Volvo’s announcement that it is going to send the eco-version of the S80 saloon into battle with an engine that can call on just 1.6 litres of swept capacity, Volvo appears to be breaking new ground.

There’s already been a fair amount of debate on our forums as to just how lethargic the S80 DRIVe is likely to be – as the existing S80 2.0D takes 11.0 seconds to cover the 0-60mph dash with an extra 24bhp and 59lb-ft of torque, the answer is likely to be ‘very’.

But by my reckoning the S80 DRIVe will also earn itself a historical footnote as the first time such a small engine has been fitted to such a big car.

I know that as specific outputs rose through the ’70s and ’80s various E-segment cars got fitted with sub 1.8-litre engines carefully sized to qualify for tax breaks in various European countries, but I’m unaware of any getting smaller than that.

Based on my personal experience of once driving a 1.8-litre E34 BMW 518i automatic, and struggling to keep up with the traffic around me, that’s probably a good thing. And despite its turbocharger and diesel torque, I fear that the S80 DRIVe isn’t going to fare much better – the same engine already has its work cut out motivating the smaller Citroen C5 and Ford Mondeo.

But anyway, help to satisfy my curiosity – has anything so big ever been fitted with such a small engine?

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