What is it Like to Live With a Volvo 240?

Volvo - What is it Like to Live With a Volvo 240? - Readers' Reviews

The Basics

That’s what this car is. In today’s high-tech automotive world, the Volvo 240 has the basic requirements for a modern vehicle that you can hop in and go anywhere, anytime:

  • Electronic Port Fuel Injection
  • An Airbag
  • 4 Wheel Power Disc Brakes (ABS was an optional extra)
  • Air Conditioning
  • Adjustable Seats
  • A Radio

Other than that, it has only what every other car needs to run and drive, like a drivetrain… and some wheels.

But, it’s this basic-ness that makes the 240 so much fun. The 200 series was first put into production in 1974 and lasted until 1993. That’s nearly 20 years. The 200 even outlived it’s successor, the 700 series which lasted a mere 10 years (1982-1992). In fact, the 200 series was actually developed off of the 140 which went into production in 1966, and the similarities are obvious when looking at the middle of the car. The 200 series has it’s roots from a car in the 1960’s, and it feels that way.

Everyone thinks "DL" means "Diesel." But in Volvo nomenclature, "DL" stands for "de Luxe"
Everyone thinks "DL" means "Diesel." But in Volvo nomenclature, "DL" stands for "de Luxe"

What Am I Basing This Off Of?

Forget the history lesson though, what is it like to live with? My 240 is a 1990 model with the DL trim level. “What does the DL trim include?” you may be asking. Power windows and the option of a sunroof. That’s it. Yes, mine does have the sunroof, but you’d be better off without it because it’s a manual cranking sunroof that skips gears and leaks intermittently. As my car was close to the end of the line for the 240, it is one of the more advanced models with the port fuel injected 2.3L, single overhead cam, iron block, 2 valve, 4-cylinder engine.

What?! Electronic port fuel injection was kind of advanced for 1990. Okay, maybe even the more advanced models aren’t so.

My 240 has the AW70 4-speed automatic transmission and 1031 Dana 30 rear axle, likely with 3.73 gears.

What Does It Drive Like?

Like an old car. Thinking back to when my car was basically unmodified, it felt old and sloppy. But even then, it was fun. There was tons of body roll and the car felt very unstable at high speed. And if that’s not what you call fun, you’re probably a normal person. But I like to push my cars to their limits, and the basic limits of the standard 240 were quite low. The steering feels connected, but it’s not sharp by any means.

IT’S LOUD. Sound deadening? Ha! The 240 is a basic brick. It has the aerodynamic properties of a large Victorian home, and the wind noise cannot be cured. As my 240 is nearly 30 years old, there’s lot’s of other sounds that can be heard clearly in the cabin, like the clunking trailing arm bushings. But surprisingly, there’s very little rattles coming from the interior. The rattles usually occur only over harsh bumps and come mainly from the dash and the parcel shelf or trunk.

It’s slow. Surprising, right? 114hp and 136ft-lbs of torque from the factory doesn’t propel this 3000lb box very fast. And after 30 years, that number has likely dropped, and my slightly better exhaust and high-flow air filter don’t do much to help. But it’s still peppy, and acceleration is very dramatic which is good for some laughs. And it is the reliable ol’ B230, so maybe it hasn’t lost as much power as I assume.

There's never been a day I regretted buying this car...

Out of my 3 cars, this one has taken the most rides on a rollback.
Out of my 3 cars, this one has taken the most rides on a rollback.

...even the days when it spent more time on a tow truck than on the road.

It’s Reliable, Right?

Well… yes, and no. I push this car hard. Like really hard, and the engine still runs great. But, it’s still a 30 year old European car. It has it’s issues, but it’s come a long way from when I bought it. I’ll do an article further detailing the issues, but for now, here’s a list of things that were/are broken on my 240 in no particular order:

  • Air conditioning
  • Rear fog light
  • Heated seats
  • Interior b-pillar trim
  • Headlight relay
  • The fusebox as a whole
  • The sunroof
  • The power windows
  • The MAF sensor
  • Trailing arm bushings
  • Fuel pump relay
  • Taillight circuit boards (Twice in less than 2 years!)
  • The front air dam
  • The skid pan
  • The exhaust
  • The rear defroster
  • The odometer
  • Driveshaft center support
  • Ball joints
  • Transmission mount
  • The clock
  • Several dash lights
  • The water pump
    …and I’m probably forgetting something. So, no, it’s not as dead reliable as most people will have you believe. But try and find a car as old as mine with as much use as mine, that didn’t or doesn’t have these issues. But, it’s a simple car, and therefore pretty easy to work on… except the air conditioning.

