Volvo 960 Tuning

"It is big and it is clever."

The 960 is the big daddy of the Volvo range. It offered unparalleled practical space and performance and has quite an avid following among our forum members.

We get asked quite a bit about making these more economical but this is a performance tuning article so we'll leave that discussion for our forum.

The 960 is a great car modification project to fill your spare time. With the right mods your 960 can be transformed into an awesome motor. Don't waste money, do your homework and follow our unbiased guides to each performance upgrade so you don't waste your money.


Tuning tips and articles
Get the handling sorted first. As they get old the bushings go soggy and suspension parts start to wear out.

Tuning modifications.

These are the uprated upgrades are usually installed by our members, decide how far you want to go before you start.

Getting the correct grade of uprated mods for your planned usage of the car is essential. Stage 3 motor sport parts just don't work well on the road and will make the car undrivable.

Please watch our video which covers the 5 principles of tuning your car. Be sure to subscribe and support our new channel.

Best mods for your 960

  1. Turbo upgrades - forced induction is the most efficient approach to increase your intakes air supply, which permits you to combust more fuel and make power gains. Typically one of the most challenging upgrades you'll see massive gains.
  2. Lighter flywheels - a lower mass flywheel will enhance the engines free revving nature. But not always recommended for all 960 engines.
  3. Flowing and porting the Head - Head work will get air flowing into the engine while removing turbulence or restrictions.
  4. ECU Tunes - 960 remapping offers the most power in terms of your investment, aftermarket ECUs, and Tuning boxes are all alternatives.
  5. Air Induction and Exhaust - Be aware on their own these mods won't ADD POWER in most applications, but they permit you to enhance power after other modifications by losing a restriction.
  6. Fast road cams are one of the most significant mechanical changes, but we recommend they be setup by someone qualified to set them up properly and it can sometimes be hard to find one but you'll probably find a local firm to regrind a stock cam for you.
  7. 960 Suspension Upgrades - Fitting a more sporty Suspension kit greatly enhances your 960 road holding and cornering. Adjustable coilovers and better bushings are what is needed here.
  8. Brake Mods - Improve your ability to stop ought to be somewhere in your mods list.

960 Tuning Stages

Typical stage 1 mods often include: Remap, Suspension upgrade (drop 24mm - 43 mm.), Panel air filter, Alloy wheels, Lighter flywheel, Sports exhaust.

Typical stage 2 mods often include: Ported and polished head, Power/Sport clutch, high flow fuel injector, fuel pump upgrades, Fast road cam.

Typical stage 3 mods often include: Engine balancing, Competition cam, Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), Sports gearbox, Adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger).

Peak power is all well and good but for a daily driven car you need a long torque band and perhaps extending the rev range.

In this article we shall give a brief overview to the best mods for your car, but we'd encourage you to spend some time on the site looking into the details of each type of performance mod.Fast road cams offer one of the biggest performance gains for your money as far as a solitary modifications goes on a NA (naturally aspirated) engine.

Uprated Bushes

Enhancements to the bushings: Things you need to know

It is possible to connect the 960's suspension components to the chassis of the 960 using poly bushes, which are replacements for the oem rubber mounts. The rubber ones typically lose their shape with time and need replacing anyway so why not upgrade.

Installing new OEM rubber bushes may dramatically improve the performance of your car.

Because the polyurethane bushes are firmer, the ride may be a bit rougher, but they will last longer and maintain the handling.

Worn bushes may also hasten the demise of other suspension components due to the increased vibration and play.

With a new set of poly bushes, the excessive play associated with rubber bushings may be mitigated.

Fit a strut brace to tighten this up and a rear anti roll bar. Coilovers are also good upgrades but don't drop the car too far as this can have an adverse effect on car performance and handling.

Turning our attention to the 960s engine we need to get a bit more power out of the top end.

Following our tips for tuning your 960 you will end up with a practical scorching hatch that will embarrass bigger cars.

Smaller engines do not provide much of a return in terms of power so start with a bigger engine. Engine swaps are a good option if you have a small engine size.

Volvo 960 Tuning modifications.


The exhaust & intake valve durations play a huge role in your cars power band, but be careful here, getting this wrong can upset the idle and make the car challenging to drive in traffic. You'd need to follow a camshaft upgrade with other mods and finish with a performance chip to fully realise your gains.

You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so will need to look at the fuelling.

Frequently power losses, flat spots and erratic idling after modified upgrades are done can usually be traced to timing or fuel delivery issues. Uprating the injectors is another beneficial modification and will deliver sufficient fuel.

A fuel pump will only deliver a finite amount of fuel, so you may need to uprate this if your injectors are demanding more fuel.

Volvo 960 Intake and Exhaust.

Breathing mods are usually next up. Induction kits work well on turbo engines and larger engines but will not on there own make much of a difference power wise.

For the smaller 960 engines you should go with a sports panel air filter made from cotton. A sports catalyst will free up the exhausts breathing and allow you to explore the top end of the rev range. Do not go with the biggest exhaust you can find - the best for power gains are usually between 2 to 2.5 inches.

Your clutch can seriously let you down if it starts to slip and the standard clutches are only ever good for power gains of up to 50%.

Fit an uprated clutch to avoid power losses through the transmission. Remaps offer significant power gains on all turbo charged cars so if you have a T5 powered 960 this means you, just expect to spend a lot more on tyres over the year.

On NA (naturally aspirated) engines the benefits of a remap are doubtful, but will help unleash the potential if you have done a lot of other mods to your engine.

The largest power gains for NA (naturally aspirated) engines usually involve the addition of forced induction. Turbos are harder to add than supercharger and we have a big supported of supercharged Volvos in our forum who regularly puts in some pretty good quarter mile runs!

It is harder to map a NASP engine to run with an aftermarket turbo kit as the boost comes on exponentially with engine speed.

You'll also have a problem with detontation so see our adding a turbo article for more on this. Superchargers however will give a boost which is proportional to engine speed so is easier to map. Decreasing the engines compression ratio will allow you to add forced induction, water injection may also help prevent detonation.

Volvo 960 Wheel modifications.

Alloy wheel upgrades.

The benefits of alloy wheels include lowering your unsprung weight and better brake cooling. We can't go into too much detail here about tires but they are how the car puts the power down on the road so are a critical choice. directional tread pattern tires work well on 960, and make a big difference over budget tires. Large 960 alloy wheels can decrease performance. If you get big alloy wheels you will be changing your final drive ratio.

Due to this fact endeavour to keep the overall rolling diameter of the wheel your OEM settings. In all cases avoid going larger than 16 inches.

If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your car please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss 960 options in more detail with our 960 owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Volvo tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

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2 Responses to “Tuning the 960”

  1. Steven says:

    Very good advice I got from the article on the 960 performance improvement.
    Just an advisory question I would like to ask. Which engine management system will work best on the 960 standard engine automatic. I am putting this in my 1967 B122s.

  2. ron fancher says:

    I am interested in the ideas here, i have seen some video’s on the performance of the 960 and i am very impressed and eager to do some upgrades. thanks ron

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