1996 Volvo 850 GLT Non-turbo 5 cylinder


An Audi visioned by Volvo



TC & ABS computer (common fault, expensive to fix).

Odometer (common fault, $8 for the gear but hours to replace).

Heated drivers seat doesn't heat up.

Seats were cracked and worn.

Warped interior plastics.

Tray beneath the radio jammed.

Cupholders broken, replaced with cheap junkyard parts.

Emissions leaks in various locations, costing about $400 to fix and many drive cycles to set the computer.

Dipstick/tube, recall was issued on these by Volvo, but it was cheaper to just get a new dipstick and tube.

Sagging cloth headliner, where's my vinyl?

General Comments:

Exterior plastic and steel are second only to Mercedes; the car was virtually dent and rust-proof.

The interior materials on the other hand are quite poor; many rattles, warped panels, torn seats, certainly not on the level of older Volvos.

The interior is designed well cosmetically, but there are a few truly idiotic designs choices like the cheap cupholders; either you use the e-brake or drink a coke, never both. The dead pedal was a nice touch though.

Despite its age, the engine's still lively, sounds great revving up and accelerates the car quite well. Gas mileage is okay at about 29, could be better. No fake MP3 loops or anything, these cars naturally sound good!

Handling okay if a bit "piggy" compared to my Accord; nowhere near as "pure" or nimble as a 240. Ride quality suffers quite a bit with stiff shocks up front, no doubt contributing to the interior rattles.

Brakes are quite poor for a car so big; they do the job, but overheat quite quickly. When the ABS acts up, the braking becomes worse.

Fuse box and seats have their own tools that come with the car; a nice touch by Volvo for something they could've sold separately. Other areas aren't that great for DIY though; the odometer gear in particular requires you to dissemble more than half of the dash to remove the cluster.

Turning radius was actually better than a 240, let alone my previous Accord; thank you 4-wheel steering! Thank you compact transmission!

Sold the car due to the buggy emissions equipment, PITA to replace any of it, had to have a shop do the work, thus the costs. Should've trusted my gut on the test drive.

I wouldn't recommend an 850; if you want a 5 cylinder European car that's both fun and requires occasional repairs, get an Audi, something a bit more authentic.

If you want a Volvo, get the 940; basically a 240, but with the looks and superior safety of the 850, and much better electronics.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 15th December, 2014

15th Dec 2014, 10:49

The car is 18 years old... many of the issues are down to poor previous maintenance or fair wear and tear.

I used to work in a garage, and I would say Audis are more problematic than Volvos.

16th Dec 2014, 18:15

OP here.

The previous owner had a Camry parked by the 850, so shows ya what they know as far as maintenance.

The emissions stuff is what ultimately did it in; I had put aside some money to fix up the interior, but ended up dropping it into fixing countless leaks in hard to reach hoses. Modern technology is great, but when it breaks it can break you too.

I do want to agree that some of the faults were from regular wear and tear, but after picking apart several 240s with about 300k on them, I'm inclined to believe 850s got cheaper interior materials.

When these cars are working, I'm sure they're good cars; they're just not as DIY friendly as something like RWD Volvos.

I wouldn't doubt that Audis are more troublesome, I just see a lot of Audi in 850s, like their FWD 5 cylinder setup.

1996 Volvo 850 Base 2.3 turbo


It really does look like a brick..


Washer pump motor was not working.

Driver and rear passenger door locks broke.

Interior trim slowly warping.

ABS module needed replaced.

Exterior trim faded.

Trunk struts failed.

Cup holders are horrible.

General Comments:

I purchased this car as a beater for daily driving to work. For 1700 bucks I got a straight and narrow, solid running vehicle with decent gas mileage. The ride is comfortable and it handles quite well. All the issues (minus the ABS) are quick, easy, and inexpensive fixes.

I replaced the spark plugs, oil & filter, and the fuel filter as a start. A tranny filter and fluid change are on the horizon.

I'm looking forward to doubling the miles on this car.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 29th January, 2012

4th Mar 2012, 17:54

The ABS-module issue is very common on 96-97 models.

You don't need to buy a new one. There are many easy DIY-guides. You only need to reheat and re-flow a few cracked solder points (probably due to use of RoHS lead free solder when manufacturing the module).

I did it myself with no prior knowledge of soldering, and it is now working flawlessly, 6 months later.