View Full Version : Volvo... 5 cylinder... what's with that?

11-16-2004, 02:08 AM
We think it may be time to trade in the Explorer, as it is nearing 280,000 KM, and I am looking at some Volvo 850 turbo station wagons. At first I thought it was a mistake, but some are listed as being 5 cylinder. What is the deal there?
I know there are some Volvo owners here and I am looking at 1996 to 1999 low milage models. Any good and bad about them, and please explain the 5 cyl.


11-16-2004, 02:30 AM
We had a 93 850 that we loved but the transmission gave out at 135,000 miles. Stay away from the early ones for that reason.

We would own a later model or a 70 series without hesitation.


11-16-2004, 02:53 AM
Audi and Acura have also offered a 5 banger in the past too

Mickey Richaud
11-16-2004, 10:40 AM
Paul -

We had a VW Quantum with a five-cyl. back in the mid to late '80's, and were very pleased. I thought it weird, too, when it first came out, but it did a wonderful job. I guess however you divide 360 degrees of engine rotation, you can make it work!

Incidentally, Chevy has introduced a five cylinder in their new Colorado (guess the GMC, too) pickup.


11-18-2004, 08:53 AM
This Link (https://autozine.kyul.net/technical_school/engine/smooth2.htm) explains some of the reasons for the five cylinder as well as advantages and dis-advantages. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/cheers.gif

11-18-2004, 09:57 AM
We used to have a 5 cylinder Mercedes diesel when I was in JR. and part of high school. great little car. Too bad my mom hates diesels, or we probably would still have it.

11-18-2004, 03:18 PM
Audi . . . also offered a 5 banger in the past too

[/ QUOTE ] I can still see the TV commercial in my mind - the Teutonic Engineer in his white lab coat is asked "why five cylinders?" His reply "six was too many, four was not enough." /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/thumbsup.gif

Simon TR4a
11-18-2004, 07:10 PM
Paul its sorta like half a Viper engine; when you have a transverse engine with front wheel drive a 6 cylinder makes a very wide package so either you have a lousy turning circle, have to put the tranny under or behind the motor which creates packaging problems, or have a problem with drive shaft angles which wastes power and can create problems with Noise Vibration and Harshness.
Nevertheless some modern Volvos and the Suzuki Verona/Chev Epica(? )have transverse 6 cylinders, so it can be done.
Also, some of the cars mentioned in the earlier posts have inline engines, Audi, Mercedes and Acura did for sure.
A V6 solves the space issues but it is very difficult to get to spark plugs and O2 sensors on the rear bank of cylinders if mounted transversly. (Chrysler has used inline mounted V6s in the full size cars.)

Super 7
11-19-2004, 05:16 PM
Audi 4000 & 5000 and quantums did not have transvers 5 cyl engines, as far as I know. They were longitudinally mounted.

Honda is racing a V5 in MOTO GP racing. It has been very successful.

11-19-2004, 11:13 PM
Paul, I asked my Volvo buds, and their response was, "It's just anothe lame-a**ed Ford.
So much for objectivity. They are all PO'd at Volvo jumping on the front wheel drive bandwagon.
I'll PM you Monday with some expanded views on the subject. I just want to make sure I get everything straight.

11-20-2004, 04:26 PM
Incidentally, Chevy has introduced a five cylinder in their new Colorado (guess the GMC, too) pickup. Mickey

[/ QUOTE ]
The only reason GM went to the 5 cylinder was that the current in-line 6 was too long to fit in the engine bay. I was in on the early development stages of the new Colorado platform, and we just couldn't shoe-horn the six in there.
Incidentally, the first prototype sixes and fives were made by sawing two Quad Fours apart and welding them back together to get the required number of cylinders. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/hammer.gif

11-20-2004, 06:01 PM
Thanks Jeff
Looking forward to the Info. Took a couple out this past week.... Nothing impressive though..for Turbos.. But, they were both wagons.


11-25-2004, 02:25 AM
The 5 cyl engine was not developed to save space over a straight 6. I forget all the details as to why but I remember reading the 5 cyl is one of the most naturally balanced engines ever designed.

11-25-2004, 08:49 AM
TPI, you are correct. But, in the case of the GM version, it was a packaging problem that led to the five.

