Once upon a time, the arrival of a new Volvo would be greeted with studied nonchalance by the motoring press and car enthusiasts alike. But of course, that's no longer the case; since the company's great reinvention of the 1990s, it's gone from strength to strength, churning out one handsome design after another. So it was with some anticipation that we looked forward to the first official images of the new S60, which came out earlier this week.
Handsome thing, isn't it? True, it's very much a miniaturised S90, but it's also one that's been toned, tweaked and tautened here and there to make it look, somehow, even better. In fact, I don't know about you, but I can't help but feel that next to the Audi A4, Merc C-Class, BMW 3 Series and even the Jaguar XE, the S60's the one that looks the sharpest of the lot. Roll on the Polestar version, I say.
All of this is great news for fans of Swedish cars. Except for the fact, of course, that it's going to a while before we can find out if the S60's as good to drive as it is to look at - and even longer before the S60 falls to a level of value that makes it accessible to the likes of you and I. Even so, if you're anything like me, the advent of the new car will have put you in mind of old Swedish greats - and fancying a root around in the classifieds to see what's out there right now.
Let's start with a true unicorn - an S80 V8. Yes, really. If you've heard of this supremely rare beast, you'll know it's particularly interesting - and if you haven't, here's why. Volvo offered the second-generation S80 with a thumping 4.4-litre engine - one developed specifically for Volvo by Yamaha, and not shared with any other car, although the block was used in a couple of the bigger Yamaha marine outboard engines. It's a cracking lump: smooth and whisper-quiet at motorway speeds, but happy to rev and release 315hp as it does so. You get four-wheel-drive and adjustable suspension as standard, too, and set to 'Sport' mode the S80 V8 is actually a competent and cohesive steer on a back road, lacking the outright feel of a BMW but still rather enjoyable in its own way. This one isn't cheap, but these things are so rare that it's hard to decide how much they're actually worth - to the right person, I could see it fetching that sort of money, especially with the full history and low mileage. A tempting old barge, especially if you're looking for an interesting alternative to a 5 Series, and ideal to wait out the arrival of the S60.
That's all good and well if you want a motorway wafter, but what about something a little more thrusting? Enter the V70 R. Quicker and tauter than the S80, the V70 R is all that's good about Volvo: an estate with room for no end of rubbish in the back, but with a turbocharged powerplant up front capable of delivering thumping power. Perfect. This one doesn't come with the fantastic tan leather interior or the Flash Green paintwork so readily associated with the second-gen model, but its discreet grey-over-black does at least mean it flies under the radar - so nobody will see you coming. At a fiver less than five grand, this feels like an awful lot of car for the money; the seller needs it gone quickly, too, so a bargain is there for the striking. One thing, though: as it's a Japanese import, it's worth checking it has adequate rust protection on the underside, and if it hasn't, budgeting to smear some on.
But do we have to stick to just Volvos? Well, it's my column, so I've just decided that 'no' is the answer. Let's have some Saabs, then, and the first one that caught my eye is this delightful 900 T16S Aero. It dates from 1991, comes with a tonne of history, and doesn't it just look the bee's knees in two-tone red over grey? And at £7,995 - believe it or not - it's cheap for a 900 Turbo right now. Although there is a reason for that: it's done 178,000 miles. Ouch. Still, as Saab enthusiast will know, this is barely a smattering if the car's been looked after well, and if you need evidence of that just take a look at the driver's seat. I've seen driver's seats in worse condition than that in 30,000-mile family hatchbacks, for goodness sake. Of course, as with any 900 Turbo, it should be joyously boosty to drive, and you'll fall in love with it every time you catch sight of yourself in a shop window.
But even better value, in my book, is this rather handsome old 9-5 Aero. It's a facelift model with the 250hp engine, comes in a cracking colour scheme, and has a remarkably low mileage and a full service history. Sounds like it's been owned by an enthusiast, too, which is always a good thing - and they've recently done some useful bits of maintenance to keep the car up to speed. These old Aeros are quick enough in a straight line that they're still very entertaining things to drive, and while a touch unruly in the corners, their forte is big-mile cruising, at which they're adept. They're looking better and better with age, too - in fact, if there's one car here that feels like a spiritual predecessor to the new S60 in terms of its size, its sharp looks and its turbocharged power, I'd say it's this one. In fact, why bother waiting for the new car at all, when this 9-5 hits all the same notes for a fraction of the price?