronology of Volvo Engine Development

by Paul Grimshaw

Author, The Gothenburg Bible & Volvo Performance Handbook



As a follow-on to the article on Volvo Engine Designations , I have put together a list of engines fitted to Volvo cars since 1935. Readers will note that the dates of introduction of the engines listed do not necessarily match the first model years of the cars in which they were fitted. This is because Volvo frequently unveils new engine technology in advance of their use in production models. With this in mind, the use of "introduction" dates in this article better reflects the era in which specified engines were designed.

Due to the huge variety of induction and fuel delivery options, the suffixes listed in the "Volvo Engine Designations" article have been omitted. Furthermore, a streamlined approach to listing engine outputs has been adopted. That said, the significant differences used to measure SAE Gross Horsepower (SAE J245) and SAE Net Horsepower (J1349) will undoubtedly cause some confusion.

Pre-1972 engines were rated using the more liberal SAE J245 standard which allowed output to be measured without the parasitic drag of generators/alternators, starters, emission control equipment, and a full exhaust system. Post-1972 engines were required by law to be rated using the SAE J1349 (or "net") system. This stipulated that engines must be tested in fully equipped form, less optional equipment such as air conditioners and power steering.

As a rule of thumb, multiply SAE Gross by 0.85 to arrive at a fairly accurate SAE Net rating.

The format used to to display information in this article is:

ENGINE DESIGNATION -- ASSOCIATED CAR MODEL
Configuration: i.e.. valve train configuration, number of cylinders and layout
Displacement: engine size in liters
Output: Brake Horsepower (Bhp)
Notes: Year of introduction & significant features


To assist in finding details on a particular era, readers may click on the milestones of Volvo engine development they find most interesting. Otherwise, readers may use the "find" command within their browsers to locate a particular engine.

Overhead Valve Era (1935-1974)
First 5-Main Bearing Engine (1960)
Fuel Injected Era (1973 & up)
Overhead Cam Technology (1974 & Up)
Low Friction Power plants (1984 & up)
Multi-Valve Technology (1988)
"Modular" Engine Configuration (1990 & up)
Diesel Engine Technology (1978 & up)



The Overhead Valve Era (1935 to 1974)

Volvo produced a wide variety of overhead valve engines ranging in displacement from 1.4 to 3.7 liters. Of these, the B18 were the most popular due to their use of 5 main bearings, large journal diameters, and bullet-proof valve trains. The test regime for B18s engines were impressive, with the final versions capable of being run at full load and rpm for 500 hours without incident.

EB/EC/ED - PV651/2, TR671/4, PV653/4, TR676/9, PV658/9, PV36, PV51/2, PV53/6, PV801/2, PV821/2, PV831/2 and PV60
Configuration: OHV Inline 6-cylinder
Displacement: 3.670 liters
SAE Gross Output: 80 Bhp - 90 Bhp
Notes: Introduced in 1935. Volvo's longest in-production engine (1935 -1958). Simple cast iron 4-main bearing engine.


B4B - PV 444
Configuration: OHV Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 1.414 liters
SAE Gross Output: 40 Bhp - 70 Bhp
Notes: A simple cast iron 3-main bearing engine introduced in 1944.


B16 - PV444, PV544, 120
Configuration: OHV Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 1.583 liters
SAE Gross Output: 60 Bhp - 85 Bhp
Notes: Introduced in 1956 and first fitted in the 120 chassis. The first of the "Red Blocks".

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First 5-Main Bearing Engine (1960)

B18 - PV 544 Sport, 120, 1800, 144
Configuration: OHV Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 1.778 liters
SAE Gross Output: 75 Bhp-115 Bhp (latter output for B18B)
Notes: Introduced in 1960 as Volvo's first 5-main bearing engine. This extremely rugged and well-build engine was first fitted to the 1800 chassis. Since that time, the B18 has become renowned for its ease of repair, excellent flexibility and impressive longevity.

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The Fuel Injected Era (1970 & up)

Volvo's use of injection dates back to the 1970 1800 which used a Bosch D-Jetronic electronic fuel delivery system. Since that time, Volvo has used high pressure (K, K-Lambda) and low pressure (L, LH, and Motronic) fuel injection systems. The latest Volvo cars use German-designed Seimens and Japanese-designed Mitsubishi fuel injection systems. The latter variant is of direct injection layout, with the fuel being directly administered to the cylinder via a high pressure nozzle.

