Best Volvo engines in 5 decades - A complete guide


In this in-depth look at the best Volvo engines, we’ll look at the B21, B23, B230, B234, B5254 (plus its variants) to determine which engines are best for a Volvo.

Volvo has been at the forefront of automotive engineering for nearly five decades. Volvo is synonymous with high-quality vehicles, having created some of the most amazing engines the automotive industry has ever seen.

We are about to take you on a riveting trip through four decades of amazing mechanical excellence. 

We explore the engineering accomplishments that defined each age. This guide will provide you with vital insights on the best Volvo engines throughout the years, whether you’re a Volvo enthusiast, a prospective buyer, or simply fascinated by the evolution of automotive technology.

This is a compilation of the Best Volvo Engines, from vintage models to modern powerhouses.


Engines produced in the 80s

Best Volvo engines - B21

The Volvo B21 engine’s trajectory began in the 1960s when Volvo debuted it as a replacement for the earlier B20 engine.

The B21 engine was created to improve performance, fuel efficiency, and reliability. Volvo made various updates and improvements to the engine over the years, perfecting its design and fixing any faults recorded in prior engines.

This constant upgrading resulted in the creation of a highly reliable and robust power plant.

The Volvo B21 engine was rigorously built, blending cutting-edge design with time-tested technology.

The engine was built with a cast-iron block and an aluminum cylinder head to strike a compromise between durability and weight.

Its overhead camshaft design, combined with hydraulic valve lifters, ensured smooth running and minimal maintenance.

For the period the B21 engine was in production, it displayed outstanding performance.

Its displacement ranged from 2.0 to 2.3 liters, giving a good blend of power and fuel efficiency. The engine made use of fuel injection systems and electronic ignition, which improved throttle responsiveness and fuel economy.

The B21 engine produced enough power for a variety of applications, including passenger automobiles and light trucks, with horsepower ranging from 100 to 150.

The Volvo B21 engine’s outstanding endurance and durability were major elements in cementing its reputation.

The B21 engine was known to survive high mileage and extensive use due. Proper maintenance and regular repair were critical in ensuring the engine’s longevity, which meant a Volvo B21 engine could easily exceed 200,000 miles or more.

Restoring B21 Engines

With the increased interest in classic cars, many automotive enthusiasts have developed a passion for rebuilding Volvo B21 engines. Restoring a B21 engine requires great attention to detail, the use of genuine parts, and adherence to the original specifications. By preserving and fixing these engines, enthusiasts may ensure that the legacy of the Volvo B21 is passed down to future generations.

Volvo B21 Engine in Classic Cars

The Volvo B21 engine was used in several classic Volvo cars, including the renowned Volvo 240 and 740 series. The reliable B21 engine is at the heart of these cars’ reputation for longevity and safety features. 

What are some common issues with the B21 engine?

Some of the common problems include fuel injection system failure, ignition component failure, and gasket failures.

Best Volvo engines - B23

The Volvo B23 engine first appeared in the late 1970s, replacing the earlier B21 engine. Building on the success of its predecessor, the B23 engine was significantly improved in terms of performance and efficiency.

Volvo engineers concentrated on improving the engine’s design and combined sophisticated technology, resulting in an engine that redefined the automobile industry.

The Volvo B23 engine was built to last and was designed to be revolutionary. It was built in a cast-iron block recognized for its durability and dependability. The engine had an aluminum cylinder head with overhead camshafts, which provided smooth and efficient performance.

Volvo paid special attention to the interior components, which were meticulously designed to improve power delivery and fuel efficiency.

It was either carbureted or fuel-injected. The engine, with displacement ranging from 2.3 to 2.5 liters, provided a good blend of power and fuel economy.

Fuel injection technology, along with clever engine management systems, produced remarkable power output and rapid acceleration. The power output of the B23 engine ranged from 110 to 150 horsepower, depending on the model and configuration.

