Disclaimer: Volvo wanted me to drive this car so badly that they sold it to somebody, who sold it to someone else, maybe? (I seriously don't know how many owners it has had...) who sold it to my friend Eugene who drove it for six years and then posted it on Turbobricks for $900 including a carload of extra parts, and the flight to Minneapolis to buy it was only $80, so I flew up and bought it and drove back to Kansas and here it is...
The styling is...conservative. It looks much like the IKEA box it came in, and that isn't a bad thing. I, personally, like how it looks. With the E-Codes, it even manages to look as classy as a car painted in a mix of burgundy metallic and Midwestern Racing Grey two-tone can. Now that I have a complete set of matching alloys, thanks to my friend Bob, it'll actually look classy, especially when it gets the gallon of white paint that was included with the car.
History lesson. The basic design of the 940 dates back to the 740, which was designed by Jan Wilsgaard, originally as a wagon, but, due to American market pressures, the sedan came out first, with the wagon following two years later. This design evolved, first with a facelift to the 740 in 1990, which brought about new front fenders, a new hood and core support, and then with a butt-lift behind in 1991, with the advent of the 940, although the 740 was sold until the end of model year 1992. However, all the hard points on the chassis remained, and the only change was to the C-pillar back, with a redesigned C-Pillar, less vertical rear window and new tails on the sedans... None of this affected the wagon in any way, which only saw structural changes forward of the firewall, from its debut in 1985, to the last of the line, the V90 in 1998.
It's plain, it's unadorned, but it has a power driver's seat, it's cloth and the heated seats could warm a meal. Seriously, it's everything you need, with nothing you don't. I seriously can't think of a better place to spend a road trip, and I should know... Since I signed the title on 28 February, I have put 3,800 miles on her. The controls are well-placed, and my only gripe is that the aftermarket radio faceplate sticks out a bit, so I sometimes hit the face when putting the car into Park. Also, this wagon has a third row seat (not pictured)... Third row seats are awesome.
This is not a small car. The weight is somewhere around 3250 lbs. without me in it, it has a 19.8 gallon fuel tank and there are only 114 horses to move it around in NA form. Pair this with an old, but reliable Aisin-Warner automatic (This particular gearbox is known as the AW71L in Volvospeak, but essentially it's a Toyota A43DL with a different bellhousing.) that has had the accumulator mod done (See Turbobricks for details), and it moves adequately. Not fast, but adequate. Once you get to speed, she's got enough power to cruise the freeways all day.
My car has a fairly soft pedal, so I'm not blaming the car yet, until I bleed the system, but it does haul the car down from speed in a fairly adequate manner. ABS keeps me from locking up, and there are no weird pulls to either direction. So, average braking.
The ride is well-damped, with Bilstein HD shocks at all four corners providing good damping, and it's really a great place to spend lots of miles. I can drive for 10+ hours at a time without fatigue, due in part to the good ride and great seats. Seriously, it's that good.
The long-wearing Michelin all-seasons do hurt a little in this regard, but with the extra underbody chassis bracing and the IPD anti-sway bars, the handing is solid and predictable, and the tail can be induced to step out, if you're really wanting to. Overall, a well-balanced, RWD wagon for those who want to haul stuff and dodge cones. Seriously, seriously, the handling is great, especially given what it is.
Remember that rebadged A43DL we talked about, earlier? Here it is. It's solid and reliable, and it does shift firmly with the accumulator mod, but it's also an old-school, dumb automatic with a lockup torque converter that loves to lock around 48 mph and stay locked without a bootful of throttle, where it drops to 3rd. However, it does its job reliably and without too much fuss, so it get four points.
Well, it has a clock and a broken temperature gauge and this weird counter that is currently showing a bit over 337,500 on it... (Picture is over 1500 miles old.) Don't know what that's for...
In all seriousness, it's fairly well-equipped. Aftermarket radio with Bluetooth, power heated seats, heated mirrors, a glass moonroof from a 960 make it pretty well-equipped. Seriously, the only toy my Mazda3 has that this Volvo does is the Bluetooth, and it's lacking everything else.
The aforementioned Bluetooth stereo is paired with decent 5.25" speakers in the front and rear doors, plus some decent tweeters in the dash and soon, a small sub in the back. So, the sound system is pretty great. However, the engine is a bit quiet and humdrum, even with a factory Turbo exhaust (from the cat back)... Still, the stereo is pretty great, and the engine isn't horrible-sounding, even if my (much louder) 740 sounds way cooler.
For $900, including a carload of parts, this is a really, really hard combination to beat. It's incredibly comfortable, very reliable, not terrible looking and it has/will go anywhere. This isn't my first old Volvo, and it's not a manual car, but honestly, this may be my favorite out of all of them. It's just that good at being a car, and tackling anything I can throw at it.
As always, your mileage may vary.