B20 - 1800, 140, 240
Configuration: OHV Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 1.986 liters
SAE Gross Output: 82 Bhp-130 Bhp (latter output for B20E)
Notes: Introduced in 1968 and first fitted in the 120 and 140. Later variants of this engine were the basis for Volvo's first fuel injection system. The B20 was fitted to 240s in the 1975 model year only.



B30 - 160
Configuration: OHV Inline 6-cylinder
Displacement: 2.978 liters
SAE Net Output: 130 Bhp-160 Bhp (latter output for European Market B30E)
Notes: Introduced in 1971, the B30 was another well-build and robust engine designed by Volvo. Variants of the B30 were used in marine and military applications.



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Overhead Cam Technology (1974 & Up)

B21 - 240
Configuration: OHC Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 2.127 liters
SAE Net Output: 97 Bhp-155 Bhp (latter output for European B21ET)
Notes: Introduced in 1974 as Volvo's first overhead cam engine with an alloy cross-flow cylinder head, the B21 replaced the B20 in 200-series cars. The basic design of this engine supported all forms of Volvo 4-cylinder power plant production until 1990.

 

B27 - 260, 760
Configuration: OHC Vee 6-cylinder
Displacement: 2.664 liters
SAE Net Output: 125 Bhp-140 Bhp (latter output for German-specification B27E)
Notes: Introduced in 1974, this all-alloy engine was the result of a joint Peugeot-Renault-Volvo agreement. For that reason, the B27/28 is sometimes referred to as the "PRV-6". The design of this engine was unusual in that the block was assembled from a number of inter-connected pieces, vice the single cast block that is most common to the automotive industry. Liquid gaskets were used to seal the various pieces including an oil pan that also served as the lower main bearing cap. This method of construction would later be featured in Volvo's modular engine family.

Although the basic design of the B27 was later improved, this engine did not live up to previous engines' reputation for reliability. The reasons for this are three-fold. First, few mechanics had the training and experience necessary to repair the V-6 engines. Second, the oil passages in the B27's cylinder head could not adequately supply lubrication to the camshafts -- leading to premature wear. Third, when the engines were disassembled for repair, re-sealing the components with the elastomers of the era was a hit-and-miss affair. The result was an engine that often lacked the proper service, ate camshafts, and leaked oil. Not the stuff of legends.


B19 - 340, 360
Configuration: OHC Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 1.986 liters
SAE Net Output: 85 Bhp-118 Bhp (latter output for rare "R-Sport" 1981 343)
Notes: Introduced in 1976 as an under bored version of the B21.


B17 - 240
Configuration: OHC Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 1.778 liters
SAE Net Output: 88 Bhp
Notes: Introduced in 1978 for use in Scandinavian Markets until 1988.


B28 - 260, 760, 780
Configuration: OHC Vee 6-cylinder
Displacement: 2.849 liters
SAE Net Output: 129 Bhp-170 Bhp (latter output for European-specification B28F)
Notes: Introduced in 1980, this variant of the B27 featured an improved lubrication system and slightly larger displacement. Although this engine rectified many earlier concerns generated by the B27, it continued to suffer from a bad reputation.


B23 - 240, 740, 760
Configuration: OHC Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 2.316 liters
SAE Net Output: 104 Bhp-173 Bhp (latter output for European B23ET)
Notes: Introduced in 1982 as essentially an over-bored B21. Although the basic variant of this engine (the B23F) was not noted for its power, later high performance versions (B23E and B23FT) would boost Volvo's reputation for performance.


B18 (New Series) - 440, 460, 480
Configuration: OHC Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 1.721 liters
SAE Net Output: 90 Bhp-120 Bhp (latter output for European B18T)
Notes: Introduced specifically for 400-series cars.

