Volvo 244 GLE
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
Using the amazingly versatile basic body shell across its range, from the cheapest to the most expensive, Volvos varied only in terms of luxury and equipment levels, together with power outputs and transmissions. Right at the bottom was the 244 DL
with a carburetted 2.1 litre engine.
The 244 GL got the injection unit and the 244 GLE came with a far more comprehensive range of luxury fittings. Using a two door version of the very same body, the 242 GT
offered considerably more sporty performance and looks, together with an engine enlarged to 2.3 litres using fuel injection. Top of the heap was the 264 GLE
powered by the Douvrin co-operative 2664cc lightweight V6 engine.
Bloody Volvo Driver
In the 1970s and 1980s Volvo’s, or more to the point the people that drove them, had a poor reputation. They (Volvo drivers) were considered slow and ignorant of road rules almost to the point of being a menace on the road. Volvo knew their cars were being perceived as stodgy, slow and altogether boring. The company even resorted to using people like Harry Jensen, an ALP politician and ex Lord Mayor of Sydney, to try to put some spirit back into the marque.
For a time it seemed the advertising message about Volvo safety in the 1970s was too effective, and had created a perception that this was the only quality the car possessed. Not true of course, but even the cars success in the Repco Round Australia struggled to change people’s attitudes. While Volvo drivers probably needed thick skin, particularly if they were under 40 years old, to fend off the insults, at least they also knew that the Volvo was a very good car – well engineered, comfortable, reasonably economical, reliable and ... yes ... very safe.
Take the 244 GLE as an example. It offered excellent dynamics, and could be driven far harder in the twisty stuff than most people thought possible. It had a fair turn of speed, and by 1980
it included more primary safety to their well known secondary safety capability. In 1979
only the V6 engined 264 range was fitted with ventilated discs, but in 1980 it was fitted at the front on all models, solid discs being retained at the rear. Other modifications for 1980 included a new front spoiler, this being intended to help with aerodynamics
, and thus fuel consumption. On the two door 242GT
there were optional 15 inch alloy wheels
fitted with Pirelli P6 low profile tyres
The electric overdrive, first seen on the two door, was made available on other manual Volvos, again in the interests of better economy. It was the same story with the viscous fan which, being thermo controlled, restricted idling to 2000 rpm until engine heat created a need for additional cooling. On the top-of-the-range 264 GLE there was a central locking system, a feature which was finding its way onto many luxury cars of the time, but was not so common at the price point of the Volvo.
The Volvo 244 GLE was born into an era when cars were being made of thinner and thinner steel. This may have also been true of the Volvo, but even if it were the case, the immediate impression on getting behind the wheel of a Volvo was one of good strong bulk. Get behind the wheel and you would find that full front seat adjustment was available for backrest rake and fore and aft movement, together with lumbar support. Thanks to the velour trim material, passengers would stay pleasantly comfortable without air-conditioning
, and leather was available as an option. Rear seat accommodation was large enough for three adults on medium length journeys, with plenty for two on the longest trips. Knee space was not restricted to any great extent even when the front seats were at their rearmost extension. All round visibility, whatever seating position was occupied, was very good, despite the apparent multitude of pillars in the six light body design.
Mechanically the 244 GLE was powered by a single overhead cam 2127cc engine putting out 90 kW at 5500 rpm and 170 Nm at 3500 rpm in this fuel injected form. Transmission
was through the well known three speed automatic box, although a four speed plus overdrive manual model was available. The GLE used strut front suspension
and coil sprung four link, plus Panhard rod for the live rear axle, with ventilated discs at the front from 1980 on. The air conditioned worked well in Australian conditions, but on a balmy night you could opt to use the manually operated sun roof which was fitted as standard to the GLE. Other luxury items included AM/FM stereo radio/cassette player, 20 spoked alloy wheels
, and power assistance for the rack and pinion steering
On the Road
Although ride was excellent on most roads, the firm springing could be caught out a little on sharp ridges, and the impact was strong enough to be transmitted through to the cabin. Many considered it to be a fair trade-off when handling and road holding came into it, but others claimed it to be a problem when travelling on rough roads at low speeds. Tackle those roads at high speed however, and it was a different story. With 1340 kgs to control, the springs came into their own at over 100km/h, ironing out the ride superbly. It surprised many that Volvos were completely at home under such conditions, particularly given their reputation as being sluggards. Well tied down suspension also benefited handling and road holding. With crisp steering response from the rack and pinion set-up, even with power assistance, turns were easy, the front going exactly where pointed, immediately it was pointed.
When throwing the car into a turn at high speed there was a little understeer, but it could be cancelled easily by the right foot lift-off technique. In the luxury car stakes, the 244 GLE was one of the best vehicles around when it came to accurate tracking through a corner with minimal roll and yet maximum comfort. Thanks to the front discs, braking had to be experienced to be believed. Once nicely warmed, they were capable of standing the whole car almost on Its nose. The brakes
were also incredibly consistent. Road testers would punish them relentlessly to try to find a flaw, but to no avail.
With regard to performance, the 244 GLE was a little misleading. Normal driving revealed an apparent sluggishness about its acceleration. Automatic up-shifts seemed to occur earlier than expected, with the result that full performance potential only became available with the accelerator pressed hard to the floor in an effort to delay the up-change, or by use of the shift lever. But after a time you would realise that, for a car with so much weight, powered by a relatively small engine, it actually went pretty well.
A time of 13.3 seconds to 100 km/h was not in the high performance category, but was acceptable for a car of the era in the two litre category, and remarkable for a car carrying so much bulk. Over the standing 400 metres the 244 GLE would achieve 19.3 seconds, crossing the line at 120 km/h, again reasonable two litre performance. You could wind the GLE out to a maximum of 165 km/h.
The front spoiler helped when travelling at high speed, keeping the vehicle firmly in contact with the road, especially at the front where the steering never seemed to become excessively light. Whether or not the aerodynamics
helped in respect of fuel consumption however, was hard to prove. Fuel consumption would average around 12 litres/100 km without the air-conditioning
running. You could an extra litre to that figure when you switched the air on. Frugal driving could drop the consumption figure down to around 10 – and maybe that was what most drivers were doing when you got stuck behind one and exclaimed “Bloody Volvo Driver!”
All metallic finish models were fully imported from Sweden, while standard colour ranges were employed by the local assemblers, Nissan Manufacturing, at Clayton. Most road testers agreed that the imported tyres
had a slight edge over those locally produced, although the local assemblers had to cope with numerous additional bits and pieces to their kits from Sweden, these often upsetting the smooth building operation. In the main, owners claimed the Nissan produced Volvos were the equal of the fully imported ones, but for our money we would have gone for the metallic fully imported job.