For the Volvo Enthusiast

Project 850 T-5R Part Three: Intake, Exhaust, and ECU Upgrades From EuroSport Tuning

When we last reported on the progress of the Swedespeed Project T-5R, we were practicing a healthy mix of repairing and modifying by swapping out a completely beat suspension system for a new set of stock Bilsteins and IPD’s lowering coil springs at all four corners. Months later, we’re still loving both the look and comfort of our parts from the self-proclaimed Volvo Specialists. For this round of updates, we started with the same good intentions of upgrading broken parts, but that quickly went out the window thanks to a hunger for more power.

This was, of course, inevitable. Who buys a turbocharged car and just leaves it be, despite all the extra potential hiding away in that snail shell between the engine and firewall? Uptight Consumer Reports types who overvalue practicality, that’s who. But despite the inevitability of my power upgrades, a very innocent drive to Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee is what inspired them.

“Maybe you should take this as a sign to stop eating donuts.” That’s what an unnamed co-worker told me as I limped my 850 back to the office on a recent lunch break. Pulling into the Dunkin’ Donuts minutes earlier (just for their tasty iced coffee, I swear,) I heard a clunk and then, all of a sudden, my exhaust note got deep and throaty. “Nice,” I thought, at least until I also heard the sound of metal scraping concrete. My 15-year-old exhaust system had rusted through in a nice neat circle right behind the catalytic converter, allowing my downpipe to dangle free. Logically, I couldn’t just replace the front half of the exhaust�if it broke once, wouldn’t that mean it could break in another spot? Somewhere around the quiet stock muffler, perhaps?

My search for a replacement took me to Frank Derks, owner of EuroSport Tuning and a genuinely nice guy. He didn’t have a downpipe available for the early three-bolt turbo flange on the T-5R (I ordered a stock replacement elsewhere later) but he did have a 2.5-inch performance cat-back system that I decided was perfect for my car. It’s all stainless steel, with a perforated tube muffler design rather than baffles for better flow. Back pressure, according to Frank, is reduced by 80 percent with the system. It also has a five-year warranty and is priced at a very fair $629 with free shipping.

I ordered up the exhaust and then the snowball started rolling. If I was going to have better flow out of the engine, I should probably have more air going in, I thought. That’s why I kept my mouse clicking and also ordered EuroSport’s Ultra-Flo intake. It comes in a simple, easy-to-install kit that includes a cone filter, a metal housing, and all the necessary hardware. The housing features holes to use both the stock routing into the MAF and also the stock hose piping cool air to the filter from the front of the engine compartment. The cost of the kit is $179.95.

At this point I concluded that I may as well round out the three basic elements of any power modifications�intake, exhaust, and chip. EuroSport uses RICA Engineering as a source for its ECU reflashes. For my T-5R, that program delivers a claimed 304 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque, pretty drastic increases over the stock 240 hp and 243 lb-ft. And one heck of a power-per-dollar bargain at $599.

I start my work under the hood with the easiest job possible�removing the ECU to send to EuroSport for reflashing. I pop the ECU cover, flip a lock-down latch, and remove. If you haven’t done it, yes, it really is that easy. The car gets to nap for three days, and then I have the upgraded ECU back and reinstalled in minutes.

I don’t get to enjoy my newfound power, though, because I’ve already removed the stock exhaust in preparation for the UPS man’s presents. It’s a straightforward job other than two annoying things. First, the rubber exhaust hangers are a pain to pull apart, a process that takes me almost an hour with a few small pry bars. I probably could have simply unbolted the upper brackets of the hangers from the car’s undercarriage, but they were rusty and I didn’t want to touch them.

The hangers, however, were a small bump in the road compared to my other problem. I’d removed two of the three nuts mounting the downpipe to my turbocharger and was making quick business of the third, when it all of a sudden stopped. I pushed harder, and nothing. Then I tried to back it up on the threaded stud, but nothing again. Then it happened�I broke the stud in half, and it would have to be drilled out.

