The Volvo Parts, Accessories &
Performance Specialists Since 1963

What's A Variant Code (VC / VDN) And Which Ones Are On My Volvo?

2021-10-21 - Paul Bertucci

What is a Variant Code?

For almost as long as people have been building and selling cars, they've been offering options to customers willing to pay for them. Bigger engines, different wheels, different paint, different equipment, and other things to put one's unique stamp on their car to make it stand out from the crowd.

Traditionally, optional extras or regional options were added on to cars' base configurations in one of two ways: per individual option (a la carte), or many options grouped together in packages or trim levels. This worked well enough back in the days of "You can have your Model T in any color you want, so long as it's black", but with the dizzying complexity of modern cars, it's difficult to go either so broad with different trim levels to satisfy everyone, or so deep with hundreds or thousands of individual options to pick.

Variant codes or fitment codes live somewhere in between these two extremes: common options or groups of options. A variant code for "premium wheel package" might include both larger wheels and larger brakes to fill those wheels out. Modern cars, especially Volvos, can have dozens or even hundreds of different variant codes on them, to the point where "trim levels" may simply be notional groups of variant codes rather than separate submodels within an inventory system.

If I need my car's variant codes, how do I find them?

For common "gotcha" variant codes relating to things like suspension, paint, and wheel packages, you may have good luck with your Volvo's build plate

Say, you're rebuilding the saggy front suspension of your P1 V50, but in looking for the correct springs to buy, you can't figure out which ones among options like comfort/sport suspension, regional (US vs rest of world) market variations, T5 vs 2.4i, FWD vs AWD, and so on.

OEM Volvo springs come with fitment notes saying things like "For cars marked 43". If you consult the front spring section of your car's build plate, you'll see a number there which you can use to pick out the right springs.

Variant codes are typically meant for internal use by Volvo, hence their lack of user-friendly names: "22" might not mean much to you or me if you're special ordering an XC60, but to a dealer putting together some order sheets or to a factory building the car from those order sheets, they can glance at a list and see that it means a particular engine package.

Why can't I just use year / make / model?

Variant codes tend to be unique to models and generations; the variant code for "premium sound" is different between a P2 V70 in 2007 and its successor on the P3 platform in 2008.

Even within a single generation, changes to the equipment involved are often different enough to justify a variant code change. If there's only one "premium wheel" option initially but more wheels are added later on, there will be more variant codes to cover them.

Generation overlap, where two generations of a model are released in the same year, is also something that can typically be distinguished by variant codes. There were, for example, still some NedCar S40s on sale in early 2004 as the initial examples of S40s on the new P1 platform were also going on sale, and these cars are often both registered as 2004s in some places.

Similarly, within a single generation, "facelifts" updates may happen partway through a model year rather than between one model year to the next. If you have a 2015 V60, you'll likely need variant codes for many parts because of a 2015A mid-year refresh Volvo did on S60s and V60s.

What about Factory Codes?

Volvo has many different assembly lines around the world, both to take advantage of local tax incentives / tarriff and import rates, and to concentrate production of particular models or trims at specific factories. For example, the P2 S60 and V70 were made on a few different production lines, but the high performance S60R and V70R were only ever made at Volvo's Ghent factory in Belgium.

In cases where the easiest way to determine correct fitment is by the plant at which the car was assembled, Volvo will often indicate it with a Factory Code, or FC. A part with notes on it saying "FC 70", for example, fits cars assembed at Volvo's Ridgeville, South Carolina factory.

For a list of factory codes and how to find them, check out our Factory Codes tech tip.

What if my build plate doesn't have the variant codes I need?

With the latest Volvo P5- and P6-based models, there are many more options than can be feasibly included in a variant code list on a build plate or a window sticker. 

Some of these variant codes are not critical to know for determining if a part will fit. For example, when ordering floor mats for a P5 S90, one must pay attention to the variant codes for short vs long wheelbase to ensure you get the right set of rear floormats...but it's easy enough for a customer to tell the difference between SWB and LWB models, especially in the US where LWB S90s became standard from 2018 onwards.

Floor mats and other kinds of "bolt on" or "accessory" parts are often also changed by dealers or resellers before the car goes to the showroom floor, so some of its variant codes there may not even match the equipment actually on the car.

Other variant codes are easy enough to figure out because they refer to an obvious vehicle trait. For example, here are some P5/P6 powertrain variant codes:

  • CB01: gasoline engine (T4, T5, and T6 variants)
  • CB03: plug-in hybrid (T8 variants)
  • CB04: full electric (Recharge variants)

For other parts, it may not be as easy to decipher fitment characteristics between different variant codes. If you need a particular relay and you have to pick from a list of different relays where the only attribute you have to go off of is a variant code, you're pretty stuck without knowing your particular car's variant codes.

We don't have an easy way around this problem. At IPD, we do our best to figure out ways to identify the part you need without resorting to variant codes and put those tips in the product description (like brake rotor size), but with some parts, fitment codes are the only reliable way to determine correct fitment. At present, the only conclusive way to identify a particular car's variant codes is through Volvo's information and catalog system, VIDA.

If you find yourself needing a part that has a variant code split on it, someone with an active VIDA subscription (a Volvo dealer, or us at IPD) can look your car's variant codes up by your VIN and make sure you get the right part. So, if you're unsure about a variant code, write down your car's VIN give us a call!