Gunning to win the hearts, minds and wallets of horsepower-hungry U.S. customers, Volvo Cars launches the first 8-cyl. engine in company history: a Yamaha-made V-8 for use in the hot-selling XC90.

Injecting the XC90 with a new level of performance was the obvious end-game, but in developing the all-new V-8, safety came first — as it does for virtually everything Volvo does.

“We had to design the most compact V-8 in the world so we could keep our (frontal impact) crumple zones intact,” says Jorgen Svensson, chief program engineer. The new V-8's compact footprint ensures the XC90 will maintain Volvo's expected levels of crash worthiness, he says.

Volvo has contracted to purchase up to 25,000 of the V-8s annually from Yamaha Motor Co. Ltd. The engine also can be used by other Ford Motor Co. brands if desired.

Volvo parent Ford has an interesting engine-development history with Yamaha: It bought 87,000 Yamaha-modified 3L and 3.2L DOHC V-6s for the 1989-1995 run of first-generation Taurus SHO (Super High Output) models.

The Japanese company then modified 3.4L DOHC V-8s for the second-generation ('96-'99) Taurus SHO. Ford sold approximately 20,000 Taurus SHOs with the 3.4L V-8.

In the 1990s, Yamaha also co-engineered with Ford of Europe high-revving engines of various displacements, including a tiny 1.25L unit.

Volvo insists its new 4.4L DOHC V-8 is not a modified version of the 3.4L SHO V-8. At a press conference in Sweden, reporters closely questioned Hans Wikman, vice president-large cars for Volvo, about the relationship between the new Volvo and SHO engines.

Wikman says there is little in common between the bigger Volvo engine and the one used in the SHO. About the only significant components common to both engines are the piston connecting rods, he says.

The 32-valve V-8 also has continuously variable inlet and exhaust valve timing (CVVT). The CVVT system improves power and fuel efficiency and cuts emissions.