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Volvo 850 – everything you need to know

November 14, 2022

What is a Volvo 850?

A car, duh! No, no kidding: the Volvo 850 is a mid-size luxury sedan or station wagon produced by Swedish automaker Volvo between 1991 and 1996. Characteristic of the Volvo 850 – also often called the 850 GLT – is its “boxy design” and front-wheel drive. Despite that angular styling, the car has pretty good aerodynamics. The focus of the 850 is clearly on comfort and safety.

Side Impact Protection System (SIPS).

Speaking of safety: Volvo introduced the so-called Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) on the 850. Behind this system is a special body structure. In a side impact, the forces are not only absorbed by the B-pillar, but also transferred to the beam, floor, roof and other parts of the body. Volvo was particularly proud of this safety innovation and provided new cars beginning with the 1992 model year with a SIPS sticker on the rear window. So should you see an SIPS sticker, you know where it came from.

Volvo 850

Two body styles

Volvo provided two body styles. There is a choice of a Volvo 850 Sedan or a Volvo 850 Estate. The sedan’s internal code name is type 854. The 850 Estate – presented in February 1993 – was developed under the type 855 name. The station wagon variant (Estate) had vertical taillights up to the roof edge for the first time. Afterwards, this lighting design was applied to several Volvo models, including the V70, V50, V60, V90 and, to some extent, the electric Volvo EX90.

Volvo 850 R
Volvo 850 R

Five-cylinder engines

A good reason to choose this car is the five-cylinder. Volvo supplied several variants, including a 2.0-liter five-in-line gasoline engine with 126 hp, a 2.5 five-cylinder with 144 hp and 170 hp as well as a turbocharged 2.5 five-cylinder good for 193 hp. The latter also had four-wheel drive. Diesel, by the way, was also possible, namely with a 2.5 TDI with 140 hp. This diesel engine was from an Audi A6.

5-cylinder. 2.3 L

Volvo 850 T-5R

Extra noteworthy were the R versions, for sporty house fathers and mothers. Volvo delivered a 2.3 T-5 with 226 hp. The 850 T-5R used the T-5 as its base, but thanks to a modified engine management unit (ECU) and a larger Garrett turbocharger, power increased to 241 hp. The R variants are particularly popular among collectors, especially when the car is painted in the famous pale Cream Yellow color.

Volvo initially planned to produce 2,500 units of the T-5R, but 6,964 were eventually built. The T-5R takes just 7.6 seconds to reach 100 km/h. The top speed of this sporty version is 235 km/h. The T-5R version can be identified by the roof spoiler, front spoiler, sideskirts and five-spoke rims. As a sequel, there was later the “regular” R with up to 250 horsepower.

Volvo 850 T5 R

Is the Volvo 850 reliable?

OK, enough about peekaa’s, because what about the reliability of the Volvo 850? Know that a well-maintained 850 is a very reliable and comfortable travel companion. The engines last an extremely long time if properly maintained. According to Volvo, an engine head overhaul was only necessary after 200,000 kilometers.

For this reason, you will also find specimens with extremely high mileage on occasion portals. This need not be a problem if the car has been well maintained. Do check that the crankcase ventilation is not clogged. This can cause oil leakage. The same goes for a worn retaining ring between the engine and transmission. Sweat spots also occur there.

Points of Attention Volvo 850

Other areas of concern with the Volvo 850 include worn chassis rubbers and a broken air conditioner, fortunately all fixable. What about rust? That’s not too bad! In fact, the car has a partially galvanized body. The front fenders and rear sills do deserve some extra attention. Also put some time and love into the plastic bumper moldings and taillights. UV radiation causes these to dull quickly. Fortunately, there are some remedies for that these days. The car’s paint needs to be properly polished and protected.

Volvo 850 in motorsport

Believe it or not, but this Swedish family car was quite successful in motor racing. Who can remember the 850 T-5R in the British Touring Car Championship? Tom Walkinshaw Racing built the car for the British Touring Car Championship, where it raced from 1995 to 1996. Among others, Dutchman Jan Lammers was behind the wheel. VCyan Racing concentrated in the Swedish Touring Car Championship and claimed two titles there. The car still holds the record for most consecutive STCC victories, with driver Jan “Flash” Nilsson taking six consecutive victories during the 1997 season. The 975 kilogram lightweight Volvo 850 Super Touring had a two-liter naturally aspirated five-cylinder engine and nearly 300 horsepower. It was equipped with a six-speed sequential transmission and had front-wheel drive.


The successor to the Volvo 850 Estate – the Volvo V70 – hardly differs from the 850 in styling. In fact, the V70 is a further development of the 850. The 850 Sedan was succeeded by the S70, the sedan version of the V70. At Volvo, the S stands for “sedan” and the V stands for “Versatile. Compared to the 850, the S70 and V70 were about 65 kilograms heavier due to stronger doors and other safety improvements.

Want to know more about this Volvo? Then check out the Volvo 850 Forum or Volvo 850 Club Netherlands website.

Volvo 850 key facts