The Volvo S80 was the best alternative to the German luxury sedans like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-series and Audi A8. Sure there were alternatives like the Lexus LS and Infiniti Q45, but the Volvo S80 carried Volvo's reputation for safety and build quality, despite not looking as beautiful as its competitors.

It also wasn't necessarily quick, there was a V8 available that produced 311 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, but that was nothing in comparison to the high performance variants of the Germans, but Volvo had an ace up its sleeve, at least they did until they were bought by Ford.

In 1997, Volvo was preparing to shock the world with a 4.3-liter V10 to use in the first generation of the S80. This 325 horsepower V10 was co-developed by Cosworth, and was capable of doing 155 miles an hour. At the time, Mercedes-Benz was making 389 horsepower from its 6.0-liter V12, BMW was making 322 horsepower from its 5.0-liter V12, Audi made 364 horsepower from its 4.2-liter V8, and Jaguar was producing 333 horsepower from its 6.0-liter V12. A Volvo making more horsepower than a BMW? Now that’s an alternate timeline I can get behind.

Sadly, the idea was canned in 1999 after Volvo was bought by Ford, and they scrapped the project. The Premium Auto Group was a weird era for Volvo because Ford didn’t necessarily manage Volvo well, and used Volvo’s five-cylinder engines to create the Focus ST and the Focus RS. Volvo was eventually sold off to Geely, and the rest is history.

Sure, Volvo might be doing okay now, and the company has simplified itself down to one engine and one global architecture that underpins its entire lineup. Volvo’s performance EV brand, Polestar, is still a few years away from truly shaking up the EV market, but what would the market look like if the V10 was successful?

I’d like to think that things would be pretty different. This was before the luxury automakers started getting serious about performance capabilities of their big cars. Mercedes had just started making AMG versions of the C-Class and E-Class, Audi has their “S” models, and Jaguar and BMW were off getting their sport coats pressed, or something boring. Volvo could’ve truly shocked the big car market with a high-revving V10 that would’ve changed the way people saw this safety-conscious company. This V10 could’ve shaken up the entire market, with some sort of S80 R, or something like that. What would that have done for them? Would it have worked?

The Takeaway

There’s a lot to unpack and think about here, in the same sense that there’s almost nothing to discuss because Volvo is so far removed from sportiness at this point, it’s almost laughable to think about the fact that they have a 600 horsepower two-door EV on the way. Still, I love the way Volvos look nowadays, and it’s a shame that we don’t see more of them in the US, – well, those of us that don’t make 450 horsepower Dadwagons. I’d rock a V90 Cross Country if I had the $54,550 to get in the door.

What do you think of this engine that never came to be? Comment Below!

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