Over the years, the B23 engine has demonstrated its durability. It is common for a Volvo B23 engine to reach high mileage figures with regular maintenance and care. Many enthusiasts and Volvo owners indicate that with constant servicing and attention, B23 engines can exceed 200,000 miles and in exceptional cases, 500,000 miles.

The Volvo B23 engine was used in an array of historic Volvo cars, including the well-known Volvo 240 and 740 series. These vehicles, which are adored for their distinctive design and dependability, owe much of their fame to the fantastic B23 engine.

Best Volvo engines - B230

Best Volvo engines Volvo B230

The Volvo B230 engine continued the legacy and quality of the four-cylinder engines that came before it. This engine was introduced in the late 1980s as part of Volvo’s legendary Redblock engine series. 

The Volvo B230 engine’s excellent power and performance are two of its standout features. The engine was offered in a range of versions with different power outputs. The B230 engine, with displacement options ranging from 2.3 to 2.5 liters, was fuel-injected rather than carbureted like earlier engines.

Many Volvo owners report that their B230 engines have traveled 200,000 miles or more, a testament to the engine’s solid design and longevity.

It is recommended to check the fuel injection system and ignition components and keep an eye out for potential oil leaks, as proactive troubleshooting will help maintain the engine’s reliability and performance.

The Volvo B230 engine was used in the 240 and 740 series.

Best Volvo engines - B234

The Volvo B234 engine made its debut in the 1980s as an improvement to the previous B230 engine. Building on the success of its predecessor, the B234 engine received considerable design and engineering upgrades.

The Volvo B234 engine had an aluminum block and cylinder head, which resulted in less weight and better heat dissipation. Four valves per cylinder, twin overhead camshafts, and a sophisticated fuel injection system were among the innovations used in the engine. 

When it comes to power and performance, the 2.3-liter Volvo B234 engine produced remarkable power output over the RPM range. Depending on the version and setup, power outputs ranged from 150 to 225 horsepower.

The engine was equipped with an electronic fuel injection system, which allowed for precise fuel distribution and efficient combustion. 

You should be prepared for issues with the ignition system, such as defective ignition modules or spark plugs while dealing with the B234 engine. In addition, there may be problems with the sensors or fuel delivery system of the engine.

The Volvo B234 engine was used in a variety of iconic and agile Volvo cars, including the 850 T-5R and the legendary 240 Turbo.

Volvo had mastered the four-cylinder engine, and they were all constructed like tanks. The best chance for durability is any of the four engines mentioned above.

Other engines from this generation were the 2.7-liter B27 engine, which had an inline-six design, and the B28 engine, a V6 engine with a 2.8-liter displacement. 

They both performed superbly; however, the dependability test failed them due to numerous issues that we will explore further below.

The issues include:- 

  1. Leaking oil. These engines contain several gaskets and seals that can wear out over time and cause leaks or oil seepage. The oil pan gasket, the valve cover gasket, or other engine seals may all experience leaks. 
  2. Engine damage can occur as a result of the timing belt breaking, becoming loose, or wearing out over time. 
  3. Overheating can occur as a result of a damaged thermostat, coolant leakage, or a faulty radiator fan.
  4. Fuel injection problems – Rough idling, low fuel efficiency, hesitation during acceleration, and engine misfires are all symptoms. These problems might be caused by clogged or faulty fuel injectors.

Engines produced in the 90s

Best Volvo engines in the 90s

The 1990s marked a remarkable era for Volvo as it introduced a diverse range of engines that not only upheld their renowned durability but also pushed the boundaries of automotive technology.

Volvo was an industry trailblazer, setting new standards with the early adoption of electronic fuel injection systems in their engines. These innovative systems revolutionized fuel efficiency and overall performance, putting Volvo at the forefront of automotive engineering.

We will focus on two exceptional engines, the B5254, and the B6304, while also revisiting the B230 engine for a comprehensive understanding of Volvo’s engineering prowess.

