(Please note that this content refers specifically to 780s built for the U.S. market.)
Already available in Europe for the 1986 model year, The Volvo 780 made its debut in the U.S. market in 1987. While the 760 was offered with either the 145 HP B280F PRV V-6 or the 160 HP B230FT 4-cylinder turbo, the 780 was only available with the PRV V-6, as well as only an automatic transmission. Mechanically, the 780 was identical to the 760 and shared the same chassis, drivetrain, and suspension.
The 760 line, having been in production since 1982, underwent some fairly significant mechanical upgrades for the 1988 model year, and the 780 would be receiving these changes as well.
The biggest change was the introduction of a new, Multilink independent rear suspension which replaced the traditional rear live axle of previous years and significantly improved ride and handling.
The 760 and 780 also received a new and improved electronic climate control system, replacing the old single control-lever system in use since the 1983 760. The new ECC finally had separate controls for air conditioning, fan speed, airflow, and temperature setting. This system configuration is still in use in the current (and outgoing) 1998 S90 sedan. The PRV V-6 was still the 780’s only engine choice in 1988.
In 1989 the 780 finally became available with the turbocharged B230FT 4-cylinder engine. In addition, the 780 also received a “Turbo+” accessory kit as standard equipment, which was a relay and vacuum-controlled valve system designed to raise the turbocharger’s boost pressure at a specified RPM. This consequently increased the base turbo engine’s output from 160 to 175 HP.
The 780 Turbo also featured new striking, 15-inch “Multi-X” pattern alloy wheels to differentiate it from the V-6 powered 780. For the first time, “Volvo” badges appeared on the sides of the cars, actually serving as plugs for the side marker lights, which were standard on the Euro-spec cars but not installed on the U.S. cars. Inside, a switch for the door locks was added to the driver’s door control panel. The front seats also had a new “memory glide” feature: by folding the seatback and pressing a small button on the underside of the seat release lever, the seat moved forward automatically to facilitate entry to the rear. Upon returning the seat back to its upright position, pushing and holding down the same button on the seatback release returned the seat to its original position.
The most significant news for the 1990 model year was the redesigned B230FT engine, dubbed “Generation 3”. Volvo also began utilizing a turbocharger with a smaller turbine to shorten spool-up time and reduce turbo “lag”. Combined with a redesigned exhaust manifold and other improvements, the new engine now offered improved performance along with higher output and torque than the 1989 version. In addition, the Turbo+ Kit was also redesigned to increase the turbo’s output from 162 to 188 HP, making it the most powerful engine ever offered by Volvo until the arrival of the new 201 HP B6304F 6-cylinder in the 1992 960. Naturally, the Turbo+ Kit was standard equipment on the 780 Turbo.
Seatback releases were finally redesigned to a more reliable and user-friendly lever-type apparatus, and retained the memory glide feature from the previous year. Volvo also redesigned the illuminated vanity mirror in the passenger sun visor, and added a vanity mirror to the driver’s sun visor as well. Also, the standard tire size was changed from 205/60 to 195/65.
There were also some minor cosmetic changes to the 1990 models. The V-6 780 acquired the same Multi-X pattern alloy wheels of the 780 Turbo, and was also given a chromed vertical-bar grille to differentiate it from the black egg-crate grille of the 780 Turbo. Also, the original high-gloss finish on the wood trim accents was changed to a somewhat less attractive satin finish, giving the wood a more “plastic” and artificial appearance.
The 780 was re-badged as simply “Coupe” for 1991, and was only available with the 188 HP B230FT 4-cylinder turbo (the PRV V-6 becoming a casualty along with the entire 760 series, also discontinued in 1991). The stereo receiver was replaced with a newer unit, similar in appearance to the old one, but included circuitry for anti-theft and an optional CD changer; the seven-band graphic equalizer was dropped.
The electronic climate control was carried over from the previous year, with one minor (and slightly confusing) change. The pushbutton for the air conditioner was renamed “A/C OFF”, so the illuminated “on” state of the button actually meant that the air conditioning was disengaged, a reversal from previous years. Volvo kept this button arrangement in the ECC until the 1998 S90, when it reverted back to the “snowflake” button with the traditional “lit means on” idea intact.
The Coupe also received a locking differential, a slightly larger front anti-sway bar, and a rear bar was added and integrated into the Multilink rear suspension (upgrades carried over from the newly introduced 940 SE). A small plaque mounted above the ashtray carried the embossed signature of Nuccio Bertone. This was the model’s final year.
Volvo’s official production total for the 780 is 8,518 cars built between 1985 and 1990. However, this number has often been disputed as different sources have often estimated the actually total to be higher. As before, a coupe would remain absent from Volvo’s model line for several years until 1997, ten years after the 780’s introduction in the U.S. The C70, based on the 850 front-wheel drive platform, would be Volvo’s first coupe for the next century.