Steve takes a look at the Volvo 940, one of the last rear wheel drive tanks to see whether it will become a future classic
The Volvo 940 was launched in 1990 to replace the very successful 740 and looked more like a facelift of its predecessor. As such a lot of sheet metal was the same from the facelift 740 and the 940 but the 940 had different rear lights and boot. As such the 940 could be seen as a refined version of the infamous 740 series.
The 940 shared most engine and gearbox options of its predecessor. As such the 940 was available with four different petrol engines and one diesel engine. All petrol engines were the well proven four cylinders which came in either turbo or N/A forms. As you'd expect the engines are not that economical by modern standards and mpg figures in the low/mid-twenties would be most likely. The diesel was the trusted 2.4 six-cylinder unit which originated from Volkswagen and was naturally more economical than the petrol engines. Engine specs are as follows:
2.0 N/A producing 111bhp with 158Nm torque.
2.0 turbo producing 155bhp with 234Nm torque.
2.3 N/A producing 130bhp with 185Nm torque.
2.3 turbo producing 190bhp with 280Nm torque.
2.4 turbo producing 122bhp with 235Nm torque.
All engines could be mated to either a 5-speed manual, 4 speed manual with electronic overdrive or a 4 speed automatic. Furthermore, most of the suspension and braking systems were inherited from the outgoing 740. As such all 940 models came with power steering, anti-lock braking and self-leveling rear suspension on estates as standard (excluding S spec). The 940 also had the 740s trusted constant track rear suspension which incorporated a live rear axle and had a turning circle of 9.9 metres.
Volvo has always prided itself on the safety of its vehicles and the 940 was no exception being fitted with a safety cage, collapsible steering column, front seatbelt pretensioners, seatbelt reminder warning, ABS and Volvos Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) as standard. An SRS driver’s airbag was available on all specifications as an optional extra and was one of the first Volvo models to be offered with this safety feature.
Compared to the outgoing 740 model where spec levels were limited, buyers were given a variety of specifications to choose from with the new 940 which could suit all tastes and budgets which included:
S was the entry-level model and was fitted with central locking, Lumbar support, bulb failure warning light, seatbelt reminder light, front fog lights, heated front seats, manual door mirrors, and windup windows.
SE came with all the features of the S spec but benefitted from electric front windows, manual sunroof, electric aerial, electric heated door mirrors
Wentworth was fitted with alloy wheels, electric rear windows, air conditioning as well as the features from the SE spec.
GLE gained leather interior and electric sunroof as standard on top of Wentworth trim.
Turbo spec was only available with cars fitted with either the 2.0 turbo or 2.3 turbo engines and was equipped similarly to Wentworth trim.
Various other options were offered regardless of specification which included electric memory front seats, climate control (available with air conditioning only), rear-facing seats in the boot of estate models, cruise control and an external temperature gauge.
(Trim levels apply to UK models and information taken from a Volvo 940 brochure)
Driving the 940
The car I have on test is a 1993 saloon in SE trim which is fitted with the 2.0 turbo petrol engine and mated to the 5-speed manual gearbox. This particular car has covered a measly 246,000 miles and despite some blemishes, it feels rather solid for a 25-year-old car. Being in SE trim this Volvo has electric front windows, electric mirrors, sunroof, heated front seats and central locking all as standard.
Turning the key the four-cylinder engine rumbles into life, and as you pull away the 2.0 turbo engine feels strong despite the mileage and the 940 can keep up well with modern traffic. The 5-speed gearbox pulled through the gears well, without any crunching and you wouldn’t tell the gearbox has 246,000 miles behind it. I found the power steering to be light which was surprising when you consider the size of the 940 and it had some play. The brakes also stop this big barge well which is backed up by discs all round and ABS.
It cannot be denied that the 940 is a built more for comfort rather than performance and this can be felt in the ride. The 940 takes speed humps with ease and irons out bumps far better than a lot of more modern cars in my opinion. On top of this, I found the 940 to have a very comfortable driving position which was I part due to the lumbar support. In addition, all the switches are in easy reach of the driver and all-round visibility is very good. You can tell Volvo thought long and hard about the ergonomics of this car as I found it a pleasure to drive and sit in. Rear passengers aren’t neglected either with good amounts of leg and headroom which is thanks to the all-so-Swedish 'boxy' design. The boot is a good size too with a volume of 16.6 cubic feet, whereas the estates have 35 cubic feet.
Build quality is as you would expect from a Volvo as the interior feels solid and well put together with no wear on the seat bolsters or switchgear. The dials are reasonably clear but I found the trip and milometer hard to read, but this could just be due to my eyesight. The only issue with the instrument cluster was the fuel gauge being non-operational but it would appear that electrical issues with instrument clusters affect both the 940 and its predecessor and are commonplace. Another common issue is wear on the door cards from material cracking or coming away. Again the 940 I have on test as a damaged driver’s door pocket but I believe this is due to a previous owner’s clumsiness rather than an issue with the car.
Moving to the outside of the 940, it is clear that the bodywork is holding up well and has very little rust other than on the rear arches where it meets the sills and on the roof where a previous owner carelessly attached something to cause damage. Obviously, the 940 has age related scratches and dents, but the paint still has a nice shine and hides its 25 years of existence well.
The Motorists Guide View
Overall I found the Volvo 940 a comfortable, sedate cruiser which did not feel like a 25-year-old car. I was most impressed with the handling characteristics as it ironed out bumps well and which was supported by a very comfortable seating position. Despite its age I felt it is a car you could use every day as it was more than capable to keep up with other traffic as well as having all the features you would need. I do admit if I were to use this modern classic daily, I would want one in Wentworth or GLE trim. Do I think the 940 will become a future classic? My answer is, most definitely as the 940 represents the pinnacle of Volvos four-cylinder turbocharged/ rear wheel drive designs.
I do believe the 940 is at the bottom of the price curve, and it is clear that prices are starting to rise as enthusiasts are starting to appreciate the quality of these cars other than for being a workhorse. Ironically it’s the 940s reputation of being a workhorse that has both caused its demise with falling numbers on the roads but on the other hand has helped increase the value of surviving examples.
Length: 487cm saloon/484.5cm estates
Width: 175cm saloon and estate
Height: 141cm saloon/143.5cm estate
Kurb weight: 1458kg salon/1536kg estate