By on April 24, 2012

The first car I owned wasn’t very exciting – it was a 1988 Ford Aerostar that I bought from the guy down the street for $250. The paint was peeling, it was missing a seat, the air conditioning had to be re-charged every 6 months and the transmission overheated four times on my way from California to Texas. When I completed my educational sentence, I treated myself to a lightly used 1997 Eagle Vision TSi. In 2000, I was probably the youngest person to ever lease a Chrysler LHS. A few years down the road, I married into a GMC Envoy (that’s my excuse and I’m stickin’ to it.) In 2006, flush with cash from investments and a perfectly timed real estate sale, I decided it was time for a “grown-up car”.

Being the anal retentive over-analyzer I am, the process of what car to buy had to begin with charts and figures. Sure, the options on-board varied widely and included the Honda Civic Hybrid, Lexis IS350, VW Passat 3.6 4Motion sedan and wagon, BMW 330, Mercedes-Benz C350, Audi S4 Avant, Acura TL, Chrysler 300c and Volvo S60R and V70R. All pertinent information from EuroNCAP crash test results to transmission options, legroom, 0-60 times, and anti-whiplash data was entered into my mile-long spreadsheet, clearly highlighting the top contenders: the IS350, Audi A4, Acura TL, Passat and Vovlo’s R models. The Civic was a nod to the practical solo-carpool stickers in California at the time, but as it turned out, my better half would rather have been attacked by cannibals.

My first stop was the Audi dealer. Unable to get the time of day from a sales person, let alone a test drive, the luscious S4 was crossed off the list early. The Acura TL failed the “luxury doo-dads test” when we discovered the passenger seat, while powered, had an extremely limited range of motion. Of course, it also lacked AWD which was a feature we really wanted, and I didn’t like the clutch feel.

My financially frugal side demanded the “budget” Volkswagen Passat get higher billing than the IS350 or the Volvo R, but there was just one problem keeping me from owning the people’s mid-size wagon – Volkswagen dealers. Because I was motivated by the Passat’s lower price tag, I lugged my spouse to every VW dealer in the San Francisco Bay area. Sadly, as can often happen in the business world, the best products fail to sell because of crappy sales people. The first dealer didn’t think we were serious about buying a VW because we pulled up in a 4 year old Volvo. The second dealer didn’t have any sales people available because they were all having a BBQ in the back and couldn’t be bothered. The third VW dealer drove us around in the Passat rather than let us behind the wheel. The fourth VW dealer kindly let us drive the car but slapped my wrists when I floored it from a stop (on a quiet country road, with zero traffic and just after he told us how fast the Passat 3.6 was.) The fifth dealer put the hard sell on as soon as we walked in the door. Needless to say I was in the dog house for even mentioning a sixth dealer.

The IS350 was a longshot. It was the only RWD vehicle to make it on the list (the AWD version was not available at the time) and by far the smallest. The IS was on the list for two reasons: acres of wood trim and a reputation for bullet-proof reliability. Indeed, the IS350 was fast, smooth and miles ahead of the 2006 Mercedes and BMW products in terms of interior refinement. There was just one problem: you’d have to literally be legless to sit in the back seat. With the driver’s seat adjusted for my 6-foot frame, there was literally half an inch between the seat back and the rear seat cushion. Despite the attentive and low pressure sales, we had to cross the IS off our list. In contrast to the VW dealers, we received a nice thank you card in the mail from the Lexus dealer. Nice touch.

This left only two vehicles on the list: the S60R and the V70R. This was a make-or-break moment for our local Volvo dealer and fortunately they came out a winner. In my mind there was no question. A 300HP AWD wagon with a 6-speed manual gearbox was the ultimate dad wagon. OK, so I still don’t have kids, but the formula still applies. Who could ask for more? It was love at first sight, from the vertical rear window to the quirky exhaust note of the 5-cylinder turbocharged engine. Again, my better half was far from amused. The clincher on the mommy-mobile sale? Overseas delivery.