12-10-2004, 09:09 AM
I noticed that the new VW Jetta (midyear '05) will also offer a 5 cylinder. Dunno if it's based on the old Audi/VW 5 or a new one yet.

12-10-2004, 03:08 PM
The new VW 5 is a version of the VR6 architecture. The original Audi 5 was a case of packaging - virtually the entire engine hangs out in front of the front axle, so making the engine shorter was important, and 5 cyl was a way of increasing displacement while retaining parts commonality with their 4s.

My understanding is that a 5 can be made balanced, but that it is definitely not the best natural balance, esp in the secondary harmonics. You need a V12 for that.

12-21-2004, 06:35 AM
Hi all, new guy here. I have a 1993 Volvo 850, a few points. First off, it's not a lame Ford motor. The 850 and the 5 cylinder white motor were designed way before Ford's purchased of Volvo. Volvo was looking to build a more modern sports oriented sedan, and that meant front wheel drive. They were counting on the 850 series to completely change the publics perception of Volvo from one of stogey conservativeness to a more sporting, performance oriented one. I think the 850, especially the turbo models, did that in spades.

Now to the 850 specifics. If you're looking for one, I'd go with the 95 or 96, the least amount of problems with those models. Definetely go with a turbo, the N/A cars are seriosuly underpowered and the turbo also helps keep resale value a little higher. My car is N/A (they did not offer the turbo option till 94) and it's a dog, one of the few complaints I have about it. Transmission problems exist for all years of the 850 for one simple reason, Volvo themselves. They tried to bill the 850 as a "low maintenance" car, and specificed that the automatic transmission fluid was good for the life of the vehicle. Hello, it's the same fluid that everyone else was using. Anyway, because of that most dealer serviced vehicles never got a trans fluid change, and transmissions end up dying somewhere between 100K and 150K. If you can find a car that was owned by someone who changed the fluid regularly then you'll have no problems with the trans. However, if you're looking at a car that has 130K on the clock and you can find no evidence (through records) that the fluid has ever been changed, I'd walk away or get them to come way down on their price. Incidentally, a trans swap or rebuild will run you somewhere between $2500 and $3K. Fortunately, my car only has 90K on it when I got it. The fluid had never been changed, so I did it right away. I think I caught it before any damage was done. Other sore points on these cars, rear main seals. The 850 motor does not use a PCV valve, it has something called a flame trap. The flame trap needs to be cleaned regularly, if not it will clog up with gunk. If that happends crankcase pressure has no where to go and the pressure buildup will cause seals to pop and start leaking, most notably the RMS. That job will run you about $1K to $1200, and it is an extremely difficult DIY job. The ABS controllers go on these cars to, and thats a simple 10 minute job to replace, but the part itself is about $800. Front sway bar end links go quickly, causing clunks in the front end. Motor mounts go fairly regularly, causing yet more clunks and vibrations. If you want to read up on some thing try this place:


The best Volvo forum I've found on the web. Don't get me wrong, I think the 850's are fantastic cars and I love mine, but they are not cheap to maintain. No Camry or Accord bullet proof drivetrains here, but tons more style and performance (with the turbo). I do mostly all my own work on this car, so PM me if you have specific questions and I'll try to help if I can.
Good luck.

12-21-2004, 07:03 PM
Dot, My comment about the 850 being just another "lame a$$ed Ford" was a direct quote from my two friends that have been racing Volvos for years. They collectively pretty well know more about Volvos than I ever will.
The comment was based upon the fact of their perception of Volvo going downhill since Ford stepped into the picture.
I won't even attempt to address the front wheel drive issue, as I'm not qualified to comment on it.
My 240 DL is a fine ride, as far as I'm concerned.

12-21-2004, 07:39 PM
Bugeye, no problem, I didn't take any offense or anything. Your friends, and you, know more about Volvo's than I do thats for certain, the 850 has been the only one I've owned.

From what I've heard though there seems to be quite a bit of information out there to support your friend's position that Volvo has gone downhill since being aquired by Ford. I've even heard a Volvo master tech at my local dealership say the newer cars are so insanely complex now that they have had problems themselves fixing them, especially the electrical systems, not to mention the quality control problems. The newer ones are nice looking, refined cars, I especially like the S60R, but I don't think I would buy another one, at least not one more modern than the 850 that I have now.