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Second-Hand: Volvo 700/900 series

The 700/900series Volvos were the company's mainstream cars until the 850 was introduced.

  • The beginning of morning rush hour, cars on the highway traveling to and from downtown

“Boxy but good,” said a character, played by Dudley Moore, about Volvos in a silly film called Crazy People.

Owners say the same thing and they appear to be neither silly nor crazed.

The 700/900series Volvos were the company’s mainstream cars until the 850 was introduced.

The four-door sedans and wagons come in many flavors: no-nonsense four-cylinder models; discreetly zippy turbos; and luxury-laden six-cylinder variants.

The company even sold a limited run of Bertone-bodied 780 coupes in the late’80s.

On the whole, Volvos tend to be older than the average car when their owners decide to part with them. This means there are more potential maladies towatch out for. Volvos are reliable, but age and use will take their toll on even the bestmade vehicles.

Although the sample of replacement part prices isn’t any more expensive than average, several owners found the cost of maintenance and repair to be high.

If you’re considering buying a Volvo, have the prepurchase inspection done by a mechanic who is familiar with them. If the car checks out well, you can welcome yourself into the ranks of a very loyal following.

History

The 760 first saw the light of day in 1983. Since then, various permutations of the 700 series were offered. The last one sold was a 740GL wagon in 1992. The 940 was introduced in 1991, based on the 760’s basic platform.

The 960 came along in 1992. The 940 line was discontinued at the end of the 1995 model year. The 960 carries on at the top of the Volvo lineup.

Body styles

* Fourdoor sedan

* Fourdoor wagon

* Two-door coupe (limited production)

Engines

The model number says most about what’s under hood: 740s and 940s are fitted with fourcylinder engines, displacing 2.3 L, with either single or double overhead camshafts. A turbocharger was fitted on SOHC engines.

The 760s sport a 2.8 L V6, while 960s have a 2.9 L DOHC straight-six.

Transmissions

As a rule, 740/940 models had a standard five-speed manual (on early cars, a four-speed with electric overdrive), while a four-speed automatic was optional.The 760/960 versions came with the automatic.

Overall road behavior

The base four is smooth, but not peppy. The turbo has much more getup-and-go, especially at highway speeds. Either six-cylinder engine is smooth, but doesn’t have the kick of a turbo.

On the road, these cars feel a bit bigger than they actually are, but steering response is precise and predictable. On the other hand, the turning radius is wonderfully tight.

The ride is always firm, but never harsh. The 960’s more sophisticated rear suspension delivers the best ride and handling balance. Road and engine noise are noticeable on all models.

Accommodations

The front seats are very comfortable. The front console can rub against the right shin of taller drivers. A sunroof cuts into front headroom substantially. If the front seats are power adjustable, rear-seat passengers will find next to no foot room under the front cushions.

The dashboard is “blockier” than currently fashionable, but all the controls are clear. It’s a longish reach to the radio controls and ashtray.

Except for the toe-space problem, the rear seat will accommodate two full-size adults easily. The wagon’s rear quarters seem especially roomy. The wagon also has a very large, rectangular cargo area.

What owners say

Wheels readers’ praise for their Volvos was unanimous. A sampling:

Al De Saegher of Brampton drives a 1987 760 Turbo wagon that now has 213,000 km on the clock:

“My predilection for Volvos starts with the fact that they are different front North American and Japanese cars. I like to drive something that is different from other people. The utility of a wagon is as close to driving a van as I can bear to come when driving the family of wife and two sons around the city or up north.”

Charles Parsons of Toronto proudly owns a 1989 740 GL wagon that has been driven more than 349,000 km. “It has been a rugged, reliable and surprisingly fun car to own,” he writes.

Another high-mileage Turbo wagon (at 270,000 km) is owned by Christina Wilson of Cambridge. She writes: “Although we have the choice of a 1970 MGB or a 1994 Nissan Altima, inevitably we choose the Volvo.”

Brian Polley of Burlington drives a 1988 wagon that has travelled 290,000 km. He states that “this is the best car I have ever owned or driven.” You get the idea.

What to look out for

Volvo owners consistently complain about the need for frequent brake service. Six-cylinder models tend to suffer from electrical accessory gremlins more frequently.

The oil on turbo-charged engines needs to be changed more frequently to ensure the turbo’s bearings stay well lubricated.

Replacement parts cost

The six commonly replaced parts listed below are for a 1992 740 GL wagon with automatic transmission and antilock brakes. Retail prices were supplied by Lawrence Park Motors in Toronto.

Front brake rotors, $116.35 each; radiator, $399.05; exhaust system (aft of converter), $242.41; water pump, $122.70; fuel pump, $200.38; engine control module, $601.11.

Resale value

The values quoted below are average retail prices from the Canadian Red Book, which is the guide used by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to calculate sales tax on private transactions.

The Red Book assumes that the vehicle has been driven approximately 20,000 km per year and is not in need of any major repairs. The older a vehicle gets, the more its actual condition will affect the resale value.

These prices are for a 940 sedan with the base 2.3 L fourcylinder engine

1995 $23,150; 1994 $19,125; 1993 $17,775; 1992 $16,500;

1991 $13,800; 1990 $10,475 (740GLE); 1989 $7,775 (740GLE).

We need your feedback on these models for future reports: Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis by Oct. 31, and the Chevrolet Blazer/GMC Jimmyby Nov. 14. Send them to: John Terauds, c/o Wheels, The Toronto Star, One Yonge St., Toronto M5E 1E6. Fax: 416 8653996. Email: jterauds @ istar.ca

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