5 fast Volvos
Volvo vehicles today feature powertrains that blend strong performance with impressive fuel efficiency.
During its history, however, the company has also produced the occasional model that is focused mostly on speed.
To mark the unveiling of the Polestar 2 – the first model from the high-performance brand of Volvo to go on sale in Australia – I Roll takes a look at five fast Volvos from the past.
The Volvo Sport featured a fibreglass-reinforced polyester 4.2-metre-long body built on a tubular frame chassis, and it was powered by an engine based on the 1.4-litre four-cylinder found in the PV444. Twin carburettors, a different camshaft, larger intake valves and a higher compression ratio helped develop 70 brake horsepower (52kW).
1966 VOLVO 123GT
The P1800 was more of a GT (grand touring) car, so our Volvo sports car pick from the 1960s is the 123GT.
Based on the 121/122S two-door sedan that had already enjoyed some success in rallying competitions and touring car racing, the 123GT borrowed a 115bhp (86kW) 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine from the P1800 coupe to make it the most powerful variant of all the different 120 models offered.
The fast and lavishly equipped 123GT featured a three-spoke sports steering wheel, auxiliary lamps, extra exterior chrome and a rev counter as standard.
In 1968 it became available with a bigger, 2.0-litre engine good for 118bhp (88kW).
1979 VOLVO 242GT
Volvo’s 240 series is famous for its durability and longevity (it was built for 20 years), yet among this remarkably safe and solid range of vehicles were some sporty stand-outs.
The 1979 242GT featured a two-door sedan body style like the 123GT covered earlier in this article, and it used a fuel-injected 2.3-litre four-cylinder to send more than 100kW to the rear wheels for strong performance.
A manual gearbox included an overdrive fourth gear, there were disc brakes for all four wheels, a performance-tuned suspension, sports seats, and alloy wheels.
To help distinguish it further from the 244 sedan on which it was based, the GT wore sporty striping on its flanks and featured black window frames.
There was even motorsport success when a Volvo 242 racing car won the 1985 European Touring Car Championship.
1994 VOLVO 850 T-5R
The 1994 850 T-5R wasn’t Volvo’s first fast wagon but it was particularly memorable thanks to its distinctively intense yellow paintwork.
Yellow versions sold out in just a fortnight following the car’s debut at the Geneva motor show, so more T-5Rs were produced – though this time in black, followed by dark green.
The T-5R’s turbocharged five-cylinder produced about 180kW of power and 330Nm of torque, and propelled the big, front-wheel-drive wagon from standstill to 100km/h in just 6.9 seconds.
Other notable exterior features included a square exhaust pipe and 17-inch ‘Titan’ alloy wheels. There were roof rails, of course!
Production was limited to just 1994 – the same year that Volvo made an audacious entry to the British Touring Car Championship with an 850 wagon race car.
The T-5R was succeeded by the 850R in 1996.
2013 VOLVO S60 POLESTAR
Australia played a pivotal role in the first global Volvo to utilise the motor racing expertise of Polestar (now a performance brand in its own right).
The country, renowned for its insatiable appetite for performance cars, was the pilot market for the S60 Polestar.
The sedan was powered by a Polestar-optimised six-cylinder turbo petrol engine, with its 257kW and circa-500Nm put to the ground by a recalibrated six-speed auto and Haldex all-wheel-drive system.
It was capable of covering 0-100km/h in less than five seconds.
It was also engineered to handle, though. The chassis was intensively tuned in Europe and its suspension featured Ohlins dampers, while big 19-inch wheels were enveloped in grippy Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber.
An aero package comprised front splitter, rear ring and rear diffuser.
Such was the reaction to the S60 Polestar that it was later joined by a V60 Polestar wagon, while later versions switched to a supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder powertrain with yet more power.
The models marked the globalisation of the Polestar brand, with markets almost quadrupled, from 13 to 47, and production doubled from 750 cars to 1500 per year.