On June 25 , 2006 we hopped on a plane bound for Gothenburg, Sweden to pick up our V70R. For those not familiar with the process, here’s how it works. You buy the car through a local dealer, you sign the contract and pick some preliminary dates. When Volvo has accepted the order, they schedule the production window and you can then book your flights. (Volvo pays for two round-trip tickets on SAS from anywhere in the US.) About one month from your pickup date, you’re expected to either pay cash for the car or start your financing payments (loan or lease). Eventually you hop on a plane, fly to Sweden and are picked up at the airport by a Volvo limo which takes you to the hotel where Volvo has paid for one night’s stay. The next day you get a factory tour and the ability to spend yet more money on Volvo accessories which the factory will install for you. Eventually, you’re out on your own (unless you purchased a package holiday from Volvo) free to make a bee-line straight to Germany to play on the Autobahn. Our search was over.

It is important to remember that Volvo’s R models hit 300 turbocharged horses and 300lb-ft of flat torque curve in 2004, years before BMW and Audi’s new 3.0L twin turbos came on the scene. Once back in America, the V70R was as unreliable as any European vehicle needing to visit the dealer for a warrantied repair every few months. Still, there’s something about a fast wagon that continued to enchant me. Perhaps it was blowing the doors off a stock Mustang GT, or beating that E46 M3 at the stoplight races every time. In a station wagon. Of course, driving your European souvenir around town wasn’t half bad either.The reality of course is that the dealer continued to be the best brand advocate possible, always apologizing for any issues we had and going out of their way to get the car in for immediate service and provide the courtesy car of my choice whenever it was in for service.

After 90,000 miles and four years it was time to part with my Swedish babe for the same reason Derek and Brendan parted with theirs: a house. Four years later, we sold our pride and joy to a happy man from Minnesota for $19,500. I’d like to say that our “Fast Brick” lives on inside our new home, but I’d be lying. I loved my V70R dearly, but at the end of the day, the house was more important and I have this feeling I’ll love my next European delivery just as much. Will my next Euro crush hail from the land of ABBA? I can’t be sure. What I am sure of however, is that my dealership experiences have colored my shopping future.

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64 Comments on “My Last Brick, For Now...”

  • avatar

    I sold my 2006 V70R 6 speed 18 months ago and I still miss it despite it’s huge turning circle and flinty ride. It had to leave because it shared garage space with a 2006 LR3. I didn’t think I could endure two expensive Euro machines off of warranty. The LR3 won out because of it’s 7 seats and me being up to my eyeballs in kids.

    The V70R was replaced with a G8 that got traded off due to a cold start piston slap. Thie was replaced with a Ridgeline. I want my V70R back.

  • avatar

    My parents had an XC70 2.5T of the same generation.

    Nice car.

  • avatar

    You owned an AEROSTAR? No wonder you’re so cool!!!

  • avatar

    Are you still going to get a Prius c?

  • avatar

    So, your first car was an Aerostar? (getting red in the face) Harumph! Another Ford man…

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Alex, you should have kept the Aerostar.

    Take the powertrain of a Lincoln LS… replace the seats with those from a Jaguar S-Type, upgrade the interior’s floor from a nice upholstery shop in the area. Upgrade the braking and audio systems. Do a few custom welds in a dozen or so places. Make that 80 or so.

    Maybe remove that pesky hood entirely with a custom bubble like contrivance of sorts.

    Voila!!! You just saved yourselves about $40k large.

    Of course you would still have the exterior of a 1998 Aerostar to deal with. Come to think of it the bulbous hood would almost make the van look six to eight months pregnant.

    But hey, we never said saving money would be easy!

    • 0 avatar

      But the resulting divorce would cost him a lot more than $40k…

      But kudos for the manny-tranny wagon! God’s own chariot of choice, IMHO. Euro-delivery is the only way to go, though the re-delivery waiting is torture. But that was not very nice of you to hit vMax on the autobahn with only 748 miles on the clock – I waited the full break-in 1200 before doing so in my 6spd 328i wagon. No sport-pack, so limited to 130mph unfortunately. Optemistic speedo read 140 or so. :-)

    • 0 avatar

      Significant others will appreciate the Aerostar in any form. Lang is on the money, as per usual!

      • 0 avatar

        This significant other would not be seen in a brand new Civic – what are the chances she will tolerate a turd like an Aerostar, no matter how worked-over it is?

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        (Said in a Pythonesque accent!)

        Oh! Too bloody good for a 24 year old van you are!