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The Low Friction Powerplants (1984 & up)

B230 - 240, 740, 760, 780, 940
Configuration: OHC Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 2.316 liters
SAE Net Output: 104 Bhp-182 Bhp (latter output for European B230ET)
Notes: Introduced in 1984 as a low friction derviative of B21/23 engines, the B230 featured improved efficiency without undermining Volvo's hard-earned reputation for quality. This engine would equip most Volvo cars until the early/mid 1990s.


B200 - 240, 740, 760, 780, 940
Configuration: OHC Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 1.986 liters
SAE Net Output: 103 Bhp-160 Bhp (latter output for European B200ET)
Notes: Introduced in 1985 as a reduced bore version of the B230 low friction engine. European Market only.


 

B280 - 780
Configuration: OHC Vee 6-cylinder
Displacement: 2.849 liters
SAE Net Output: 170 Bhp
Notes: Introduced in 1986 as a low friction derivative of the B28. Although this engine rectified many earlier concerns generated by the B27, it continued to suffer from a bad reputation.

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Multi-Valve Technology (1988)

 

Although a late user of multi-valve technology, Volvo has since incorporated 4 valves per cylinder into most of its engine designs. This improves engine breathing, particularly at high rpm, and accounts for the favorable power output from these motors.

 

 

 

B234 - 740, 760, 940
Configuration: DOHC Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 2.316 liters
SAE Net Output: 155 Bhp
Notes: Introduced in 1988 as Volvo's first dual overhead cam, multi-valve engine. This variant reached North America in 1988 & later 740s.


B204 - 740, 760, 940
Configuration: DOHC Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 1.986 liters
SAE Net Output: 130 Bhp- 200 Bhp (latter output for Italy's B204FT)
Notes: A reduced displacement variant of Volvo's first dual overhead cam, multi-valve engine. Marketed in Europe only.
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Modular" Engine Configuration (1990 & up)

 

 

Volvo's search for a modular series of engines ended with the development of 4-, 5-, and 6-cylinder designs -- the lineage of which can be traced back to the B6304 engine. This engine was developed with the assistance of Porche's famous Weissach (pronounced Vie-Sock) Technical Centre. The result is a series of engines that can share major components such as pistons, valves and bearings. This approach to engine design reduces part inventories, accelerates assembly line processes, and reduces manufacturing costs.

Of note, the modular engine family shares an unusual design feature with the earlier "PRV-6". The engine blocks in this series of engines are assembled from a number of inter-connected pieces, vice the single cast block that is common to the automotive industry. Liquid gaskets are used to seal the various pieces including an oil pan that also serves as the lower main bearing cap.


 

B6304 - 960, S 90
Configuration: DOHC Inline 6-cylinder
Displacement: 2.922 liters
SAE Net Output: 180 Bhp - 204 Bhp
Notes: Introduced in 1990. Volvo's first in a series of modular engines developed with the assistance of Porsche's Weissach Engineering Centre.


B6254 - 960, S90
Configuration: DOHC Inline 6-cylinder
Displacement: 2.5 liters
SAE Net Output: 170 Bhp
Notes: An underbored variant of the B6304 introduced as an option in Europe.


B5254 - 850, S 70
Configuration: DOHC Inline 5-cylinder
Displacement: 2.435 liters
SAE Net Output: 170 Bhp
Notes: Introduced in 1991.


B5252 - 850, S/V 70
Configuration: DOHC Inline 5-cylinder
Displacement: 2.435 liters
SAE Net Output: 140 Bhp - 144 Bhp
Notes: 2 Valve per cylinder variant of B5254 engine.


B5202 - 850, S/V 70
Configuration: DOHC Inline 5-cylinder
Displacement: 1.984 liters
SAE Net Output: 126 Bhp
Notes: Reduced bore variant of B5252 engine introduced as an option in Europe.


B5204 - 850, S/V 70
Configuration: DOHC Inline 5-cylinder
Displacement: 1.984 liters
SAE Net Output: 140 Bhp - 225 Bhp (latter represents European model B5204FT turbocharged version)
Notes: A reduced bore variant of B5254 engine introduced as an option in Europe.


B5234FT - 850, T5/R, S/V 70
Configuration: DOHC Inline 5-cylinder
Displacement: 2.319 liters
SAE Net Output: 225 Bhp - 240 Bhp (latter represents T5R and S/V 70 variants)
Notes: Reduced bore, turbocharged variant of B5254 engine.

