BY JONATHAN CROUCH
Whatever the secret to a long life, Volvo seems to know it. The 700-series is amongst the longest-lived of recent memory, dating from 1982 and finally ending in slightly updated S/V90 forms in 1998. The range was meant to replace the older 200 series family, but instead moved upmarket of it. Eventually, when the 200 finally went out of production in 1993, they did reach out to buyers lower down the executive scale. When the first model appeared in 1982, Volvo fans were relieved to see the boxy styling of the older cars was, if anything, even more angular. The 700-series cars were very successful for the company and took Volvo's image even further upmarket, with the 700 gaining a big following as the classic 'country estate' car.
The first car was the 760 GLE, released in July 1982 and initially available only with the 2.8-litre V6 engine. A 2.4-litre turbo diesel followed in January 1983 and a 2.3-litre petrol turbo six months later. All were called 760. The range remained much the same until the 1987 facelift. A year before, a new group of cheaper models had joined the 760s and were called 740. Engines were either a 2.3-litre, a 2.3-litre turbo or a 2.4-litre diesel turbo. A more powerful 2.0-litre engine replaced the first of these in August 1987 and a 16-valve 2.3 was added to the range in August 1989. The 740 and 760 were replaced by the 940 and 960 in September 1990.
What You Get
If a big car is what you want, then the 740 or 760 may well fit the bill. Most cars are well specified, with standard equipment like central locking and electric windows; many have leather trim, air conditioning and heated seats as well. They have a good name for reliability and also for crash worthiness, so it's fair to say a 700-series Volvo is a safe bet, all-round.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
These cars are, in the main, reliable, but Volvo parts aren't cheap and these cars are complex, so make sure the car you're looking at needs minimal repairs. Both turbocharged diesel and petrol engines can be easily damaged by a former owner failing to let the engine idle down sufficiently (30 to 60 seconds was always advised) after a brisk run. Check the exhaust for excess smoke and, above all, look for service records to prove it's been properly maintained. All these cars are well protected against corrosion (think of those Swedish winters) but check the door bottoms, bonnet, boot lid or tailgate just to be sure.
(approx) An exhaust system costs up to £125. A clutch assembly will be around £140, whilst a new radiator will be around £140. Brake pads front and rear are about £35 and £30 each, respectively. A new tail lamp is around £50 and a replacement headlamp close to £110. A windscreen should be in the region of £190. A minor service costs around £110, whilst a major can vary between £220 and £350.
On the Road
The petrol-powered turbo was always the performance 760 (faster and more sporty than the V6). If you're after a quick car with good handling, it's the one you'll want. The other cars in these ranges all hold the road well and a soft ride is also a strong point. Don't expect sporty behaviour from any of these cars though; that's not what the 760 and 740 are about.
Definitely a car you buy with your head and all the better for it. They really are sensible, these cars, with the exception of the fuel bills a V6 760 will bring you. As comfortable family cars that are built to last, they take some beating.