        You just think that a caring and considerate owner should recycle one of the very best minivans Ford made in 1988, and turn it into an endless array of sardine cans and Red Bull!

        Nay I say! Nay! Neiggghhhh!!!!

        We shall honor the greatness that was, is, and has remained the 1988 Ford Aerostar by festooning it with only the finest powertrains and affectations made by the blue oval since said model revolutionized the mode of automotive transport.

        In otherwords, my comment was made in jest. Really. Checks in the mail. Your welcome.

  • avatar

    Love the VW dealer stories. In 2003, a friend of mine was car shopping and wanted an Audi A4. I suggested that he consider a Passat, which was a bigger, cheaper A4 at the time. He LOVED the Passat idea, did some research and decided that it was the perfect car for him. There seemed to be enough on the street that you might think it was possible to buy one. In reality it was not possible to buy one in San Diego. If the dealers took him at all seriously, and he was a thirty year old Wells Fargo VP, they steered him to high trim level Jettas that were too small for his business use. He visited VW dealers over a period of several months with no luck and wound up stopping at a Ford dealer and buying a new Explorer on the way home from a VW dealer that blew him off.

    My home town had a VW-Mazda dealer that thwarted most of my efforts to buy cars from those two brands over a period of twenty years. One summer in college I worked as a salesman for a local dealer. In training, we were sent out to visit a competing dealership and pay attention to our experience as potential customers. I chose the VW dealer, since I figured it would give me colorful material to report and I wasn’t disappointed. This was the summer of 1989, so the most interesting car they’d likely have would have been the GTI-16V. That’s what I asked to see, and the next thing I know I’m sitting in a rattling, abused, cigarette ash covered, stinking piece of trash with a new car window sticker and dealer plates. It was the owner’s teenage son’s ‘loaner,’ and he was ready to be rid of it. I said that I didn’t want this particular car, as it had clearly had its first few thousand miles put on by a teenaged doper. The salesman informed me that these cars are very hard to come by and I should be happy to get a GTI-16V at all. It made me glad that I hadn’t really been in the market for one. Thirteen years later, the same dealer wouldn’t let me look at a new Protege 5 that was being washed before delivery because that was the only one and he wouldn’t get me another if I wanted it.

  • avatar

    My wife and I had a 2000 V70 XC, with the light pressure turbo. Awesome wagon when it wasn’t broken. Best seats ever put in any automobile, and a fantastic cruiser. But when it came time to replace it, while an newer XC was on the list, I was tired of visiting the dealer/indy shop for overpriced repairs. Switched to a used Lexus RX350 largely for the trouble free experience, slower depreciation and better dealer experience. With Volvo’s change to Chinese ownership, the odds that I’ll buy another one have dropped to close to zero.

    • 0 avatar

      I got the one of the last 2007 S60Rs off the line before they shut it down, and did the same thing, driving it through the Alps and taking fun pictures of the speedo at white knuckle speeds. Seriously the most fun car I think you can buy and still be riding in comfort with adults in the back seat. Absolutely brilliant. Haters will always find that “it could be faster” or “it could have more room”, but in reality, it’s the ultimate sweet spot. If it had a better turning radius, then every other car maker probably should have just quit and given up.

      As to the dealership, they’re nice, but I have to visit them far too often, only to find out that they couldn’t reproduce my problem. If it was only the expense, I might just think this car was worth keeping until wheels fall off. But it’s also the inconvenience of finding someone who knows how to baby this thing like it needs.

      In fairness the issues with this one have been relatively minor so far, but things are already “acting funny” at 70k which is disturbing. As much as I never want to part with it, I may just get frustrated one day and go find a boring domestic or asian model, which I’m sure I’ll hate for different reasons — and then I’ll want her back. And of course, I don’t particularly get a good feeling about buying the newer model from the new Chinese Volvo.

      Alternately, someone know of a good mechanic or can teach me how to do it all myself? :)

  • avatar

    VW dealers around here suck too. All those same stories, the guys working there are just total tools, either old school hard sell types, or useless dummies that no nothing about thier product at all. Only one local VW dealer is any good, and of course they are the farthest away from me. I still drive there if I need anything.

