1988 Volvo Turbo Wagon
1988 Volvo Turbo Wagon (left) and 1988 Lamborghini Countach

When you’re an automaker whose advertising people have spent years brilliantly crafting a message of safety and reliability, you’re going to need to do something special when you add performance to the mix. And so it was when Volvo wanted to get the word out about its turbocharged models—especially the wagons.

More Favorite Ads

Introduced in 1984, Volvo’s 700 Series cars were a move upscale from the company’s legendary 200 Series models. Along with more premium trim and features, the new Volvos were also better handling vehicles—a fact not lost on European-car enthusiasts.

While Volvo marketers were keen to maintain the brand’s reputation for trustworthy stoutness, they were also keen to court the kind of shoppers predisposed to consider an Audi, BMW, or Saab before a Volvo.

Enter the Turbo. Available in varying displacements and power outputs, Volvo’s turbocharged 4-cylinder engine transformed the 700 Series vehicles in a way that thrilled the automotive media and many car shoppers alike. Note that turbocharged versions of the 200 Series cars were also available—though not as heavily marketed.

Depending on the test-drive source, a Volvo 740 Turbo could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in between 7.0 and 8.0 seconds. Thus, the stoic-looking Swede was about as quick as a non-turbocharged Porsche 944 of the same vintage, and not much slower than a contemporary Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z.

Favorite Car Ads: 1937 Cord 812

1988 Volvo Turbo Wagon

1988 Volvo Ad
1988 Volvo Ad

To make exactly this point, Volvo launched an ad campaign comparing the 740 Turbo—always in wagon form—to some of the era’s most recognizable performance cars, including the Lotus Esprit and the aforementioned Porsche 944. However, the best ad, featured here, drew on the Volvo wagon’s inherent practicality, and placed the car aside a Lamborghini Countach saddled with a small U-Haul trailer.

Here we celebrate not just that standalone ad, but the entire campaign. Volvo’s brilliant—and delightfully amusing—turbo-wagon ad series remains one of auto advertising’s best efforts.

Follow Tom on Twitter

Check out the Consumer Guide Car Stuff Podcast

Volvo Turbo Wagon Ad Gallery

(Click below for enlarged images)

1988 Volvo Turbo Wagon

Favorite Car Ads: 1976 Ford Granada

1988 Volvo Turbo Wagon

Car Stuff Podcast

Share this: