Welcome to Future Classics, a new, semi-regular feature where we identify amazing and unappreciated cars from the late 90s, 2000s, and today that could be highly coveted by future generations. You may want to pick one of these up while you still can!
Get excited, Swedish car fans. Today you're getting a double-dose of love from Future Classics as we highlight two incredible machines from the late 90s and early 2000s.
But let's start by talking about archetypes. That's a term I feel is as good as any when you're describing the absolute pinnacle of what a brand is about, the image that springs to mind when you mention their name.
I believe these two cars are the archetypes for the Saab and Volvo brands: a hatchback and a wagon, respectively. When most people think "Saab" or "Volvo," these are the models they will likely imagine. (Unless they're weirdos who think of Sonetts or Amazons.)
That's why I'm nominating the Viggen and the V70R as future classics. Both represent the pinnacles of what both brands are best at.
Furthermore, they're the kinds of cars that we don't really see anymore. Obviously, Saab is no longer with us, and though their Chinese owners plan a resurrection, that should best be approached with a grain of salt. (Another future classic could be the final 9-5 before the brand went kaput, but that's a story for another day.)
Volvo is still around, thankfully, but they have ditched their famous boxy design language for a sleeker one that some have said is less Volvo-y than it should be. For a while, they weren't even bringing their wagons to the U.S., though they have acquiesced and decided to bring the V60 to our shores in early 2014. They've stopped doing their "R" cars too, and that's a real shame.
On top of that, and perhaps more importantly, the V70R and Viggen are absurdly fun performance bargains.
First, the Viggen. If you're going to name a car after a fighter jet, it had better be badass, and the Viggen certainly is. The car is a hotted-up version of the first generation 9-3, the one that debuted in the late 1990s and replaced the iconic 900 with something more modern, more streamlined, and to the chagrin of some purists, more GM-y.
But the Viggen was where it was at. The car packed a 2.3-liter engine with a bigger-than-normal Mitsubishi turbo that cranked out 225 (later 230) horses and a whopping 258 pound-feet of torque, numbers that would make it competitive today.
Zero to 60 mph came in the mid-6 second range, and it also boasted a host of improvements over the base 9-3 like a performance ECU tune, a more potent exhaust and intercooler, and an upgraded chassis, suspension, brakes and sports tires. MotorTrend was right in 1999 to compare it to Saab's version of the BMW M cars.
And make no mistake, it is very much a Saab performance car. It's front-wheel-drive and torque steers like a motherfucker, and it's full of unusual quirks you don't find anywhere else. In a 2002 comparison test, Car and Driver ranked it in fifth out of sixth place, both praising and criticizing its "traditional quirky, offbeat turbo front-drive charm from Saab."
I'd like to think the Viggen has passed the test of time, though. Today, I'd take one over just about any car on that list.
Only about 4,600 Viggens were made between 1998 and 2002, so they remain fairly rare and highly coveted among Saab fans. I found a whopping total of eight on Cars.com, but all were under $15,000 in price. Given the brand's demise, this one is almost certainly destined to become an even more desired classic in the years to come.
And then we have a very different animal, the Volvo V70R. We love Volvos, and we love Volvo wagons, so that's why we especially love this hot rod family hauler.
These days, Volvo still makes performance cars with their Polestar and R-Design nameplates, but it could be argued that none of them are as hardcore as the R cars of the 90s and mid-2000s. The V70R was the last of the hotted-up wagons, and it lasted two generations before being discontinued with the third that launched in 2007. Lame.
The body styles changed over the years, but one thing stayed consistent: a turbocharged five cylinder engine, in proper Volvo fashion. Depending on the year the car put out somewhere between 236 and 300 horsepower with as much as 295 pound-feet of torque. Best of all, the power gets put down by all four tires.
There's also the mechanically similar S60R sedan, but since we're talking about archetypes here, we'll discuss the wagon version. The cars were never on the same performance level as offerings from BMW and Audi, but they were certainly impressive in their own way.
MotorTrend in 2004 praised the car's flat 6 second zero to 60 mph time and said "its slalom speed of 65.9 mph betters non-Z06 Corvettes, and a 114-foot 60-0-mph stopping distance is impressive." It may not be an M3, but this is still a wagon you can do some serious damage in. You can even get it with a manual if you so desire. And besides, as TTAC noted in 2007, "the M3 is at least $10K more expensive and can’t haul half as much butt as the Swedish Ford."
The Viggen and the V70R may not have finished first in comparison tests back when they were running around, but I feel like future generations will be more poised to appreciate their unique character than we were.
Which one would you pick?
Future Classics is a new feature we're trying out on Fridays. What car from the last 15 years or so do you think will be sought after years from now? Feel free to give us some ideas in the comments.
Hat tip to reader Tiny Toy Viper!