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Sure, Volvos are known for their safety, but those who’ve never driven one won’t realize that they offer luxury and comfort on par with many of the offerings from BMW and Audi. Depending on the suspension optioned on a particular model, they can also be quite sporty and fun to drive. The P3 chassis represents most Volvo models sold fifteen years and are now becoming relatively inexpensive on the second-hand market. If you have any desire to own and care for one yourself, check out this guide on everything you need to know about their suspension. 

Read The Full Volvo P3 Buyer's Guide

 

 

P3 Volvo S60/V60 Suspension Design

The P3’s front suspension uses a MacPherson strut with a steel coil-over spring to provide the damping on the front axle. The bottom of the strut fits into the steering knuckle and is held in place with a pinch bolt, while the top bolts into a rubber strut mount. A single lower control arm controls suspension articulation. The rear suspension is a multi-link setup. A large trailing arm with an integrated wheel hub controls the fore and aft movement. A lower control arm, toe arm, and upper control arm control the wheel’s vertical movement and placement in the wheel well. A separate shock and spring control the damping with a similar architecture to what you might find in a BMW

Strut Assembly

While the P3s nearly all shared the same design and architecture, Volvo offered several different suspension damping packages depending on the model. Traditional passive dampers came in the standard form and as a firmer sport suspension. The latter included stiffer and shorter springs to pair with the firmer dampers for a more aggressive ride. Volvo also offered the Nivomat self-leveling suspension and the Four-C active suspension. The former was available on lifted models like the XC70 and is easily identified by its rubber accordion boot. The Four-C suspension is an electronically controlled set of dampers that give the driver multiple settings for the damper’s firmness. 

Damper Setting Buttons

Certain suspension elements are interchangeable without issue, but the Four-C struts are exclusive to those originally fitted with them. A computer controls the electronic dampers and is a part of the wiring harness behind the dashboard, among other places. There aren’t any provisions for the electronic dampers in a non-Four-C chassis. It is best to stay with whatever your Volvo came equipped with originally unless you’re going to install aftermarket pieces. 

 

P3 Volvo S60 Front Suspension Common Problems

Contrary to what you might believe, every component in the suspension contains a wear item. The springs, dampers, and bushings will all wear and need replacing at some point, but that isn’t a problem; instead, a designed function. However, some places in the suspension are prone to an increased wear rate. Look out for those issues during a potential purchase and put some money away for their eventual repair.  

 

Strut Mount & Bearing

A rubber mount and a steel bearing secure the strut to the chassis. The bearing eliminates rotational friction as the strut’s shaft turns with the wheel, while the rubber mount removes a lot of harsh vibrations and noise that would otherwise be present. Unfortunately for the P3 chassis, both parts are known to wear quicker than most other suspension pieces. 

Strut Mount

Failed bushings and mounts have a few ways of showing themselves to drivers and owners. The first symptoms that’ll make themselves apparent are scraping or grinding while turning the wheel and clunking over bumps at low to medium speeds. The noises are either the bearing or the strut mount’s rubber bushing beginning to fail. Luckily, the mounts and bearings are inexpensive, and the replacement process is simple enough for a DIY job. 

Bad Strut Mount

We sell a few strut mount kits that should help you with a DIY. This kit, from Corteco, includes a single mount and bearing for a quick, one-sided repair. However, if one mount is toast, chances are the other is close, so we recommend grabbing two. Of course, there’s no excuse like “while I’m in there,” so a strut replacement could be a good idea, too. If that’s the case, you’ll want this kit here. It includes new bump stops, spring isolators, dust boots, and the strut mount and bearing for a complete strut replacement kit. 

 

Front Control Arm Bushings

These aren’t so much a common problem but something you might experience on an older or higher mileage chassis. The control arms use two rubber bushings to isolate the arm from the chassis and a press-in ball joint for articulation on the knuckle. The bushings and the ball joint are meant to wear, though the conditions they’re put through affect how rapidly they degrade. When worn, you’ll hear clunking around bumps, and the steering feel will become vague. 

Front Control Arm Bushing

If you have some time, replacing the front control arms can be another DIY job. The bushings in the arms aren’t serviceable, making a complete arm replacement the only option. If corrosion is minimal, a metric socket set, a mallet, and a couple of big screwdrivers will get the job done.

