The incredible history of Volvo's transformation into a true luxury brand

For most of Volvo’s 89-year history, the Swedish automaker offered its loyal legions of customers well-built, safe, and practical transportation with a certain Scandinavian flair. Now, the company’s diving head-on into the world of luxury cars.

On the heels of the hugely successful introduction of the XC90 luxury SUV, Volvo introduced its new flagship luxury sedan — the S90. The new S90 replaced the company’s S80 sedan. Although still a nice car, the current S80 has been on sale with minimal revision for nearly a decade. It is certainly showing its age. And the conservatively styled S80 hasn’t been able to drum up the big sales figures Volvo would like to see from the model.

With the arrival of Volvo’s new S90 luxury sedan, we take a look back at the company’s flagship four-door sedans. Although they may not have always been overly luxurious, Volvo has always offered a big executive ride for those who sought the experience.

Although Volvo's foray into the car business started in the mid 1920s, its first offering with a luxury tilt was the PV 654 in 1933. It featured an upgraded, plush interior, twin spare tires and a reversing light. It was powered by an 80-84 horsepower 3.67-litre, 6-cylinder engine.

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In 1935, Volvo followed up with the sleek PV36 'Carioca.' In addition to the aerodynamic body, the Carioca featured advanced independent front suspension and room for six.

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Volvo built a total of 501 Cariocas, powered by the same 3.6- litre, 6-cylinder found in the PV654. Volvo claimed a top speed of 75 mph.

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After World War II, Volvo returned with the PV60 in 1946. Although the car's styling lagged behind the latest post-war trends in the US, the car proved to be popular.

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The PV60 offered customers a solid yet comfortable experience. Pretty much what you'd expect from a Volvo.

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In fact, the PV60 was so solid that 500 of the cars were turned into delivery vans or light trucks.

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After the PV60 ceased production in 1950, Volvo took a break from offering a luxurious executive sedan until the 164 arrived in 1968.

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The 164 was also Volvo's first 6-cylinder-powered sedan since the PV60. It was powered by a 175hp, 3.0-litre, inline 6.

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The most significant upscale offering was the available leather interior.

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In 1974, Volvo replaced the 164 with the 264. The 264 marked the introduction of the long-running Peugeot-, Renault- and Volvo-developed PRV V6 engine.

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The 264 GLE was based on the more utilitarian 240. The 264 featured a more plush interior and a 2.7-litre, V6 engine.

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Check out that brown velour! Pure 1970s cool!

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There was even a limousine version called the 264 TE.

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The 264 TE even featured three-row seating.

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In 1982, Volvo unleashed the 760 GLE.

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The 760's boxy-yet-angular design would define the Volvo look of the 1980s.

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The wagon variant is one of the ultimate expressions of boxy attractiveness.

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Just take a look at the 760's interior! Not a curve in sight!

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At the same time, the 760 wagon became a staple of American suburbia ...

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... and an icon for its safety. That will buff right out!

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In 1990, the 760 was replaced by the 960.

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The 960 debuted with Volvo's new 3.0-litre, inline-6-cylinder engine. The 960 would serve the higher end of Volvo's customer base, while the more athletic 850 served a younger, more trendy set of buyers.

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The 960 wagon continued Volvo's success with boxy family carriers.

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In 1998, the 960 was rebranded the S90. It would the last time the 'S90' moniker would be used -- until now.

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After Ford's acquisition of Volvo in 1999, the company launched the first generation S80 sedan to replace the ageing 960/S90. This model would sit atop Volvo's lineup until 2006 ...

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... when it was replaced by the second generation S80.

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The Gen-2 S80 would be Volvo's flagship sedan for the next decade before ...

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... being replaced by the 2017 S90. Hello, new big Volvo!

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