Volvo cars, because of their reputation for being some of the world’s safest vehicles, are synonymous with dominating the NHTSA’s five-star safety ratings. In fact, Volvo’s concern with passenger safety dates back to when Swedish engineer Nils Bohlin invented the three-point seat belt. Volvo, however, also knows good design, as shown by its aesthetically pleasing Concept Coupe, futuristic Concept Estate, and Italian-influenced P1800. Here are nine of the best-looking Volvo cars of all time.
Best-Looking Volvo Cars: PV654
Volvo introduced its first six-cylinder engine in 1929 to better compete in a market ruled by American cars. That same year, the Volvo PV650 Series models entered the contest with a larger engine. The “PV” designation in the model name stood for “personvagnar” (passenger car), while the three-digit number translated into the engine size, seating capacity, and trim level. From 1929-37, Volvo manufactured a variety of PV650 Series models; the top-of-line version was the PV654 de lux, with 361 examples built.
The PV654 de lux model came with a 3.4-liter engine along with a three-speed manual transmission, and it was available as a four-door sedan that could seat up to five passengers. Making its debut in 1933, updates on the PV654 included an all-steel body, new fenders, smaller 17-inch wheels, a stronger chassis with an X-shaped cross-member support, and improved aerodynamics. The PV654’s real appeal came in the plush interior and with standard equipment that consisted of chrome-plated horns, a set of fender-mounted spare tires, rear taillights, and exterior color options. This car is a worthy leadoff to any list of the best-looking Volvo cars of all-time.
Best-Looking Volvo Cars: PV544
Launched toward the end of World War II, the PV444 served as a foretoken of peace and better days. Even though the popular two-door fastback rapidly achieved a reputation for being rigid and stylish, the design work was seen as out-of-date from its inception. Replacing the esteemed and commercially successful PV444, Volvo debuted the PV544 in 1958, with expansive changes.
The PV544 received an updated dashboard with robust padding for passenger safety, and it featured a new, thermometer-type speedometer. Adjustments to the backseat resulted in additional passenger space and improved comfort. Exterior changes included a one-piece curving windshield, an enhanced rear window, and larger taillights. The PV544 also gained a four-speed manual transmission and offered an optional 1.8-liter engine.
In 1965, a pre-owned PV544 competed in the 13th annual East African Safari Rally with driver Joginder Singh and co-driver Jaswant Singh, and it famously claimed the win.
Best-Looking Volvo Cars: 780 Bertone Coupe
When creating a boxy sedan that would appeal to younger buyers, Volvo had the ingenious idea of removing a set of doors, and it consulted Italian automotive designer Bertone to finish the job. Based on the 760, the exclusive two-door Volvo 780 coupe by Bertone debuted at the 1985 Geneva International Auto Show.
Produced from 1986-90, the Volvo 780 entered the U.S. market in 1987 and came equipped with the 2.8-liter B280F V-6 engine. Key design highlights were a wider C-pillar, chrome exterior molding, improved headroom, a lower roofline, Bertone badges, and distinctive wheels. Keeping in line with elegant design, the Volvo 780 featured a fashionable, extravagant interior.
Best-Looking Volvo Cars: P1800
When Jaguar declined to provide an E-Type for an upcoming U.K. television, Volvo stepped in and handed over the keys for two P1800 models, which in return boosted sales. The television series The Saint’s (1962-69) lead character, Simon Templar (Roger Moore), drove a 1967 P1800S dubbed “ST1,” and it brought the Swedish sports car instant fame. Interestingly, the P1800S featured later on the show was personally owned by Roger Moore himself, making the car even more exceptional.
Designed by Pelle Pettersen and influenced by Italian styling, Volvo debuted the P1800 at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show. Based on the Volvo 121/122S, this rear-drive 2+2 had a shorter wheelbase and a completely new engine that progressively became more powerful with each iteration. Built as a sports car and marketed as a grand tourer, the P1800 hit production in 1961 and was available in four variants throughout its 12-year production run. Those variants included the P1800, P1800S, P1800E, and P1800ES, in the form of a coupe, convertible, and wagon.