    Curious though, IIRC the V70R couldn’t walk an E46 M3, it was over a second slower 0-60 and 1/4 mile. You sure you didnt mean the E36? Or did the M3 drivers know you were racing? :)

  • avatar
    Alex L. Dykes

    The best time I ever got in an E46 M3 was 5.5, the best in the V70R was 5.4. Many published times on the R products were done with the Automatic. Because the Rs produced 300lb-ft from just over idle to near redline the automatic models had a remapped torque curve that reduced power in the lower gears making their 0-60 times higher. Much of it is down to the driver, especially in the M3 where you have to control your rear wheel spin on less than perfect pavement.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly, Alex. The 6MT R’s were certainly sneaky fast. Unless the temps got over 85 degrees and then heat soak city!

      I still miss some aspects of my R. The seats were wonderful, the exhaust was great, AWD was kick-ass and the fast-wagon thing was amazing. And I am still haunted by those blue gauges every time I see a picture. Those were possibly the coolest mechanical gauges I have ever laid eyes on.

      But I never got over my 4C issues, the detuned automatic power, the awful turning circle and the massive heat soak. RICA helped by de-restricting the engine, otherwise I would have sold it earlier.

      Great car. The S60 T6 captures all of it’s capability and a lot of it’s soul, but not all of it.

      Thanks for the memories.

      Oh yea…kudos to the pop up nav. Audi’s got nothing on Volvo. Funny they reversed directions.

    • 0 avatar

      All good points, I never realized they were so fast.

    • 0 avatar

      The restricted torque with the automatic tranny was true only until the ’06 model year IIRC; Volvo began using a new version of the tranny at that point and the 06-07 Rs aren’t restricted in 1st or 2nd gear with the automatic.

      I have just a regular S60, which I love, but I wish I had the funds/guts to pull the trigger on owning an R. The Rs required much more repair and maintenance than the regular line models; TrueDelta stats back this up pretty well. My S60 has been an exceptionally reliable machine for more than 5 years now.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    I still own my 2004 V70R with about 70k miles on it. And even though the annual maintenance is starting to push $2500, I am having a really hard time pulling the trigger on selling it. The basic reason is that there simply isn’t a car out there right now that does what the V70R does. It hauls ass while it hauls a couch. 300hp, 0-60 in high 5’s, AWD, wagon, manual transmission, the best front seats ever put into any car, cavernous cargo room, soft supple leather, that fantastic sound system, integrated booster seats for my kids, adjustable (if a bit half-baked) suspension.

    You cannot buy a new car today that does all of these things. Want cargo capacity? That pushes you to SUV’s nowadays. But no manual transmission. Want power/similar performance? You are looking at higher end SUV’s and crummy fuel mileage. For me the cargo is a must, so I am really stuck in SUV-ville, and that is not necessarily where I want to be.

    The V70R is a vastly underappreciated car, a true gem.

    • 0 avatar

      “I still own my 2004 V70R with about 70k miles on it. And even though the annual maintenance is starting to push $2500”

      I ask this in teh nicest way possbile, how does annual maintenance push 2500? And if it does, why do you pay it?

      I have a 2004 Toyota Sienna with 70K miles, same miles and years as your wagon. So far I have changed the oil 10 or 12 times, done the brakes once,changed a taillight, and one radiator flush. Maybe 1000 dollars in the 8 years I have owned. It does go thru tires pretty quick tho.

      • 0 avatar
        Ashy Larry

        It hasn’t always been $2500, but the last 2-3 years have cost me $1000, 2400 and 3000. Engine mounts, suspension bits, slave cylinder/clutch (known issue), and because the car’s alignment is fragile and the roads around here terrible, my tires have worn poorly — gone through 2 sets in 2 years at 8000 miles a year.

        I don’t do my own work — my job and my 6 and 3 year olds don’t allow for that kind of time — so I rely on a good indy mechanic. That means paying money to do it.

        You have not spent 1000 in 8 years if you are burning through tires. Mine are 600-750 for 4, and I’ve done that twice in the last 2 years.