 

 

B5244FT R5 - S60R
Configuration: DOHC Inline 5-cylinder
Displacement: 2.4 liters
SAE Net Output: 300 Bhp
Notes: Reduced bore, high performance turbocharged variant of B5254 engine.

 

 

B4184 - S/V 40
Configuration: DOHC Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 1.731 liters
SAE Net Output: 115 Bhp - 125 Bhp
Notes: Introduced 1995 with the B4204 engine. Engines designated with the suffix SM (introduced in mid-1998) are Mitsubishi Gasoline Direct Injection engines displacing 1.8 liters and producing 125 Bhp.


B4204 - S/V 40
Configuration: DOHC Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 1.948 liters
SAE Net Output: 125 Bhp - 140 Bhp
Notes: Introduced 1995 with the B4184 engine.


B4164 - S/V 40
Configuration: DOHC Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 1.635 liters
SAE Net Output: 105 Bhp
Notes: Introduced in early 1997 as an underbored variant of the B4184.


 

B4204FT - S/V 40R
Configuration: DOHC Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement: 1.948 liters
SAE Net Output: 200 Bhp
Notes: Introduced in mid 1997 as an under-bored, turbocharged variant of the B4204 engine.

 



B6284T - S80
Configuration: DOHC Inline 6-cylinder
Displacement: 2.783 liters
SAE Output: 268 Bhp
Notes: Twin turbo variant of the new-series B6304 engine introduced in 1998. Variable exhaust valve timing and drive-by-wire throttle control. Meets California Transitional Low Emissions Vehicle (TLEV) standards.


B6304 (new-series) - S80
Configuration: DOHC Inline 6-cylinder
Displacement: 2.922 liters
SAE Net Output: 201 Bhp
Notes: Introduced in 1998, this engine is a revised version of the earlier (1990) variant. The new-series engine is specifically designed for transverse mounting in the S 80. Variable intake valve timing and drive-by-wire throttle control. Meets California Transitional Low Emissions Vehicle (TLEV) standards.


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Diesel Engine Technology (1978 & up)

Depite being the largest truck manufacturer in the world, much of Volvo's diesel technology has been borrowed from other car manufacturers. Volkswagen and Audi components can be found in many diesel engines fitted to Volvo automobiles. This all changed in 2002 with the introduction of the D5 - a high-tech multi-valve, variable nozzle turbocharged, direct injection diesel engine.

D20 - 240
Configuration: SOHC Inline 5-cylinder DIESEL
Displacement: 1.958 liters
SAE Net Output: 68 Bhp
Notes: A Volkswagen design first introduced by Volvo in 1978.


D24 - 240, 740, 760, 940, 960
Configuration: SOHC Inline 6-cylinder DIESEL
Displacement: 2.383 liters
SAE Net Output: 82 Bhp - 122 Bhp (latter represented the intercooled D24TIC engine)
Notes: A Volkswagen design first introduced by Volvo in 1978, later updated with a turbocharger in 1982.


D19 - 440, 460, S40/V40
Configuration: SOHC Inline 4-cylinder DIESEL
Displacement: 1.870 liters
SAE Net Output: 90 Bhp
Notes: All engines of this type were turbocharged.


D5252 - 850, S/V 70
Configuration: SOHC Inline 5-cylinder DIESEL
Displacement: 2.460 liters
SAE Net Output: 140 Bhp
Notes: A Volkwagen/Audi design, marketed in Europe.

D5 - V70, S60, S80
Configuration: DOHC Inline 5-cylinder DIESEL
Displacement: 2.4 liters
SAE Net Output: 163 Bhp
Notes: Volvo's first indigenously designed and manufactured diesel engine introduced in mid 2002 in Europe. Features common rail direct injection and a variable nozzle turbocharger. This engine is unusual, as its aluminum block/head design is a departure from the more conventional use of iron in diesel applications. Reported to be based on the block of the gasoline-powered B5234F.

 

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© Copyright Paul Grimshaw 2003



Special Thanks to John Laughlin & Rob Funnekotter who provided excellent tips and suggestions on the data contained herein.