Holy Birkenstock, Sven, Volvo's got a V-8! What will its stereotypical constituency of college professors and earth mothers think of the first eight-banger in Volvo's 77 years? Volvo's willing to chance its P.C. image to remain the builder of America's favorite European sport/utility, the XC90, and take on the likes of BMW's X5 4.4i, VW's Touareg V8, and Cadillac's Northstar V-8-powered SRX, with a Yamaha-developed V-8, for about $6000 less than these competitors.

The new-from-scratch powerplant fits under the XC90's hood because it's a 60-degree all-aluminum design with a reversed-bank offset and a two-stage cam timing chain and direct-mounted accessories. The Yamaha makes 311 horsepower and 325 pound-feet--just four horses short of the X5 4.4i V-8, with an extra pound-foot of torque. Volvo also boasts the first Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle II status in a gas V-8 and engine packaging that maintains the XC90's exemplary 35-mph head-on and 40-mph offset-crash properties. The V-8 has a 1250-rpm idle at cold start for a lean air/fuel mixture, and it settles in at 675 rpm when warmed.

With 45 more pound-feet than the 2.9-liter twin-turbo T6, the Swedish sport/utility gets an Aisin AW F21 six-speed automatic and reinforced Haldex all-wheel drive. The six-speed is 22 pounds lighter than the T6's four-speed, and overall the XC90 V-8 weighs just 33 pounds more than the T6. The V-8 has a torquey, smooth driveline with a subtle motorboat burble. Its front wheels get a bit light in full-throttle launches, until the on-demand rears get the message. The overhead cam is almost too refined, with a V-8 message that's more comfortable than a roomful of Swedish furniture. Except for that launch, power comes on subtly and should match the X5 4.4i's 6.8-second 0-to-60-mph time. It's the kind of power that makes you think you're going slower than you really are--quite different from a six with turbo lag. Other changes include exclusive designs for the 18-inch wheels and the tailpipes, a new grille mesh, color-key door handles and side moldings, and 2.1 gallons more premium-fuel capacity.

Volvo will build 15,000 XC90 V-8s for the world per year, with 11,250 headed for the United States. Volvo says Yamaha has capacity for another 5000 engines, so expect the V-8 to pop up in a heavily revised 2006 S80 and perhaps even a future Lincoln model.

Price $46,080
Layout Front engine, AWD, 7-pass SUV
Engine 4.4L/311-hp V-8, DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
0-60 mph, sec 7.0 (mfr est)
On sale date January 2005