Premium midsize car; Built in Sweden
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,200 – $3,400*


1994 Volvo 850 Turbo 4-door wagon


1996 Volvo 850 Platinum 4-door sedan


1996 Volvo 850 Platinum 4-door wagon


1994 Volvo 850 Turbo interior


1994 Volvo 850 GLT passenger cage

Pros:
  • Passenger and cargo room
Cons:
  • Acceleration (Base)
  • Automatic-transmission performance

Though we’ve not been overwhelmed by the 850, it represented a good job of breathing new life into what had become an outdated product line. With the side airbags and turbo engines, it also had more going for it than some rivals in the near-luxury market.

Overview

Volvo replaced its 700-series with the all-new 850 GLT sedan. The new 850 broke new ground by being Volvo’s first U.S. front-wheel-drive model, as well as the first ever to feature a 5-cylinder engine. Under the hood of both the base and GLT trim levels, Volvo provided the 850 with a dual-overhead-cam, 20-valve, 168-horsepower 2.4-liter 5-cylinder engine. Five-speed manual was standard; 4-speed automatic optional. Driver- and passenger-side airbags were standard, as were 4-wheel antilock disc brakes. Traction control was an option.

Yearly Updates

1994 850
A new 4-door wagon joins the Volvo 850 line for 1994, along with a turbocharged engine, available for both wagons and sedans. The new wagon can seat up to seven with its rear-facing seat, and comes with a folding rear seat that has a built-in booster seat for children between 50 and 80 pounds. The new 2.3-liter turbocharged 5-cylinder comes only with an automatic, yet manages to deliver a hearty 222 horsepower. Volvo has dropped the GLT designation from the 850 line, while adding a new base-level sedan and a Level II tier of optional equipment for both sedans and wagons.
1995 850
Volvo’s front-drive 850 is the first production car to offer side airbags as a supplement to front airbags. The new airbags are mounted in the outside bolsters of the front seatbacks and deploy in a lateral impact to help protect the chest area of occupants. The side airbags are standard on the 850 Turbo sedan and wagon and a $500 option on nonturbo models. Among other changes, the more rounded nose of last year’s Turbo model now becomes standard styling for all 850s. Also, a new base wagon was added. Base models are now badged as 850s. The GLT name has been revived once again to become the upscale model. In the spring, Volvo introduced limited-edition sporty versions of the sedan and wagon, called the T-5R. Just 1000 units, all with a special yellow paint treatment, were imported. These high-performance models featured a 240-horsepower version of Volvo’s turbocharged engine, 16-inch aluminum wheels, and leather seats.
1996 850
Following up on the popular T-5R sport sedans offered in spring ’95, Volvo adds another new sporty version for the fall–a Platinum Limited Edition 850 sedan and wagon. Only about 1500 are imported for the fall, equipped with the 222-horsepower turbocharged engine, leather seats, and 16-inch wheels as the T-5R; but Volvo replaced the yellow paint with a metallic “pearl white platinum.” Volvo added a second turbocharged model in the spring–the Volvo 850 R–equipped with a special Bosch engine-management system that programs the turbo to produce 240 horsepower from the same 2.3-liter 5-cylinder. All of Volvo’s turbocharged models come only with the 4-speed automatic.
1997 850
The four models in ascending order of power output are: base, GLT, T5, and 850 R. All are available in both sedan and wagon body styles. The 2.4-liter 5-cylinder returns to power the base model, but the GLT now uses a “High Torque, Low Rev” turbocharged version that delivers 190 horsepower. The T5 features the turbocharged and intercooled 2.3-liter 5-cylinder, rated at 222 horsepower. Finally, R versions use the same engine as the T5, but employ more sophisticated electronics, which squeeze an additional 18 horses out of the engine–boosting horsepower up to 240.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Volvo provides the 850 with a dual-overhead-cam, 20-valve, 2.4-liter 5-cylinder engine. It’s derived from the 960’s all-aluminum, 2.9-liter inline-6, and provides 168 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 162 pound-feet of torque at 3300 rpm. A second engine joins the powertrain team for ’94. New 850 Turbo models feature a 2.3-liter turbocharged 5-cylinder that delivers a respectable 222 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 221 pound-feet of torque. Volvo also provided limited-edition sports models in 1995-96, equipped with an even hotter version of the turbocharged 5-cylinder. It cranks out 240 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 221 pound-feet of torque at 2100 rpm. The extra power is possible thanks to the Bosch Motronic 4.4 engine-management system, programmed to squeeze the maximum boost from Volvo’s turbo motor. All of Volvo’s turbocharged engines come only with a 4-speed automatic, while the normally aspirated units can be joined to either a 5-speed manual or the 4-speed multimode automatic, which features shift programs for “Economy,” “Sport,” and “Winter” modes. Starting in 1997, the GLT begins using a “High Torque, Low Rev” turbocharged version of the base engine that delivers 190 horsepower. The T5 model offers the 2.3-liter turbocharged and intercooled 5-cylinder provided on former Turbo models, rated at 222 horsepower. Finally, R versions use the same engine as the T5, but employ more sophisticated electronics, which squeeze an additional 18 horses out of the engine–boosting horsepower to 240.