 

Trailing Arm Bushings

The biggest single bushing in the rear suspension absorbs and dampens the harshness from the trailing arm. Worn bushings are the primary culprit of vague and darty rear suspension, making your Volvo a little sketchy to drive. Other bushings in the rear will likely last beyond 100,000 miles, but the trailing arms might need replacement as soon as 60,000 miles. Always check them out before purchasing a non-SUV P3 chassis Volvo.

Trailing Arm Bushing

Unlike some other components, the trailing arm bushings are not an easy DIY. We do offer multiple bushings, but replacement requires a press. Take them to your local dealer or independent shop for a replacement. 

 

P3 Volvo S60 Suspension Upgrades

The smaller P3 chassis Volvos like the S60 and V60 can be very rewarding and fun cars to drive, as long as the automatic transmission doesn’t offend you. Their suspension plays a big part in that and can be improved from entirely stock. Volvo offered two driver-focused types, the sport suspension, and Four-C, but most of the P3s came equipped with standard dampers and springs. The aftermarket has taken to these Volvos fondly, and now owners can take advantage of a slew of aftermarket performance suspension components. Check out all the various ways you can sharpen your suspension to determine which upgrades are right for you. 

 

Springs

Every model in the P3 family has a stylish and attractive exterior. Their very European lines and shapes separate the Volvos from nearly everything else on the road in the best way possible. If you want to improve the look, all it takes is a little less suspension travel. Lowering springs are the most effective way to enhance both the look and handling response of any vehicle, and the P3 Volvos have a few options to choose from. 

Volvo’s springs from their sport suspension option package are a great way to lower any P3 not equipped with them. They provide a slightly firmer ride and a 15mm drop at both axles. All four springs can be had for under $300, making them the least expensive lowering spring option. Sport suspension cars and R-Design P3s already use these springs, so installing them wouldn’t lower the car any further.

Aftermarket springs lower a P3 further than the sport suspension’s springs by about 15mm. Expect more than an inch for basic springs and about half for sport suspension. Spring compression rates will be a bit firmer than anything Volvo offers, though the rate will vary by manufacturer. H&R and Eibach are the two most common and respected manufacturers of aftermarket springs for the P3. They offer a noticeable drop without slamming the car and firm up the ride in a composed way.

However, you’ll need to swap out the stock shocks no matter which springs you end up with. By now, they’ve seen plenty of road miles and cannot provide the damping control required for the increased spring rate and reduced travel. 

 

Dampers

While springs get all the looks when it comes to choosing new suspension components, it’s the dampers that can make the most significant difference. As mentioned earlier, Volvo offers four types of dampers, and a few do well in spirited driving situations. There are gains to be had, and they’re through the aftermarket. 

Strut

Bilstein is an OEM damper manufacturer for Volvo, and their B4 Touring dampers are the standard replacement for the OE Sachs units. The B6 Performance and B8 Performance Plus shocks are the sportier offerings from Bilstein and should give your P3 the backroad performance you’re looking for. The B6 Performance struts are an excellent pairing for the factory sport suspension springs. The damping will be more sport-focused and less compromising for road comfort. The B8 Performance Plus has a firmer damping profile than the B6, designed for pairing with lowering springs. A set of B8s and some H&R springs would be a budget-friendly and very effective suspension pairing.

If Bilsteins aren’t your preferred manufacturer, you can give your money to Koni instead. Like Bilstein, they offer two sporty damper options for the P3 owner. The Koni Special Active dampers feature Koni’s “Frequency Select Damping” technology that uses a proprietary design to cancel out sharp bumps and jolts while maintaining a sporty ride. They’re best compared to the B6 dampers and will pair well with Volvo’s sport springs but will work with aftermarket lowering springs. If that isn’t enough, the classic yellow Koni Sport dampers are your best bet. Unlike any other offering, the Koni Sport dampers have manually adjustable rebound damping. They include the adjuster wrench and instructions on altering the rebound characteristics to suit your needs.

