The Volvo 740 was first brought to market in 1985 and remained on sale until 1993 when it was superseded by the Volvo 940. The 740 was conceived as a classier alternative to the 240, bringing a sharper aerodynamic styling and a greater level of luxury in the process. The 740 started life as a four-door sedan, but from 1988 onwards, Volvo introduced a five-door station wagon variant to the range.
Upon introduction, the 740 came with a choice between 4-speed automatic and 4-speed manual transmissions. From 1988 onwards, this was changed to a choice between a manual 5-speed and automatic 4-speed gearboxes. Most of the 740s sold had automatic gearboxes and are thus easier to find on the used market.
Throughout its eight-year existence, the Volvo 740’s engines were improved and a number of turbocharged examples were released. Despite the fact that these cars have been out of production for 20 years, pristine models can still be found for bargain prices and are well worth considering.
When first introduced into the market in 1985, the 740 was made available with a choice of two 2.3L single overhead camshaft engines. The first of these could be found in the GL model and boasted 83kW of power output and a torque of 191Nm at 2500rpm. This produced a top speed of 175km/h and an impressive acceleration time of 0-100km/h in 9 seconds flat. The GLE model engine had higher specifications in terms of power (96kW), acceleration (0-100km/h in 8.6 seconds), and top speed (179km/h) despite a marginally reduced torque of 190Nm.
The fuel consumption of the introductory base GL model was 9L/100km. The average fuel consumption based on 1740 740 models tested is 7.63L/100km, which helps to emphasise the fact that overall, fuel economy was very good for a car the size of the 740 throughout its lifespan.
Volvos – especially of this era - are renowned for their durability, and the 740 is no exception. The 740 will give its owner several years of reliable service, due to its large rustproof body and its Volvo engines, which are known to cause few problems even with a high mileage on the clock. Even when these engines do break down, it is unlikely that servicing will cause owners any major headaches.
Suspension comes courtesy of the traditional front-mounted Macpherson Struts, combined – for extra stability – with the rear-mounted live axle and leaf springs. This makes for a generally smooth and quiet ride.
Power steering in the GLE model (and the GL from 1990) helped the driver to maintain control of the substantial bulk of the 740 and was pleasingly accurate and steady. One should remember that mainly due to the sheer size of the 740, it does not handle very windy roads amazingly at speed and is therefore best on the highway.
Brake wear has been known to be an issue for owners of 740 models, but as long as one keeps in mind that brakes should be replaced at around 100,000km, it shouldn’t be an issue.
The base GL model was equipped with radio and cassette player, heater, cloth trim, and manual windows and mirrors. The GLE was equipped with all the modern conveniences to be found during the 1980s and early 1990s, including leather trim, power windows and mirrors, power steering, air-conditioning, anti-lock brakes, and alloy wheels as standard.
One is unlikely to find airbags fitted to the 740s as these models were produced before such things were commonplace. That being said, for its time, the 740 provides a high level of safety equipment, including seatbelt pretensioners – these reduced injuries caused by the seatbelts themselves in a traffic collision – and, of course, ABS, which had been available on Volvo models for some time prior to the introduction of the 740.
Contemporary rivals of the Volvo 740 include the Saab 900, BMW 520i, and Mercedes-Benz 230E, all of which were similarly equipped and equally luxurious in terms of standard features. The BMW and Mercedes are arguably ‘cooler’ in terms of aesthetics and prestige and command greater resale values as a result. The Saab has a similar quirkiness that could appeal equally to the type of person looking for the things that Volvo has to offer.
However, the Volvo was cheaper brand new than its German rivals and will likely be found cheaper on the used market as well. The Saab 900 – although a good car – is harder to find on the used market due to its relatively lack of popularity; it also provides lower acceleration times and top speeds.