Due to space issues between the engine and firewall, this wasn’t going to be possible with the turbo on the car�and I spent too much time and effort figuring that out. I’ll save you the details, but removing the turbocharger, drilling out and re-tapping the hole, and throwing it all back together ranks right up there with the time I rode on a wooden stretcher in an ambulance for 45 minutes after head injury for the most painful experiences in my life.

That issue aside, the exhaust install is quick as easy. Eurosport’s kit comes in four easy-to-ship, easy-to install pieces (five if you count the shiny tip) that make a home installation simple. Rather than lift the whole system up and twist in into place, the exhaust can be assembled one piece at a time. With the downpipe in place, the first piece of the EuroSport kit is the most time intensive. Actually, it’s the first two pieces�I’ve already clamped together a section of pipe and the muffler section of the exhaust, because it seemed easier to do than taking this step underneath the car. I clamp the pipe to the front section of the exhaust, and once that’s secure, the hangers on each side of the muffler are next. It goes on easier than the stock part came off, partly because the smaller muffler allows more clearance for twisting maneuvers. It’s lighter, too, which is a plus for my arm muscles and the car’s performance later.

With the first muffler section in place, the next step is to wind a pre-bend pipe through the suspension, then slide it over the exit pipe of the muffler. A C-clamp squeezes the two pipes together, leak-free.

The final section slides on to the second pipe with ease, but the hardware to hang this last part doesn’t match up with any mounting location under my car. Luckily, there’s a bolt hole on the exhaust that matches up with a hanger already on the car. I use my stock parts and the mounting is done. I finish the job within an hour by claming on EuroSport’s pretty, oval-shaped tip.

Moving on to the front of the car, I find the air intake job to be even easier. With a few hose clamps and a firm pull, the stock airbox pops out of the car and I toss it aside. In the empty void it left, I drop in the EuroSport housing, which fits right up to the mass air flow sensor. Hardware provided secures the MAF as well as a component of the vacuum system that was once mounted below the stock airbox. There’s also a hole cut out for a stock hose that routes cold air from ahead of the radiator, and I slide it in. Finally, I oil and install the cone filter, which is secured with a larger hose clamp. Just like that�well, ignoring my turbocharger removal�my power upgrades are complete.

All has not been perfect in the time since, however. The increased turbo pressure and air flow of my changes revealed the weakest link of the induction system, my turbo-to-intercooler-to-throttle body hoses. Overdramatizing a bit, they all basically exploded out of place at once. It’s a quick fix, though, with about $65 worth of new rubber hoses (or $200 if you opt for the SAMCO silicone parts.) In the coming weeks, I also plan to swap out my spark plugs, cap, rotor, and coil just for good measure, and I also think my transmission would like some new fluid before it carries on dealing with the engine’s newfound power.

With my air delivery issues resolved, I’ve been absolutely thrilled with the 850’s newfound power and the angry sounds it makes from both ends. The exhaust has a deep, aggressive note when the engine is being worked hard, but it returns to a soft, non-invasive rumble when the car is in cruising mode. That’s just how an exhaust system should be�mean sounds on demand.

In intake noise, on the other hand, might be a bit much for some people. I personally love the wooshing and crashing coming from under the hood when I toy with the right pedal, and it also scares the crap out of inattentive drivers in the next lane. If you’re looking for something more subtle, EuroSport also offers a high-flow filter insert for the stock air box.

Performance-wise, I’m really happy with the RICA chip. In the first few gears, the front tires really struggle to find traction under full acceleration, even if the car’s already moving along at 20 or 30 mph. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, because managing the power is thoroughly entertaining. And I’m also not saying that’s the only situation where the new power is useful. I’ve found that in normal driving, the car feels more responsive and always seems to be making adequate power and torque. Where the stock tuning took a second to build steam off the line or when going to pass, the RICA tune keeps the engine ready to pounce. Best of all, the car still looks and sounds totally stock to most people in most situations. If only they knew the anger inside my T-5R’s big black heart.

Thanks again to Frank Derks and EuroSport tuning for an excellent set of upgrades. For those of you who’ve just gotten into 850 Turbos and are looking for a few quick and easy power upgrades, the intake, exhaust, and chip are an easy one-two-three punch.

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