  • avatar

    Owned 4 Volvos, one sedan and three wagons. The last was a 1985 740 Wagon. I think the car would have been very reliable if the dealer had not worked on the car, ever. However, their failure to understand the difference between a gas and a diesel engine block heater lead to several repairs ending with the air conditioner compressor failure after a head gasket replacement. All under warranty. Once they stopped working on the car, it had no more problems. Well, almost. This was one of the years in which the sub for the wiring harness sold an inferior product with simply rotted off the car a bit at a time until the car would not longer run. No amount of repair could keep up with the pace of rot. Volvo of course, denied any responsibility and so the car was donated to the Kidney society.

    I truly loved the old series up to the 240. Simple, reliable and ugly as a, well, a brick. Never again.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Best seats ever put in any automobile

    Agreed, although my Saab seats are kissing cousins. How do the Swedes get that so right?

    I loved our S70 brick. I hated the huge maintenance costs though.

  • avatar

    I can never turn down a good wagon article! I ended up with a 1998 V70 T5 as my manual trans turbo wagon. Being in the south AWD isn’t a necessity and it’s cheaper to maintain. I don’t think the newer models have the option for a folding 3rd row and with 4 little rugrats I need the extra seating. It’s simply a great combination of attributes.

  • avatar


    Great write up. It’s been a while since I have been to the Volvo boards; it’s great to see your and NEEDSDECAF’s names again.

    I’ve been in my ’04 V70R for almost 6 years now; it’s at 85K, and I love it for all the reasons you and Ashy Larry (whose name made me spit coffee as I laughed) recounted.

    It is our second car. I insisted we needed something that could haul stuff because we were no quite at the “have it shipped and assembled for a fee” stage of life (still aren’t). But damned if I was giving up a stick shift or a sense of “GO.” It’s been from TN to New England three times, to D.C. twice, and to NYC five times — once through a blizzard that stopped everyone else. A couple years ago, I bought a playset for the backyard. The Toys R Us guy said to pull my truck around back, and he’d load it for me. When he saw the V he said “Uh oh.” I flopped the passenger seat forward, pulled out the back seat bottoms, grabbed the bungee cord that I carry to tie down the hatchback, and loaded up all four boxes at once, while he complained that the same set took two loads in his Tahoe. I carry my kids to school on the boosters, then get to work and take three people to lunch. The nav works great; don’t believe otherwise. And, I can use it on the go. I’ve done 50% of our last two moves to new houses. I’ve left many a person sitting at a red light wondering what hidden camera tv show they were just on. I even had a cop issue a ticket, writing up the make of car as “R” because I had fully debadged it. And, not having grown up in the land of the SEC, I’ve gotten to watch as people get into serious spitting matches about whether the Atacama interior is UT, Auburn, or UT orange.

    At 85K, I know the end is near. I’ve been running $2-2.5K in annual repairs, and know that a 4-c suspension piece has to be looming in the next 2 yrs/20k miles. But there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can even make a straight-faced claim to be a replacement, perhaps most regrettably, not even from Volvo.

    Someone once told me that if your dog dies, you never get the same kind. So I’m looking at a 2012 Mustang GT manual w/ Brembos. It only has them in the front, though. My family wagon has them at all four corners. Sigh.

    • 0 avatar

      If you love it that much, keep fixing it.

      Can the 4c suspension be retrofitted with regular components, or are there too many 4c-specific bits?

      • 0 avatar

        A friend of mine, who is prolific on the Volvo R forums, figured this one out. You can replace everything with conventional shocks. There’s some kind of sensor or accelerometer that normally conencts to the 4c shocks, which you can just leave dangling.

  • avatar

    Meanwhile, my first car was (is, project status) an ’89 244. I’ve worked my way up to a five-speed 850 wagon, albeit a non-turbo one, so I have some idea where you’re coming from.

    I haven’t dealt much with my local dealer, but even old and tired, they’re great cars. Couldn’t ask for much more.

  • avatar

    What’s the replacement for the V70? A bicycle?

  • avatar

    I don’t know about this…

    A “Brick” has a 4-cylinder, 2.3L engine, makes about 115hp (unless it has a turbo), has RWD, tops out at about 90mph (a little higher for the turbo) and has the aerodynamics of, well, a brick.

    The V70R, however awesome (and I do think it is awesome), is not a “Brick.”

  • avatar

    Nice article Alex.

    About flooring a car during a test drive, I was allowed to do that on the TSX Wagon after I asked permission.