Newly designed and made in 1971, the P1800ES was a sports wagon that featured an all-glass tailgate, extended roofline, and a folding rear seat. What was so great about the P1800ES was that it offered additional cargo space for storing outdoor-activities equipment. Production of the P1800 came to an end in 1973 due to the high costs of safety standards required in the U.S.
Best-Looking Volvo Cars: V40 Estate, 1st Generation
Born of a collaborative effort by Volvo Cars and Mitsubishi Motors, the Volvo V40 Estate wagon came to fruition under the direction of Volvo design director Peter Horbury. Making its official appearance at the 1995 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Volvo V40 proved a success in other international markets before its U.S. introduction in 2000. In 1996, Italian organization and magazine Automobila honored the Volvo V40 with its “Most Beautiful Estate Car in the World” award.
The Volvo V40 Estate provided the same level of comfort, safety, and luxury in a compact size that for years was enjoyed by owners of the larger Volvo 850. Before arriving in America, the V40 Estate received a minor facelift that consisted of a fascia redesign, larger front turn signals, and a new front bumper. Available only with a 1.9-liter turbocharged engine for the U.S., the Volvo V40 Estate’s widespread popularity led to the production of 423,491 examples.
Best-Looking Volvo Cars: Concept Coupe
(Production: Concept only)
It is fair to say the inspiration behind the Polestar 1 came from the Volvo Concept Coupe, which lamentably did not make it to production. Revealed at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Volvo Concept infused design elements from the iconic P1800. In fact, hailed as the next-generation P1800, the Volvo Concept Coupe projected the direction of future Volvo design. Exterior highlights included T-shaped daytime running lights, 21-inch wheels, a low roof and hood, a floating grille, and stunning blue-gray exterior paint.
Of the Volvo Concept Coupe, then-Volvo senior vice president of design Thomas Ingenlath said, “The Volvo Concept Coupe is no futuristic dream car. It is designed to demonstrate the capability of our new architecture: the confident stance, the proportions, and the most prominent design signatures.”
Best-Looking Volvo Cars: Concept Estate
(Production: Concept only)
For those who still appreciate the family station wagon, the Volvo Concept Estate is what we all wish would become a production wagon. Unveiled at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, the Concept Estate was the final of the three concept cars designed by then-Volvo design boss Thomas Ingenlath. Echoing the design of the Volvo P1800ES sports wagon, the Concept Estate’s interior was unlike any other.
A massive glass roof in conjunction with attention to detail, innovative technology, and interior upholstery made the Concept Estate’s cabin spectacular. The materials applied throughout consisted of woven wool carpets, a crystal gear lever, naturally tanned leather, machined copper accents, naturally aged wood, and checkered black-and-white wool textile upholstery.
Cultivated in elegance and modern design, everything in the cabin worked together perfectly and featured a simple yet remarkable structure.
Best-Looking Volvo Cars: V90 Cross Country
Recently updated for the 2021 model year, the Volvo V90 Cross Country is the rugged version of the graceful V90. Built for an outdoorsy and traveling lifestyle, the V90 Cross Country’s most appealing traits are its off-road capability and sporty exterior styling. The adventurous version of the V90 combines luxury and athleticism to provide the best of both worlds. First shown before the 2016 Paris Motor Show, the all-wheel-drive V90 Cross Country wanted to make it clear it was not afraid of exploring the roads less traveled.
Best-Looking Volvo Cars: XC60, Second Generation
The second-generation Volvo XC60 has to be in the top ranks of the most attractive SUVs produced in the last decade. Across the Volvo lineup, the second-gen Volvo XC60 has become the best-selling model and a favorite among Volvo enthusiasts. That might be no surprise, considering the original model almost reached 1-million sales globally.