ROCKLEIGH, N.J. -- The 940 is more than a new model from Volvo, it is a new family of Volvos: sedans and wagons in three different configurations for different family tastes. Taking their position at the top of the line, the 940s offer traditional Volvo values of safety and durability plus a new level of style and elegance. The North American International Auto Show in Detroit will be the first showing of the Volvo 940 in the midwest.

The most striking 940 sedan attribute is the design of its roof and tail. Gone are the sharp edges of the 760 and its almost vertical rear:. window. In its place is a gently sloping rear window which arches down from the roof to meet a higher trunk deck. While the 700 Series heritage is apparent, the 940 achieves its own integrated and elegant appearance. The changes to the body are functional as well as cosmetic. Aerodynamic drag has been reduced by 12%, cargo space has been slightly increased, and the new trunk lid opens down to the bumper for easier loading.

As the top of the 940 spectrum is the SE, replacing the 760, which was introduced in iĄ83. The SE carries on the finest features of the 760: its smooth front end design, ergonomically designed instrument panel, automatic climate control, six-speaker audio system, power front bucket seats, power sunroof, leather seats, and full complement of power accessories. The sedan rides on the multi-link independent rear suspension developed on the 760. Power is provided by the 162 hp turbocharger Volvo 2.3-liter engine which has proven its performance and durability over the years.

For those who prefer a sportier flavor, there is the 940 Turbo. While sharing its front exterior design with the SE, the Turbo rides on the 740 platform with its constant track live axle rear suspension. The suspension system has been tuned with an eye towards handling. The Turbo may be quickly identified by its 16" light alloy wheels with five swept spokes. While it shares the SE instrument panel, it differs in interior appointments. Air conditioning, a power sunroof, a four-speaker radio/ cassette system, and power driver's seat are standard, as are power mirrors and windows.

Finally, for those who prefer the more linear and silky smooth performance of Volvo's 16-valve engine, there is the 940 GLE. This twin cam engine with its dual counter-rotating balance shafts offers the kind of smoothness normally found only in six-cylinder engines. Interior appointments and chassis layout are shared with the Turbo, but suspension settings and trim are more comfort-oriented.

All 940 sedans have a Volvo safety "first." Three-point self adjusting seat belts and headrests in all three rear seat positions. Safety is always an important consideration at Volvo. Again in 1991, all Volvos sold in the U.S. will have a Supplemental Restraint System which consists of a driver's side air bag and knee bolster. All 940s can stop quickly and surely thanks to four-wheel power assisted disc brakes with ABS. And, of course, like all Volvos the 940s have an all steel unit body with rollcage-like construction and front and rear crumple zones.

To aid in foul weather driving, an automatic limited slip differential is standard. This unit is designed to deliver equal driving force to both rear wheels when it senses one is spinning under acceleration. At speeds over 25 mph, the system automatically locks itself out to keep the predictable driving characteristics Volvo is noted for.

Of course, there are wagon version of all 940s, bring the new range of cars to a total of six new models. Each offers the safety, longevity, comfort and value that the public has come to expect from Volvo. While the 940s may be more elegant in appearance than other Volvos, they are no less practical.