Born form a joint venture between Audi, BMW, and Volvo in the 1970s called DAF, the 300 series Volvo enjoys something of a cult following in Europe to this day- especially among gearheads. Part of the reason for that is the little Volvo’s unique layout: engine in the front, transmission in the back!
Though it was originally launched as the Volvo 345 with a Renault-sourced 1.4L engine and an innovative continuously variable transmission (CVT) mounted in the rear of the car, Volvo adapted its durable M45 manual transmission to the car in an attempt to broaden its appeal. The Renault engine was eventually ditched in favor of the Volvo B19 and B200 engines as the car evolved. That evolution was enough to see the model renamed “360”, and was critical to the car’s lasting enthusiast appeal.
The rear-mounted transaxle gave the Volvo 360 an inherent balance, and the stability of this design made the car popular for caravan (RV) towing, with the car being voted Tow Car of the Year in 1985. In addition to towing, that built-in balance made the Volvo 360 popular with amateur track and drift racers, who realized that the more even front to rear weight distribution would be beneficial to the car’s handling.
As for me, I’ve never driven a 360- but I’d love to! It has the same sort of edgy vibe that a Lancia Delta might have, you know? That’s just me. What about you? You can read Volvo’s own synopsis of the car’s history, below, then let me know what you think of the car in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
Volvo Heritage | Volvo 360 (1982 – 1989)
Autumn 1982 saw the introduction of a new model in the Volvo range – the 360. The Volvo 360 was based on the 340 range and featured a 4-cylinder 2-litre engine together with a 5-speed gearbox. The “360” model designation was introduced to give these better-equipped and more powerful cars a profile of their own.
A year after the launch of the 360 Series, the range was expanded with a 4-door saloon featuring a conventional luggage compartment. This version gave the body a longer rear overhang and thus increased total body length as well.
As a more economical version than the 360 saloon, the 340 series was also produced in 4-door saloon shape (79,964 cars of this 340 version being made). A sportier variant called the 360 GLT (shown, at top) was also introduced at the same time, powered by a fuel-injected version of the same engine.