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This or That: 1992 GMC Typhoon vs. 2004 Volvo S60 R

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Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you already have a nice car that you love to drive. You don’t need a second car, but you’ve got enough disposable income that you could afford something else just to have some fun with every now and then and to keep a few miles off of your daily driver. You want this second car to be fun, but don’t want to stand out. A

sports car

just isn’t for you.

And so you decide you want a sleeper. If you’re not familiar with the term, a so-called sleeper is a vehicle that doesn’t look fast, but is. It’ll blend in with the crowd of Camrys and Tahoes that litter your daily commute, but, with a little more pressure from your right foot, will easily banish those blandmobiles into your rearview mirror.

We’re reviving a feature from our not-too-distant past called This or That. Two of our editors — in this case Consumer Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski and Contributing Editor James Riswick — pick sides and start arguing. The ground rules: Pick the best sleeper you can find for $10,000, and be willing to argue why you think it’s the superior pick. That’s it.

Let’s get started.

Opening arguments

Jeremy Korzeniewski:

I’ve chosen

the greatest sleeper

that the world has ever seen. The


Typhoon traces its origins back to an ’80s-era SUV from

General Motors

that never did anything to stand out even when it was new, it’s painted basic black, and,


readers aside, practically nobody will know what it is.

Granted, 0-60 in a little over 5 seconds isn’t exactly


territory these days, even if the GMC Typhoon could out-accelerate a contemporary


(as proven by

Car and Driver

in 1991, in a feature that pitted a mechanically similar

GMC Syclone against Maranello’s 348

). But it’s quick enough to easily win the vast majority of impromptu stoplight-drag-race contests. Plus, with an automatic transmission, full-time four-wheel drive, and no tricky launch-control procedures to worry about, unleashing those (likely underrated) 280 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque is a simple, repeatable process.

So, it won’t stand out on the street, and it’s quick enough to embarrass a wide range of foes. What more could you want from a secondhand sleeper?

GMC TyphoonGMC Typhoon

James Riswick:

There was just something about

this particular 2004 Volvo S60 R AWD

that said “Pick me! Pick me!” And so I shall. What looks like any other sensible


sedan actually packs an inline-5 turbocharged with 14.7 psi of boost good for 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. When new,

Car and Driver

clocked it from zero to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, which was only 0.3 and 0.5 second slower, respectively, than the contemporary





Audi S4

. You probably wouldn’t be able to get a comparably good one of those for $10,000, and they’re also definitely not sleepers.

And now, a word about the transmission. Yes, you could get an


R with an automatic, but that’s not the sleeper. The standard six-speed manual is the one to seek, as it “offers short throws, precise action, and narrow gates” according to C/D circa 2003. But that’s not the best part. No, that would be the “Space Ball Shifter” that was basically a gear stick mounted on a silver ball instead of the usual stick-in-a-boot setup. There’s nothing like it before or since, and it’s super cool.

So too is the “Atacama” interior of this low mileage S60 R, which is paired to icy cool Flash Green Metallic. Honestly, if this same car was black, I wouldn’t have chosen it. If it had the R’s oddly metallic blue leather, maybe. I’d say the only thing that could make this better would be if it was a


R wagon, but I actually think that’s better known these days. That makes the S60 the better $10,000 sleeper.

Volvo S60 RVolvo S60 R

Is it even a sleeper?


Truth be told, I think you’ve made a great pick with the

Volvo S60

R. And yeah, I love that “Space Ball Shifter.” But I could argue that your choice of a flashy paint color dilutes its status as a sleeper. I could also point out that you’re assuming you’d be able to knock $900 off the asking price in order for it to fall into our self-mandated $10,000 cutoff. I could even agree with your assessment that the pick would be better if it were the wagon, which, while certainly harder to find, is rarer and more useful on a day-to-day basis than the sedan.

But instead, I’ll point out that my choice is actually quicker in a straight line, despite being older and arguably (that’s what this is for, right?) sleepier. So in the game of stoplight drags, I win. I also think my ridiculous turbocharged Typhoon would be more fun at the track, where a big, brick-shaped object like a body-on-frame SUV from GMC has got to be extremely rare and therefore perfect as an object with which to strike up conversations.

Perhaps more important than any of those things, though, is that I think the Typhoon will continue to appreciate in value while the Volvo, as fun as it may be, probably won’t.

GMC Typhoon advertisement


Yeah, I went over on the price, which if we were playing by

Price is Right

rules, would mean I’d lose (cue the tuba). But I’m pretty sure I’d be able to talk them down. Also, in regards to the color, I’m not sure minty green is flashy. It’s distinctive, which is why I like it, but at first glance, I thought it was any other S60. Most R’s were black, silver, electric blue or bright red. You know, fast colors. This isn’t. It’s quite sleepy.

But, as for your Typhoon, I would say that it’s actually extremely noticeable at this point. Follow my logic here. First, how many two-door

GMC Jimmy’s

from the 1980s are still driving around these days? Second, how many of those would be in mint condition, just as every Typhoon I’ve ever seen is? As such, I’d posit that basically every 1980s two-door GMC Jimmy you’ll ever see is in fact a Typhoon. The sheer fact that it’s a bright, shiny 30-year-old GMC SUV will make people notice it, even if they only know a Typhoon as a Russian ballistic missile submarine.

That’s not the case with the Volvo. If you see an S60, it’s probably not even a T5 let alone an R with the Space Ball. You’ll need a keen eye to spot the cool one.

And value? Yeah, I guess your

Red October

there could appreciate, but frankly, I’m shocked it’s less than $10,000. If it hasn’t gone higher by now, will it ever?

Volvo S60 R

Closing arguments


A fair point. I was surprised that I could find a nice looking GMC Typhoon for less than $10,000. But looking around all across the country, I actually managed to find several decent-looking examples in that range. Will it continue to appreciate? I’m not going to give any buying advice, but yeah, I think so. Not to ridiculous levels like, say, the similarly turbocharged


Grand National, but it’s got a bit of collectibility baked in.

As far as it being noticeable, that I don’t really agree with. Anyone who cares enough about cars to recognize the Typhoon for what it is will probably also know about the Volvo S60 R. Most people will simply ignore the Typhoon on the road. At best, a few will see it as an oddity. But I think the basic black box fits the role of sleeper just fine.

And I still say you’d regret not buying the wagon.


Perhaps I’d regret not having the wagon, but judging by the online listings, the V60 R is going for considerably more than sedans of the same age and mileage. They’re rarer, and judging by people like you and me, actually in greater demand. Too bad.

With either one, however, it’s worth noting that you’re getting an exponentially more modern vehicle than the Typhoon for the same money. It’s also a Volvo, so in terms of crash worthiness, we’re basically comparing a cinderblock to a Dixie cup here. The Typhoon would be pretty cool to drive around for a bit, but it’s crudeness would get old. Having actually driven a Buick Grand National as a long-term car (and

appeared as its spokesmodel

), I can say the appeal of high-powered


classics from the ’80s starts to wane – especially if you’re a bit too young to have glorified them when they were new.

Then again, the S60 R came in

seventh out of eight

in a 2005 C/D comparison test, so what leg do I have to stand on?

You decide

You’ve looked at the pictures and read our arguments. So, which of us has chosen the better budget-priced sleeper? Let us know what you think by taking part in our completely unscientific poll below, and if you don’t like our choices, let us know what you’d pick in the Comments.

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