    A friend wanted to squeeze the brakes hard on a BMW to check if it stopped straight or shimmied. Permission granted.

    Salesmen do not like to be surprised. One Mazda salesman told me a test driver almost mistook an exit ramp for an entrance ramp. He joked about needing to change his pants.

  • avatar

    I get the sense that old (i.e. out of warranty) Euro cars are a $2-2.5k investment per year. That was my experience as well.

    What is the anecdotal maintenance cost of similarly equipped Japanese, Korean and American cars?

    Really, I’m curious to know.

    • 0 avatar

      $2500 per year on average is more than a touch high in my experience, and I have a LOT of experience with out of warranty European cars. They all have what I call a “midlife crisis” at 125-150K. This is an expensive period, but once past it and all the wear stuff is replaced, they are good as new for another 100K with only minor issues here and there. The trick is when you are nearing that point, DO EVERYTHING at once. It is not hard to find out these days were the issues are, 15 minutes in a brand-specfic forum will tell you everything you need to know, and you can budget accordingly. Beats getting stranded.

      And to put it in perspective, even $2500 a year is chicken scratch, considering the payments on my not at all extravagantly equipped BMW total ~$7800/yr for five years. Not counting the depreciation that I try not to think about too much. They are MUCH cheaper to fix than to buy new.

      Japanese cars in this class are no cheaper in my experience, having family and friends with older Lexus and Infinity cars. And with the Japanese there are a lot fewer brand-specialist independents around here (essentially there are none), so you are more at the mercy of the dealerships. In my experience most American cars are dead and gone by 150-200K so who knows with them.

      • 0 avatar

        Do everything at once implies it all goes to hell at once, which has not been my experience. Instead, it’s a slow drip. You’re a BMW owner. Tell me when those window regulators go bad at 90k, 105k, 115k. Drip, drip, drip.

        The engine/transmission maintenance issues are typically simple and relatively inexpensive. It’s electrical problems that have been expensive, hard to diagnose and seem to go in sequential order.

        That’s what I’m most curious about. Again, anecdotally, Lexus, Infiniti, etc. appear to do better in that ‘mid-life crisis’ stage, meaning the cost of the mechanical repairs are about the same, but the electrical issues/motors don’t have the short lifespan of the Euro players.

      • 0 avatar


        The window regulators are a perfect example of “do it all at once” – if you know that chances are they are all going to fail within the next couple years, as soon as the first one does, change all four. Or better yet, why wait for it to break in the first place – as the time approaches, use some of the money you have set aside for maintenance and replace them proactively. Why wait for them to break? That will happen at the most inconvenient possible time. I maintain my cars on a schedule, I don’t wait for things to fail. No different than an airplane. It’s cheaper and less annoying in the long run.

        Do I wish that this stuff didn’t go bad? Yup! But wishing doesn’t make it so, and is a small price to pay for a car that makes me smile at the mere thought of driving it. If this sort of thing annoys you, then Toyota has just the automotive appliance to make you happy. Just don’t expect much entertainment.

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        Ok here’s my anecdote. I own a 1998 LS400 with over 220k miles that I bought with 48k miles so I’ve been through its midlife.

        Total sum of unscheduled repairs: 1new alternator. 1new door handle. 1new headlight switch. 1O2 sensor

        Annoyances: batteries don’t last long, maybe 2 years. But since replacing the alternator I’ve had no battery problems so maybe that’s it. Every 90k timing belt & water pump replacement is some expensive scheduled maint.

        Glitches I live with: a few segments in the radio display are dead. Occasionally the tach or speedo will stick on 0 for the first 5-15 minutes of a drive before springing to life. The automatic climate control no longer works properly, in cold weather after the cabin heats up it blows cold air instead of shutting off. Some of the heating wires in the rear window defroster don’t work.

        The following are still original and have given no problems: engine, transmission, all suspension parts, the cooling system, basically everything not mentioned above except batteries, tires and brake pads. I have all my work done by an indy Toyota mechanic who charges me the same labor rate Camry and Corolla owners pay.

        When I hear what Euro car owners put up with I shudder and recommitt to getting my Lexus to 300k. Like WTF is a window regulator and why do you ever have to replace one? Considering its age, my Japanese Buick hasbeen as close to trouble free as anyone can ever expect.

