CC Capsule: Volvo 740 GLE Turbodiesel – A 1980s Diesel So Nice, They Named It Twice

Volvo 740 Turbo Diesel

… or perhaps thrice, since the dark soot over the exhaust is an additional, unmistakable sign that a diesel powers this Volvo 740 sedan.  Two full nameplates and engine badges stacked on top of each other (and diesel soot left layered over them proudly) announce the owner’s pride in his or her 740 Turbodiesel, a short-lived model in the U.S. market.  Since few Americans have owned a 740 Turbodiesel, or were even aware that it existed most likely, a brief look at this unusually configured model is in order.


The early to mid-1980s were the heyday for diesels cars in the U.S. market, with Mercedes’ long-running diesel passenger cars joined by GM with its Oldsmobile V-8 and V-6 diesels from 1978-85, BMW with its 1985-86 524td, and Volkswagen Rabbit and Dasher, Lincoln Mark VII and Toyota Camry diesels.  Volvo joined the diesel party in 1983 with the 760 Turbodiesel, redesignated the 740 Turbodiesel toward the end of its U.S. run in 1986.

To power its diesel cars, Volvo turned to Volkwagen, but instead of using the four cylinder diesel passenger car version of its engines used in the Rabbit and Dasher, Volvo powered the relatively large and heavy 740/760 with the 2.4 liter D24 inline six diesel from Volkswagen, as also used in their LT van.  This engine was essentially a six cylinder version of VW’s four and five cylinder diesel engines, and shared many internal components. The turbodiesel version used by Volvo in the 740/760 produced a healthy (for a diesel) 127 hp @ 4700 rpm and 203 ft-lb of torque @ 2,550 rpm.


A Volvo with a diesel engine will sound like a dream car to fans of Swedish Bricks and the idea of a car that can last a lifetime, but the 740/760 Turbodiesel lasted only a short time in the new car marketplace and earned a mixed reputation.  It exited the U.S. market in 1986 and the European market in 1988.

In service, the D24 diesel engine compiled a mixed reputation in terms of reliability and longevity. Some had issues with head gaskets and cracked cylinder heads, along with resultant overheating.  It was important to change the timing belt at prescribed intervals. But many owners were also very happy with these engines, if they were maintained well, and their issues understood. Some of these engines have clocked 300, 400 and even over 500k miles, with the kind of long-distance durability the VW four and five cylinder diesel engines are known for. One assumes that the engine in this 740 Turbodiesel falls in that camp.


With or without a sterling reputation for durability, this 740 Turbodiesel appears to provide its owner with an abundance of pride in ownership.  Aside from being festooned with 740 GLE Turbodiesel badges in two fonts and with a dark sooty engine call out, this diesel Volvo was found in the parking lot of the National Archives research center in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, a sure sign of having an owner with a far greater than average interest in things lasting a long time.  Rust-free, clean (aside from the diesel soot) and in apparently excellent condition inside and outside for a daily driver that is almost 30 years old, this 740 Turbodiesel with its VW diesel engine projects solidity and longevity, regardless of whether it has proven to be a reliable example or a money pit.  If “you are what you drive,” to repeat the overused cliché, then the owner of this 740 Turbodiesel is no doubt driving the right car.