1986 Volvo 740 GLE Review - The Search for Oppositelock Gold

Disclaimer: Volvo wanted me to drive this pristine 1986 Volvo 740 GLE (And yes, the GLE is important) so badly that they built this solid paragon of Swedishness in 1986, sold it to some folks who sold it to others, who sold it to my friend Cullen's friend Sam, who sold it to my friend Greg, who sold it to someone else, who sold it back to Greg who sold it to me for $350, plus another $50 to haul it to my mom's place in Tennessee where I picked it up.

Exterior: 7/10

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Quad squares are badass. Repeat after me... Quad squares are badass. Like, seriously, this is a good looking '80s sedan. This is the original form of what my 940 evolved into... You know, like Meowth before it evolved into Mewtwo. Or something like that. I don't know anything about Pokemon, so I'm just making up facts, like Alex Roy at Stonehenge.

But seriously, these are classic lines; lines that have aged well. Which, to be honest, is good, because there are no other styling elements... No curves, no balled-up fisted fender flares, no big, round, innocent lines. Just lines, plus a wing from a Trans-Am that I tacked on, and a pair of driving lights. Also, inside the quad squares are E-codes with relays and overwattage bulbs in the outers and HIDs in the inners...

THIS Volvo 740 GLE has the wheels and grille from a turbo car, which goes along with the noise (more on that later) in making promises that it can't cash in on.

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History lesson about the styling: (Copied from my 940 review, with minor edits) The Volvo 740 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 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.

Interior: 7/10

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The seats are great. Beyond great, but the leather on the driver's seat is ripped, and I had to replace the back seat to get one that was intact... Plus, the dash... Oh god, the dash... The dash, due to years of Southern heat, is cracked into more pieces than the 1000 piece puzzle at the nursing home where about four out of the thousand are missing, making the little old ladies, when they get to that point, swing their canes in pure, righteous fury. (This one may actually be based in fact; I did work in a nursing home while I was in high school.)

Also on the negatives, and sadly, the headliner is falling, like every other Volvo 740 in existence. However, the map pockets are intact, and will remain so, upon pain of death to any passenger who dares break them. I mean that, too.

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Upgrades to the interior: 960 window switches that illuminate, because lights are badass.

Acceleration: 5/10

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This is not a small car. The weight is somewhere around 3150 lbs. without me in it, it has a 15.8 gallon fuel tank and there are only 114 horses to move it around in NA form. However, with the manual, unlike my wagon, and the somewhat lighter weight, it moves decently. It helps that it only has 16 gallons of fuel to haul around, as well. No land speed records, but the four-speed manual really helps wake the engine up.

Braking: 7/10

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The firm pedal in this car, compared to my 940's ABS setup makes me feel way, way more confident flinging it in hard. I know that, in actuality, the 940 can stop faster, every single time, but the 740 has a firmer pedal and is easy to modulate, and that, to me, makes it better. The 9 probably stops better, but the 7 feels more confidence-inspiring. YMMV.

Ride: 7/10

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The ride would be well-damped, if the shocks weren't somewhere along with the rest of the car in the 300,000 mile club, and it shows... It has a mix of floaty and unreasonable that anyone else would consider to be absolutely horrific, but it did get me through winter, so...

Handling: 7/10

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First of all, I run snow tires, which hurts dry handling. That's not why the points have been docked compared to my 940, though... Reason one is, unlike my 940, this 740 GLE has two drawbacks... One, the shocks have about 300k more on them than the ones in the 940. Two, the IPD sways on the 940 are obviously and painfully missing from this 740, and that combination, paired with a ball joint that is rather worn, the handling is a bit interesting.

Gearbox: 5/10

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Oh, the M46... It's there, and it provides four gears, plus an overdrive, that you have to select yourself. The shifts are smooth, and the clutch feel is heavy, but it's got enough torque that it's easy to drive smoothly. It is what it is.

Toys: 4/10

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It comes with an engine that works, a heater that works and a CD player that you can't hear. The gauges are either intermittent or broken except for the tach and temperature gauge, but it is still not bad to drive. Oh, and HID high beams! Seriously, other than the high beams, the other toys are in the above picture.

Audio: 5/10

First of all, you cannot hear the radio in this car. You cannot hear the radio in this car. Seriously, when the engine is running, the radio has to be turned up to full volume to even be barely heard over the open headers.

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As for the engine sound, that's pretty awesome and a mix of tractor/rally car. The video shows what it's like. That 1-4 run at the end? 1/2 mile away.

Value: 10/10

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It's a $300 car that reliably gets from A to B without a fuss, what more can you ask for? It's great fun, the interior is actually decent, and when I put an exhaust on it, it may even be civilized-ish. A set of shocks and sways and it'll be nimble, even.

So, yeah, I say it's great value.

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