    • 0 avatar

      My 98 3.2TL has 144k miles and requires about $500-600 per year including maintenance. Last year was tires, year before that was hoses and a transmission mount. This year was a fuel filter, EGR cleaning, and new brake pads.

      In the cars lifetime, it has never had any major repairs except for needing the stereo head unit replaced.

  • avatar

    Still using my 2004 S60R for long-distance travel if the snow isn’t going to be too deep for the low clearance; then, it’s the Forester. The R can be out-parked by a city bus, but the Interstate doesn’t have corners tighter than the the 43-foot circle needed by the Volvo. Right now, there really isn’t a viable alternative that has the legs, seats, and, yes, general longevity, of a souped-up 5-cylinder. Cruising all day at 80 with A/C on nets up to 30mpg. The cruise control is too smooth as to be believed, with the wide power curve allowing hills to be swallowed in top gear. The pop-up nav sucks, however — $200 for a single yearly data-base update? It once tried to literally direct me over a cliff on Independence Pass.

  • avatar

    i have a great VW/Audi dealer story. I went to one in Brooklyn to check out Passat, A4 and A6 leases.

    after checking out the pricing, but before test driving, i brought up a trade in. If they would take the SVX off my hands for the total amount due at signing (roughly $3700 for the A4/A6) I would sign the paperwork (after a test drive of course).

    well, during the inspection phase, the fun began.
    “You said that the car hasn’t been in an accident?”
    “Well it looks like your car was totaled and rebuilt”.

    I promptly produced the carfax record, which showed no such thing (it was a NY car, NY State has rebuilt salvage titles, something that would have appeared on the report).

    “Well, Carfax must be wrong. I’ll give you $1200 for the car.”

    The conversation deteriorated from there. I sold the Subie for $4k a month or two later, and never sat foot in a vw/audi dealer again.

    this dealer no longer exists, thankfully.

  • avatar

    Alex if you want to pick up a cheap “place-holder” car before your next Euro-delivery adventure, check out the previous-generation Subaru Legacy GT wagon with the 2.5 liter turbo. My purchase decision came down to either that or the V70R, and I chose the Subaru for it’s tidier dimensions, nimbler handling and the perception of better reliability (near perfect so far). The manual transmission was offered in 2005 (0-60 times +/- 6 seconds) and can be made faster with modest tuning and bolt-on mods with lots of aftermarket options. So if you find yourself missing a fast, comfortable AWD wagon then you may want to give it a try.

    • 0 avatar
      Ashy Larry

      My decision came down to the V70R and the Legacy GT wagon, but my height (6’6″) made getting the Legacy with leather impossible because that forced me to also get the sunroof, which robbed the car of an inch or two of precious headroom and which was untenable for me.

      So while the GT felt like the better driver’s car (on my first test drive, I hammered the GT into corners with the utmost of confidence; such a purely instinctively easy car to drive hard, versus the Volvo which took a lot of getting used to), the V70R’s better appointments and unrivaled front seat comfort (plus the feeling that it was hewn from a chunk of granite) sold me on the Volvo.

      That said, I have often looked longingly at Legacy GT wagons in the days since I bought the Volvo. They were stupendous cars killed by pathetic American aversion to manual transmissions.

  • avatar

    I picked up a 1996 Volvo 850 Turbo wagon at the factory, same as you. It was an experience I highly recommend. It is getting a bit long in the tooth, with 185K miles, but I still take it to SCCA time trials (HPDE days) for fun.

    My biggest fear is that something will happen to it that would force purchase of a new car. The reason? There are no wagons currently available that can hold a candle to it. If Volvo still made the V70R, I would be at the dealership (even the crappy one near me) immediately, checkbook in hand.

    Would some manufacturer PLEASE make us a decent performance wagon? I don’t want an SUV, or the tiny excuses for a wagon that you see today. I want a real wagon, with real interior space, real handling and power.

    • 0 avatar

      You are aware of the existence of the BMW 535xi Wagon and Cadillac CTS/CTS-V wagons right? Both would blow the doors off your 850.

      • 0 avatar

        The 5-series wagon is not sold in the States currently, and the Cadillac is MUCH smaller in cargo room. The CTS-V is one heck of a car though!

