When you think Volvo, there’s a good chance the first image that comes to mind is a brick-like two-box wagon. You wouldn’t be alone; for decades, Volvo wagons have seemingly outnumbered its sedans in every corner of the world. In America, they’re a fixture in college towns, suburbs, and grocery store parking lots since our parents were kids. Their legendary safety, reliability, and no-frills styling have made them unlikely automotive icons, and it’s not uncommon to see 30 year old Volvo wagons still pulling duty on the roads today.
Luckily, no one knows this better than Volvo, so to celebrate the upcoming launch of the V90 wagon, it’s decided to take a stroll down memory lane and reflect on its history of long-roofs. The V90 is a big deal – it’s the only flagship out offered by any automaker in wagon form, and based on spy photos that have leaked, it’s just as good-looking as the S90 sedan it’s based on.
We can’t wait to take a closer look at Volvo’s über-wagon once it’s unveiled in Stockholm next week, but for now, we’re more than happy to kill time looking at Volvo’s official list of the 6 greatest station wagon to come from Gothenburg. Be warned: This might make you desperately want a Volvo wagon.
1. 1953-’69 Volvo Duett
Based on the PV Sedan – the car that introduced Volvo to the world outside Scandinavia – the Duett was the wagon that started it all. Built on a unique ladder frame, Duetts offered truck-like durability in a car-like package. The Duett proved to be so popular in Europe that it remained in production long enough to eclipse its predecessor. Today, an abundance of parts and ease of customizability make them popular in European hot rod circles.
2. 1962-’69 Amazon Estate
The handsome, modern Amazon was designed to bring Volvo into the 1960s, and its Estate variant was meant to replace the Duett. But despite selling over 73,000 wagons during its seven-year production run, the Amazon Estate just couldn’t get out of the older wagon’s shadow. That said, the uni-bodied Amazon was much more refined than the PV and the Duett, and has the distinction of being the first production car to come with standard three-point seat belts. Above average build quality meant that many Amazon Estates have survived, and today they’re popular with Volvo fans around the world.
3. 1972-’73 P1800ES
The P1800 may have been based on the mild-mannered Amazon, but its Pelle Petterson-designed body easily makes it the sexiest and most desirable Volvo ever built. Introduced as a coupe in 1961, the P1800 was getting long in the tooth by the early ’70s, so for its final two years, Volvo offered it in the avant-garde ES shooting brake variant. Just over 8,000 of these cars were produced during its short run, but it’s lived on as a Volvo design touchstone, strongly influencing the 480 coupe of the ’80s, and the 2007-’13 C30 hatchback. We’re can’t think of another long-roof that came from the factory looking so sporty.
4. 1974-’93 200-Series
Not only did the 200-Series produce the most iconic Volvo wagon, it’s also arguably the most recognizable Volvo of all-time. Even to people who couldn’t care less about cars, there’s a pretty good chance they could peg this as a Volvo. Unpretentious and upright with an emphasis on safety, the 200-Series cars were powered by bullet-proof B-Series inline-four or Volkswagen-sourced diesel engines, and with over 2.8 million cars built during 20 years of production, there are still plenty of them on the roads today. While they weren’t fast by anyone’s standards, turbocharged models like the one were plenty lively. Today, a well-sorted 200 model is one of the best classic car bargains out there.
5. 1982-’96 700/900 Series
Introduced for 1982, the 700-Series cars were premium models meant to take on the best the Germans had to offer, and they did a pretty good job pushing Volvo upmarket. Available with a turbocharger and intercooler, 740 and 760 models could make a claim at being the world’s fastest production wagons of the 1980s – inspiring some of the greatest ads of the era too. The model was replaced by the 900-Series in the early ’90s, but the wagons received little more than a facelift and a new name. With world-class performance and a luxurious cabin, this is a direct descendent of the upcoming V90.
6. 1995 Volvo 850 T-5 R
Like the Amazon of the 1960s, the 850 was Volvo’s big leap into the ’90s. And at a time when BMW and Mercedes were ramping up production on their respective M- and AMG performance models, Volvo fired back with the T-5 R. Developed with help from Porsche, the Cream Yellow wagon had its turbocharged inline-five engine boosted, its suspension redesigned, and its transmission beefed up. The result: 243 horsepower through the front wheels, zero to 60 in 5.8 seconds, and an electronically limited top speed of 152 miles per hour. The T-5 R should be an icon like the Audi S2 Avant, but its front-wheel drive layout has largely kept out of the “Greatest of the ’90s” debate. With the Civic Type-R and Ford ST cars proving that FWD can be fun too, we’re hoping that Volvo gets nostalgic and sends a few V90s over to Polestar for hot-rodding.
Follow Derek on Twitter @CS_DerekS