Thursday, May 10, 2012

1998 Volvo S90
Restoration World Review #2

The Swedes built a nearly 
perfect sedan...nearly

I have a dark secret... 

First off, I must confess that I have a deep interest in military jeeps. 

The M38A1 that I restored, and is featured in an earlier blog, is my forth jeep. Soon, I hope to restore a 1944 Willys, but first I gotta finish up a 122 wagon. 

So really, I only love jeeps of military vintage....and Volvos.

That's my dark secret. 

Deep inside, I'm a Swedish nerd. I know every bit of Volvo's fascinating history, and I've owned nearly every car they've made...even the obscure Bertone. 

I have absolutely no idea where this love stems from, yet it's there, and has been since I bought my first 145 wagon.

That was a '69 model that racked up over a million miles before I sold it. Two of the Volvos that I've owned were on the way to the salvage yard when I intervened. 

The Volvo pictured below is my latest purchase.

My daughter didn't like the jeep at all when it was finished. 

She wanted AC. 

She wanted tunes. 

So I started hunting. The nice thing about most used Volvos is they are almost always treated well by their owners. Which is good for someone like me.

I can work on the car, because I know the brand so well, but there is more to it that that. I can test drive the car, take a good hard look at it, and know whether it's been in an accident, repainted, and if someone has been fiddling about under the hood.

The S90 that I just purchased was garaged, serviced properly, had new tires and cold AC. The leather has some cracks, and it could use a good polish, but other than that everything is fine.

This is a loaded, one-owner car that cost $71,000 new. That is generally what you get when you buy a pampered family car, and that's exactly what I wanted.

I've never had car payments, and probably never will. That's just how I roll. Heh.

Seriously, though, I have simply never had an urge to spend 40K or more on a vehicle. I just don't see the point. A consumer doesn't get a very good deal concerning new car purchases, in my opinion.

You go to the dealership, and fork over a buttload of cash for a down payment, then you spend the next few years paying off what is basically a money-pit. And at the end you're stuck with a 5 or 6 year old car that may or may not have any value.

But enough about that. Back to this used S90.

Okay, the good stuff: I like the leather. I like the sunroof. I like the stereo and the seats. Safety features are abundant, the brakes are excellent, and the steering is crisp. Although, I haven't figured out how the cruise control works.

Motor Trend voted the S90 as the most comfortable car in the world for long trips. That may not sound very exciting, but I like quiet comfort.

The engine is Volvo's famous 3-liter straight six, a very powerful, smooth engine. The suspension isn't soft, but it isn't bone-jarring either. 

I don't care about things like Blue-Tooth or Satnav or TV screens, so the fact that this car doesn't have them is no problem.

The S90, for me, is the ultimate luxury car. The backseat occupants have plenty of legroom, and up front the seats are like being in your living room recliner. The entire cabin is leather and wood, with very little plastic. The workmanship is outstanding.

There is one other important factor here.

The S90 is the last of the rear-wheel drive cruisers that Volvo produced. And I like the way it looks very much. The S90 was meant to compete against the BMW 7-series and the Mercedes 600-class, which of course it never could.

I'm fine with that.

The bad: Volvo has gone from one end of the spectrum to the other concerning their engine design. In the now famous 240 series, they made a fine little four-banger that had too work very hard pushing around a two-ton car. So, as you can expect, bad gas mileage was the result.

With the S90, Volvo went the opposite direction, installing a huge six cylinder motor that doesn't work hard at all, which means supreme smoothness.

And, yes, you guessed it....not so great gas mileage.

I estimate 17 mpg in town, maybe 25 on the highway. But there is one other way to look at it. The 2012 S60 economy version Volvo just put out gets around 18 mpg in the city, and 26 on the highway.

So in that perspective, the S90 doesn't look so bad.

I now have a car that will move me around for the next 3 to 4 years, then I'll move on. And the money that I save (about 13,000 dollars over the same period of time in car payments) will go toward my 122 restoration and the Willys resto as well.

Most of all, my daughter won't be bitching about the Florida heat. She'll be chauffeured around in AC comfort. Then maybe I'll give the car to her. In 3 years she'll be sixteen, and she can drive me around.

Ungrateful brat.

What model Volvo is 
your favorite?


willson said...

I love your blog and the feelings which you shared about your car.I have some news about GM for car lovers of India.
General Motors India is planning to launch Chevrolet Captiva this month.Very nice and impressive SUV,Chevrolet Captiva looks very fabulous and stylish.It's sizzling performance with mind blowing mileage and power make it a new avatar of excellence.

arphned said...

Being a longtime Volvo maven that appears to be a very nice S90. I have one in Silver that my wife drives. One thing you might note that all original owners of the S90's were issued a 1 million dollar loss of life policy should that happen to a S90 owner. Policy in effect while car was in warranty. As a footnote Volvo never had to pay one claim on the S90.

S. Daniel Shortwinter said...

Thanks for the comment, arphned. I had heard of the program years ago, but never confirmed it.