Is The Mileage Good?

No. Some people seem to think so, but no. The EPA estimate is 17MPG city and 21MPG highway. I highly doubt I get that. Like I said though, I drive this car hard. Maybe you could get that out of it, but I go though that 16 gallon tank pretty quickly. Of course, I don’t have an easy way to measure my MPG with my still currently broken odometer.


The trunk is pretty large but it’s not well insulated, nor very nice. And maybe, it’s not really that big, as I tried putting a 42” television in it once and it ended up having to go in the back seat on top of my rear passenger. There’s no tie downs or hooks apart from the ones used to hold the spare tire in place. Tools are stored in a pouch on the spare tire cover. The best thing about the trunk is the spare tire, as long as it’s the original, the tread spells out “SPECIAL” around the circumference, which would leave a really cool pattern if you drove on sand with it. As far as cabin storage goes, good luck. The door pockets fall apart on every 240 and turn into sharp, jagged, leg stabbers. There’s a little open cubby in the “center console” and the glove box is quite small. Overall, the interior is small, and really, the whole car is small.

Basically the same car... right?
Basically the same car... right?

What About Build Quality?

For what it is, very good. Switches and buttons feel heavy and nice. The plastics don’t feel cheap, but they’re not fantastic either. The climate control buttons are the best. They’re vacuum operated and it feels like you’re using a really nice, old, tape player. Speaking of tape players, I don’t yet have the correct radio installed, although I do have the correct new old stock one in my possesion, and it feels nice to use. The cloth seats have worn pretty well over the years and are just really beginning to rip. The headliner is… something. It’s there, it’s stained, it’s rubber? Or maybe plastic? I don’t know, it’s weird and I kind of love it, kind of hate it. At least it’ll never sag and fall down. The fusebox is on the driver’s side footwell and constantly gets wet. All 240s seem to like to leak here, and only on the driver’s side. So your fuses are getting wet very often and therefore need constant attention. The 240 also uses old style ceramic fuses which corrode often and will warrant a good cleaning of the fusebox every now and then.

Well, I say it uses ceramic fuses, but the engine management fuse is a newer style blade fuse. The engine management fuse is located under the hood, by the edge of the hood, exposed to all the elements and a potentially leaky power steering fluid reservoir. The connector is a cheap, after-thought unit that will disintegrate and then cause intermittent stalling, which is fun when pulling onto a busy highway.

There’s big ol’ panel gaps, but it’s an old car with roots in the 1960’s, every car in the 1960’s had big panel gaps!

It’s an Icon!

The 240 is what everyone thinks of when “Volvo” comes to mind. It’s the brick, the tank, the unkillable! It’s almost in the same realm as the Beetle or the Model T. It’s an automotive icon that every enthusiast knows, and every Volvo lover has an undying respect for. If you love Volvos, you love the 240, no exceptions. And it can be modified to crazy levels. Whether you’re sticking a giant turbo on the B230, or swapping it for a big old V8, the 240’s engine bay will gladly accept it. It gets plenty of looks and people coming up to tell you stories of their 240. I had never had that happen before, but when it does, you feel special. It’s always a joy to bring a smile to someone’s face with your car, never take that for granted.

Or perhaps they’re just laughing at the 6ft tall 350lb man in the little blue Swedish car…

Should You Own a Volvo 240?

YES! If you have the opportunity, go for it! It will give you years of pure, loyal, unconditional love and joy. I love my 240 and have no plans to ever get rid of it. But, it’s not for everyone. If you love cars that have to try their hardest to get the best out of them, the 240 is a great car for you. The 240 is a car that gives back as much love as you give it. It gives 110% all the time. It’ll try it’s hardest to make you happy, and you won’t be disappointed. There’s never been a day that I regretted buying this car, even the days when it spent more time on a tow truck than on the road. It’s so much fun, and I look forward to many more years with my 240. It’s been the best decision of my life so far.

Volvo - What is it Like to Live With a Volvo 240? - Readers' Reviews