These days some people think Volvos are quite pretty. We don’t agree, though they do try jolly hard. When the 480 first reared its popup head in 1986, people were just downright confused. Was there finally be a reliable, comfortable, start-friendly way to get laid?
Claiming the Volvo 480 was introduced as sexy boxmobile to attract the opposite sex is far beyond our remit. Plus we would be lying. The 480 coupe was nevertheless a damn fine car and – thanks to Volvo’s generally dependable build quality – it still is.
480s have held onto their value reasonably well, considering the fate of most other small Volvos. There is something so exclusive about a car that not everyone agrees is any good. You get enough vehicle to hold your own in pub battles, but not so much as to show off. You intrigue more than annoy.
What Do I Get For Being Different?:
Safety first, as always. Side-impact beams, optional ABS, optional alarm and – if you had enough in your wallet – compulsory turbo lag. Many cars in the late 1980s suffered from the dreaded lag. The 480 was not as bad as some, due to its 2.0 litre and under-capacity which meant the turbocharger was comparatively small. The overall speed left something to be desired next to the bigger boy-racer saloons, but all that draw and spooling was significantly reduced.
The 480’s bland interior has not been helped by the onset of time. It is one thing to be well featured (which it is), but quite another to feel as though you are sitting inside a portable library. Looking good on the outside is as subjective as hell in a Volvo. Period. The 480 made a statement for a company not known for making statements. Okay, so the front worked and the back looked like a hunch, the wheels belonged on an old Triumph, the rear lights – neatly staggered above a bulbous, injection moulded bumper – looked a little like The Terminator‘s eyes. Pre-launch debate in 1986 boiled like a fluffy pet rabbit. Those that weren’t sure at least wanted to find out.
The Drive of Your Life:
Er, no. Though whatever preconceptions you may have had about whether Volvo could pull off a hottie (since the P1800 ES anyway) were jolted slightly, without being completely nuked out of their seat.
By modern standards the 480 does not thrill the body in the same was as, say, a Clio 182, or even a bottom spec Audi TT, but it is firm and responsive. Something the TT would give up its optional curling tongs for and make no mistake. Take to the back roads in a 480 and you will always enjoy yourself. It is not a 0-60, straight line to the finish, kind of car. The Volvo sits you in relative comfort, instructs you gently not to get ideas above your abilities, then whisks you off on a twisty-turny adventure towards the nearest Aston showroom. That’s right, Aston Martin. Only people who want the best but will never be able to afford it buy the 480. We mean never, no hope of ambition beyond middle management and an office with an openable window. This is all fine too; not everyone can afford a supercar – which is what this column is about. Though don’t stunt your ambition, kids. A 480 need only be a start. You don’t have to have two kids and a mortgage; you could have a Vantage instead.
Here endeth hecklerspray‘s lesson. Oh, and sportswear is not fashion. Thought we’d throw that in as well.
Seeking Out a Tasty 480:
Main dealer history is a real comfort blanket, particularly concerning the elaborate turbo and all the wonderful problems it can bring. Prices are not staggeringly cheap on the used market, but there are still plenty of 480 bargains to be had.
Electrics need checking with gusto. Headlights should pop-up together and with no sticking or juddering. Try them several times to make sure (and no doubt annoy the vendor), then flick the electric windows up and down, again looking for the same kind of problems. A test drive should be consistently taut and smoke free (white and blue). Otherwise, go home and have something interesting to tell your friends for once. Late model 480 special editions are a great buy, though difficult to price. Seek one out if you can and don’t ever pay more than £3,500.00.
There is a sorted 480 on eBay.co.uk, if you would care to take a look. Take the risk and be a bit different. It is refreshing sometimes, if not altogether logical.
The Volvo 480 is a troubled car with a lot of fans and even more detractors. Which side of the fence do you sit – worse or better than you remembered – or would you rather just have an Escort X3Ri?
Tsk. You will regret in the morning. Especially when it’s been stolen.
[story by Chris Laverty]