      • 0 avatar

        The best combo of load lugger and sports car you can get in the States at the moment is the Mercedes E63 AMG, but the price….

      • 0 avatar

        The CTS wagon is a 4,200 lb 5 seat hatchback with 25 cubic feet of luggage space. It is wagon as fashion statement, not in form or utility. The current 5 series is as much fun to drive as a Checker cab and is not much of a value proposition these days. It also isn’t available as a wagon in the US, just the monstrous ‘Gran Turismo.’ The only real midsized wagon seems to be the Mercedes Benz E-class, available as the unsporty E350 4-matic and the $91K plus E63 with a turbo time bomb.

  • avatar

    Has anyone figured out how to install an aftermarket stereo in one of the modern Volvos?

    The ones that I looked at online had this funky number keypad that looks like it’s supposed to control the radio and the heater.

    Volvo makes nice station wagons that can tow. But, for the kind of money that Volvos cost, I need to be able to upgrade the infotainment electronics every few years to keep up with the times.

    The fact that I’m asking this question probably means that I’m not in Volvo’s target market… But, aside from being apparently-unhackable, the V50 really looks like my kind of car.

  • avatar

    Very nice article! Snapped me back to our yellow ’74 Euro-spec 745 we bought used from another GI in 1976, while stationed overseas.

    Built like a brick sh!t house and with the same aerodynamics, the 745 was great for use in Europe. Narrower and shorter than our ’72 Olds Custom Cruiser, my wife loved driving the 745 through the narrow streets of Heidelberg, although she had to get used to the manual transmission and NO AC in summer.

    The reason the GI sold this 745 to us was because he went to take delivery of a brand new US-model in Gothenberg and then take it to Bremerhaven to have it shipped to the Bayonne, NJ port, for his return stateside.

    The new one he ordered had every conceivable option on it to include AC, automatic and a roof rack. The last time I saw him in 2006 he was still driving that same Volvo, although he had added another, newer Volvo for his wife to drive.

    The 745 we had did not have any problems at all while we owned it and we sold it to an incoming GI with 170,000+ KM on it. We just put gas in it, changed the oil and filters and put new shoes on it. We got our money’s worth.

  • avatar

    I miss my brick. It brought me many disastrous and/or beautiful adventures. Many of which included my backstabbing, untrustworthy, kiniving ex-girlfriend. Or weekend days filled with stripping the heads of torx-head screws trying to fix something. But it was worth it to have a car that was different, but consistently gave me a manic smile every day. Even as I almost broke the key off in the lock on a cold day. It was boring to most but to me it was special, because it was mine.

    • 0 avatar
      Ashy Larry

      I used to have a bog-slow Saab 900, with 110 hp, manual window cranks, and an AC system that robbed the car of at least 20 precious hp when running. It was strange, fussy but completely lovable. I finally sold it when the repairs required to keep it running safely totalled about 8x the value of the car itself. And yet to this day I wish I had forked over the money to repair it, as I miss that car daily.

  • avatar

    Wow, people getting rid of Volvos at 80k, 90k, 100k?

    Are they just not built to last? Would love to get a new S60-T6 which comes with 5 years of free maintainence but does that mean once it’s up I need to think about selling?

    Shame. It is an incredible car.

  • avatar

    I have an ’05 V70R with 30k miles that I will be keeping FOREVER. I searched high and low to find one with low miles a few years back, and they basically do not exist anymore. Finding one in bright red with the Atacama interior (raw leather, like a baseball glove, but more orange) felt like winning the lottery. It hurts its ability to be a good Q car like Alex’s, but I can’t take it for a drive without someone complimenting it.

    Its warranty expires in 4 days, so I’m a bit nervous, but it really hasn’t been that problematic. In over 3 years, its required 2 unscheduled trips to dealer that were under $400.

  • avatar

    My ’97 850 T5 is the first car I’ve really loved since my ’65 Buick Wildcat. More buttons on it than the space shuttle!

    When my wife needed a new car last year we looked at an ’05 V70 T5, same engine but the center console got wider and the seats got narrower which I didn’t like. She eventually chose a 2011 Hyundai Elantra Touring instead.

    I still have a hankering for a Volvo wagon though.

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