Best Volvo engines - B5254

Best Volvo Engines - B5254 ​

The B5254 engine, a superb five-cylinder petrol rig, stands tall in terms of power and efficiency. With a range of variants available, including naturally aspirated and turbocharged versions, each configuration presents its own distinctive characteristics.

The naturally aspirated iteration, renowned as the B5254S, emerges as a reliable workhorse. Its power delivery is solid, making it an ideal choice for everyday driving. Moreover, the B5254S engine exhibits refined motor attributes, such as responsive acceleration and commendable low-end torque.

This engine features a robust inline-four configuration, featuring a 2.5-liter displacement. Noteworthy advancements like dual overhead camshafts (DOHC) and Volvo’s signature Variable Valve Timing (VVT) system contribute to optimizing engine performance across varying RPM ranges.

Meticulously engineered combustion systems and precise fuel injection techniques harmoniously blend power and fuel efficiency, elevating the B5254 engine to new heights.

B5254S Reliability

While the B5254S engine boasts commendable reliability, it is important to be aware of potential issues that may arise like:-

Oil Consumption: Certain B5254S engines have been reported to exhibit higher-than-expected oil consumption. Vigilance on oil levels is advised as prolonged neglect could lead to engine damage.

PCV System Failure: In isolated cases, the positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system may experience failure. This can result in excessive crankcase pressure, oil leaks, and diminished engine performance.

Timing belt tensioner failure: Premature failure of the timing belt tensioner is another point of concern. This issue can lead to timing belt misalignment and the possibility of engine damage.

Volvo Models Powered by the B5254S Engine

The B5254S engine powered several iconic Volvo models, including:

  • Volvo 850
  • Volvo S70
  • Volvo V70

The Turbocharged B5254T

For those seeking an exhilarating experience, the turbocharged variant of the B5254 engine, the B5254T, stands as the epitome of performance. This extraordinary engine introduced a new dimension of power to the automotive landscape.

The Volvo B5254T engine made its debut in the late 90s and early 2000s, cementing its place in Volvo’s esteemed lineup of engines during that period. It found a home in various Volvo models, exhibiting its prowess across the automotive world.

While the exact introduction year may vary based on specific models and markets, the B5254T engine became widely available around the early 2000s. As a member of the esteemed B-series family, this four-cylinder gasoline engine captivated enthusiasts with its potent horsepower and torque, delivering thrilling acceleration and an abundance of power during spirited drives.

The B5254T engine’s turbocharger brings forth a surge of power, leaving a smile on the face of every driver fortunate enough to experience its punch.

Reliability of the B5254T Engine

The B5254T engine, a true testament to Volvo’s unwavering commitment to excellence, is renowned for its exceptional reliability. It is meticulously designed to withstand high mileage and demanding conditions, instilling confidence in its owners.

Safeguarding the longevity of the B5254T engine requires regular maintenance and proper care. With diligent attention, this powerplant promises a stress-free driving experience and performance that remains unmatched for years to come.

In addition to its remarkable power, the B5254 engine strikes an admirable balance between performance and fuel efficiency, making it a practical choice for daily commutes as well as extensive journeys.

The B5254T Reliability

Owners who have experienced the B5254T engine firsthand passionately praise its exceptional reliability. Even under challenging conditions, this engine consistently delivers remarkable performance, demonstrating unparalleled durability and endurance.

It is important to note that individual experiences may vary based on driving habits, maintenance practices, and operating conditions. Nonetheless, the Volvo B5254T engine has rightfully earned its reputation as a dependable powerplant, instilling unwavering confidence in its fortunate owners.

Notable Vehicles Equipped with the B5254T Engine

  • Volvo S60 sedan
  • Volvo V70 wagon
  • Volvo XC70 crossover
  • Volvo XC90 SUV

Wrapping up

This is not the end…look out for other generations in coming updates. However, the 80s still hold the crown for the best Volvo engines. Any of the four-cylinder engines indicated above are the finest choices among the 1980s engines.


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