UK CAR Reviews: Volvo 740 2.3 



The meaning of Square a Quadrangle a Rectangle a Cube a Four sided figure a TETRAGON a NERD a VOLVO a Volvo driving Nerd.

Ah the much-despised coffin shaped mobile obstruction, the bane of many a motorist, the arch nemesis of style, the pounder of pedestrians.

Created by those Swedes either so shrewd, they didn’t need a styling department or so broke they couldn’t afford one. Yet if you look at what the car was actually built to do, then you have to ask yourself does its style matter one bit? We seem to love MPV's and they look like s**t to me, and if you look at the number of these old things running around then it would appear that style didn’t matter to a lot of other people then either. Ugly as it is it still can not compare to the likes of the FIAT Multipla with its designer ugliness. Maybe Volvo had the right idea in the first place with its seemingly anti stylist corporate policy.

Still this car is so square its positively nerd like. Its not just the outside thats square, the whole interior is filled with things that are easier to make round but have been cohereced into semi squareness, just to avoid any false accusations of stylishness.

By the time it gets to its happy middle age like this one has, though it has many virtues, namely it mostly still works, its not full of holes, its big. The reasons to have this thing are purely practical. I need to carry lots of things lots of the time, and it was cheap.

When my head thinks clear and lucid thoughts, which is not very often admittedly. I have to admit to a sneaking sense of admiration for the pox box. Sure it makes me appear 10 years older and as interesting as your average accountant to passers by. But I really don’t give a damn.

You see its just a tool it gets me and all my stuff from A to B and does it without fuss although admittedly without to much pleasure either. But pleasure is dirty word to associate with 21 century driving anyway.

Let get down to the details. I've had it for over a year and it always starts, dribbles a little oil and blows fuses like they are going out of fashion. It rarely gives more than 25mpg, but rarely use much more. It sits happily at any legal speed, on British roads so gets you to your destination as fast as it is legally possible. (I.e. not very)

To say its slow is really a bit unfair as it is also saddled with an Autobox, given that the 8 valve 2.3 litre straight four was hardly designed for racing in the first place, and is bolted in to a truly huge shipping crate of a body any performance it can put out is to its credit. Away from the lights it take off fairly smartly, if somewhat noisily, with unabated enthusiasm until around 50mph. After that the boxes desire to get into top gear slows progress a little, but it still has enough kick to make 70 plus surges past sleeping middlelane motorway drivers. It will sometimes spin the rear wheels in the wet, ( ohh how hard ) , not quite the responsible display of safety your average school run is used too.

Inside its leather clad on the seats with vaguely matching plastic trims and carpets elsewhere. The seats are comfortable for long stretches. Though it is a shame the bum heaters have succumbed to the electrical gremlins. I have got to admit to a gross act of stupidity here with the electric's, as when I first got the car the leather seats lulled me into a false sense of poshness. On the drivers door sat a panel of 7 switches 4 windows, 1 override, 1 mirror selector and a mirror adjuster. The mirrors never worked but the override and three of the windows did. Unfortunately the drivers door was the one that did not. At my daily work parking place I would open my door, release seat belt, lean out, use my pass card. Barrier would go up, I would shuffle back in, close door and off we go. Twice a day everyday for six months, It became a little tedious until I noticed the strange floppy handle thing further down the door. Doooooo!

Being an estate of large proportion it of course gets overloaded with all manner of junk. Once the headrests are off the back seats fold nicely down to create a large flat load bay. Its just a shame the headlining appears to have all the strength of cotton wool and is forever having objects poked through it.

Despite its size driving is easy what with Auto and PAS and Assisted brakes it really is a dodle to drive. Being rear wheel drive and North South engine layout it also has a great steering lock and can twirl round in circle that would embarrass many a small hatchback. No amount of lock can get the back end in your average parking space though. You learn to accept the two or three feet stuck out at the back as the norm. The big bumpers don’t help either making it hard to judge just how much nudging room you have left.

At least the whole set up makes you feel safe, with its big strong body, big bumpers, constant nag and warning lights and headlights that point blank refuse to turn off. ( Some swedish thing ! ) Visibilty is good allround and both my five ten self and five nothing better half can get comfy in the seat which slides and tilts. Surprised by how far the seat doesn’t go back mind, maybe I just like the streeeetched out position.

Steering wise as long as you keep to a sensible pace the beast reacts nicely to the helm. Stick it in to hard and it understeers heavily and the body pitches about like a boat in a storm. Luckily there is a wide area of grey between comfortable and wipeout , so you get plenty of warning that perhaps you are in the wrong car for those type of antics.

The gearbox is quite good for a a smallbore auto. Four speeds help to stop incessant hunting. The only hitch is its occasional tendency to not pick up strait away and then boot me up the backside.

Its aptitude as a car came home to me over the weekend, firstly listening in on someone's conversation, when they happen to let slip they had just lost 5 grand in a year on an Imprezza. Then when quoted 12.93p plus vat for a rear door strut, Almost as cheap as the telescoping ceiling paintbrush extension that current stops the hefty tailgate from taking my head off . Not only was the car dirt cheap, (you would cry if I told you) but all the spares for it have surprised me by their reasonableness. The only thing that was a little pricey was after some scumbag decided to steal the radio. The glass didn’t break the bank and a spare radio was to hand, but Volvo used a special cradle to hold the radio, and the scum nicked that too 40 thank you very much for a hole filler.

Did I mention the age of this old banger? No!

Well its E reg, yes a teenager in human years a pensioner in car terms. And its mileage ? well its showing 196000 miles currently and I cant see any reason why it wont at least make it past 200k. But then who cares if it does not make it, The car, minor repairs, insurance and road tax have cost me a great deal less than the depreciation on most cars alone. Despite my phobias of Volvos when this one goes to the great scrap yard in the sky I will be on the lookout for a newer model. Preferably with fully working electrics, maybe even a Six cylinder for those racier moments. :-)




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