dohc I51
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/149
Engine HP 168-190
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 162-191
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
20/29
20/29n1
21.8
Turbocharged dohc I5
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.3/141
Engine HP 222-240
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 221
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic

19/26

22.5

1. 1997 GLT models add a turbocharger to the 2.4-liter engine, which boosts the engine up to 190 horsepower. A slightly lower EPA highway rating of 27 mpg is the result.

Road Test

These 850s drive much like Volvo’s larger 960 models, but their trimmer size and superior suspension give them truly athletic cornering ability. The suspension is firm enough to provide a stable highway ride with little bouncing and absorbent enough to soak most bumps without braking stride.

The standard engine lacks sufficient torque to provide good acceleration. But the turbocharged engine is an entirely different story. The 850 Turbo wagon can sprint from stop to 60 mph in an impressive 7.1 seconds. We do have a couple of disappointments to report, however. Turbocharged engines come only with a 4-speed automatic, which is often slow to downshift when climbing steep hills.

Speaking of jolts, on the Turbo versions the ride is often a bit too stiff, with excessive tire thump on rough pavement.

As you’d expect from Volvo, there’s plenty of head and leg room for four adults, but the interior isn’t quite wide enough for comfortable three-across seating in back. The sedan’s spacious trunk has a low bumper-height opening, and the wagon has a long, flat cargo area when the rear seat is folded down.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1995 Volvo 850 Turbo wagon

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 7
70%
Fuel Economy - 3
30%
Ride Quality - 3
30%
Steering/Handling - 6
60%
Quietness - 4
40%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Front - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
40%
Cargo Room - 6
60%

Other

Value - 4
40%

Total: 46

Specifications

4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
104.9 183.5 59.3 55.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.7 19.3 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.1 37.8 41.4 32.3
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
104.9 185.4 69.3 56.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
67.0 19.3 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.1 37.8 41.4 35.2
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1997 850 4-door sedan

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Front Passenger Injury - 4
80%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 111
Injury 76
Theft 48

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: If the transmission is sometimes difficult to shift out of park, it is due to improper contact of the lockout microswitch. (1994-96)
Cruise control
Description: If the cruise control will not engage, the plastic vacuum supply line may be damaged in the area of the left headlight. (1993-96)
Engine noise
Description: Noise from the front of the engine at the drive belts may be caused by a defective belt tensioner and/or idler pulley. (1993-96)
Oil leak
Description: Replacement copper washers might fix oil pump leaks from mounting screws on 2.5-liter engine. (1993-97)
Poor drivability
Description: Starting and drivability problems may be caused by a corroded ground connection on the engine for the negative battery cable. (1993-97)
Windshield washer
Description: If the windshield washer does not work well, the jet can be replaced with a larger one. (1993-94)
Windshield washer
Description: Washer leaks at the rear window can be prevented by installing a pressure valve in the line near the upper hinge of the window. (1993-95)

Recall History

1994
Description: Ice can form on throttle linkage, resulting in uneven throttle return or loss of low-speed engine control.
1994-97
Description: After prolonged exposure to heat, fuel tank on some cars may seep or leak fuel.
1995 w/power seats
Description: Threaded insert that attaches safetybelt catch was incorrectly manufactured and can reduce restraining capability.
1995
Description: Some jacks do not have the necessary load capacity.
1996-97
Description: Screws that attach throttle plate to the throttle shaft can loosen, possibly preventing throttle from returning to idle position.
1996-97 sedans and sation wagons
Description: Under excessive compression, seat cushions with heaters could short, causing a possible fire. Dealer will inspect and replace affected parts.
1997
Description: Operation of headlight switch over extended period of time can result in inconsistent operation.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.