Volvo 850 Turbo sports a distinctive “sport car” look thanks to the custom-made rims that adorn it.


The BMW 530iX engine had less power than the 850 Turbo version. Buyers noted this.

A fair number of Volvo 850s are still on the road as everyday cars, even though the car turned 30 last year. This is unlike many of the car’s 1990s counterparts that remain on the road. Similarly, plenty of older Volvos remain in use as well.

In 1991, Volvo released Project Galaxy, their first large-scale project launched in the decade. The 850, or 850 as it’s referred to by the manufacturer, was a sedan and wagon that featured evolutionary styling instead of a revolutionary design. While this made some people dislike Project Galaxy’s looks, others still respected the car’s handsome proportions and styling. One thing that stood out about this car was its taillights that stretched all the way to the top of the vehicle— a trait commonly seen in Volvo wagons since. Additionally, both the 240 and 740 were still being produced at the time Project Galaxy was released. These two models played the role of America’s volume model for both sedans and wagons.

Volvo 850 3

When the 1993 US model year rolled around, it featured noticeable aesthetic differences from previous years. The front grille and headlights were noticeably different from previous model years, as were the tailights and side body panels. Additionally, the side panels sported a ribbed corner design that mimicked the design of the front bumper.

This particular 850 Turbo model is one of the few still in existence. The car looks very different than the standard 850 Turbo; it has a boxy taillight, smaller headlights and bumpers. Five-spoke Persus wheels appeared on the car in 1996, one year after the Platinum model came out.

The base version of the Volvo 850 from 1994 had a displacement of 850 cubic centimeters, an engine size of 2.3 liters and 168 horsepower. A Turbo model with the same engine size had a higher output of 222 horsepower and 221 pound-force of torque. This gave the car an alternative to many German cars in the same price range, including Mercedes C and E Class sedans, BMW 3 Series and 5 Series sedans and even Volvos at the time. This was due to its asymmetric appeal between BMW and Mercedes models: Volvo found a niche between 3 Series/5 Series/C Class sedans that people couldn’t find anywhere else.

BMW released two versions of the 530i, one with a V8 and one with an 850 Turbo. Both shared the same base horsepower of 215. However, reviews pointed out that the V8 version made less power than the Turbo model.

Volvo 850 2

While the 850 Turbo model offers plenty of power, handling is another matter. The standard front-wheel-drive 850 is fairly top-heavy, with a relentless front suspension that tends to transfer pothole shocks to the dash when not carrying four passengers or some cargo. Body roll was also much greater than in a 3-series or 5-series car of the day. But it still offers the sturdy, tank-like feel of an old Volvo.

Also, the cupholders didn’t appear in the 850 until 1995, the clearest sign that Volvo wasn’t particularly keen on meeting all American car requirements.

The 1995 model year brought redesigned taillights — only 1993 and 1994 are shown here — and the 850 continued without any other external changes until the arrival of the S70, which was essentially a major mid-cycle facelift for the 850, although in the new nomenclature.

Turbo models seemed to be more popular later in the 850, and the square taillights of the 1993 and 1994 model years were harder to spot on the road in the early 2000s than later versions. In 1995, sales of the 850 series seemed to really take off.

That makes this 1994 Turbo a modest rarity among 850s on the road today. But chances are, Volvo drivers today won’t be interested in it unless they’re well-versed in 850 history.