If you’re looking for a simple kit you can purchase, we can help you there, too. We offer multiple options from Bilstein, Koni, and Volvo to deliver all the right parts you’d need for the upgrade. For a subtle upgrade, try out the Genuine Volvo Sport Suspension Kit. Instead of wondering what an R-Design is like to drive, grab the Sport Suspension Kit and install those very same parts to your P3. Otherwise, you can use one of the four other kits available for a more aggressive suspension drop and ride. The Special Active and Sport dampers from Koni can be had with the H&R springs, as can the Bilstein B8s. If the H&Rs aren’t doing it for you, you can have the Eibachs with the B8 dampers instead.

 

Sway Bars

A slightly larger sway bar perfectly complements a mild spring and damper upgrade. Their job is to reduce roll during cornering and sharp direction changes, so increasing the size increases roll resistance. A simple upgrade for any owner would be the Genuine Volvo sway bars from their Polestar models. Together, they offer a reasonably modest upgrade in roll resistance without significantly compromising the rest of the ride. We provide the front bar as a complete kit that includes the correct bushings and Myle HD endlinks. The rear bar is available here, though you’ll have to acquire the bushings separately. Both bars work best when paired together, so match them if you can. 

Aftermarket bars are also an option. Elevate, iPd, and KCDesign are all popular choices for the P3 platform. Each rear bar comes in at around 25mm, about 3mm thicker than the Polestar bar. Owners on Volvo forums speak highly of the larger rear bars, especially regarding reduced understeer at turn-in. KCDesign is the only one to offer a thicker front bar at 26mm, 3mm larger than the Polestar. A larger front bar will sharpen steering response but can reintroduce understeer to the chassis if the wrong supporting components are present. We’d recommend trying out a larger rear bar with some uprated springs and dampers before anything else.

 

Coilovers

If you’re trying to break necks, and potentially your back, by going as low as possible, a set of coilovers is likely in your future. Of course, coilovers are a significant upgrade if you plan on having track time, too. They serve the same function as traditional coil springs and dampers, but their compact and adjustable design makes them lighter and more adaptable to different applications. We offer two different kinds of coilovers for the P3 that should work well in several situations.

The Polestar P3 models came equipped with manually-adjustable Ohlins coilovers as standard. Ohlins’ dual flow valve technology makes their products some of the best aftermarket choices, especially considering their work as the supplier for Koenigsegg. If you can’t afford a P3 Polestar, there’s no reason to fret, as we offer the same Ohlins suspension it uses. The Polestar Ohlins kit is identical to the suspension found in the P3 Polestar and carries a hefty price tag. Though, it is a complete kit with every piece necessary for the installation and includes a few tools one might need for the job. BC Racing’s BR-series coilovers are a better option for a smaller budget. The feel and poise they’ll grant the chassis won’t rival the Ohlins, nor will its adjustability, but they’re less than a third of the price and offer fantastic value for performance. Both coilovers should be paired with some larger sway bars for maximum performance.

 

P3 Volvo S60 Suspension Common Torque Values

Replacing suspension components yourself is a great way to familiarize yourself with cars and saves a hefty chunk of money. However, none of your work is worthwhile if you don’t torque the various bolts and nuts to their specified tightness. Here are some of the more common torque specs for the P3 chassis whenever you need them.

  • Front Control Arm Forward Inner Bushing Bolt* = 140Nm or 103 lb-ft, of torque, plus 45°
  • Front Control Arm Rear Inner Chassis Bolt = 175Nm or 129 lb-ft, of torque
  • Front Control Arm Ball Joint Nut = 100Nm or 74 lb-ft, of torque
  • Front Strut to Strut Mount Nut = 30Nm or 22 lb-ft, of torque
  • Wheel Lug Bolt = 140Nm or 103 lb-ft, of torque
  • Sway Bar Endlink to Strut Nut = 55Nm or 41 lb-ft, of torque
  • Sway Bar Endlink to Sway Bar = 70Nm or 52 lb-ft, of torque

There truly isn't much else to the P3 Volvo's suspension. It's all very straightforward, with a practical design to give the various models the sophisticated and composed ride they were meant to have. Hopefully, this guide answers all of the questions you currently have and any you will in the future. If not, let us know in the comments below, and we'll add it for others to benefit from. As always, subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow along on the DIY Blog for more daily content!


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Written by :
Christian Schaefer

Car and motorsports-obsessed writer/editor for FCP Euro's DIY Blog. Constantly dreaming of competing behind the wheel or searching for another project. Owner of a turbo Subaru Forester and a ratty Porsche 914, neither of which are running.


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