Excellent build, ride, handling and safety, a little underpowered
LHS outer CV boot is perishing, will need replacement (~$200AUD)
Slight knocking sound in front suspension, mechanic informs me nothing damaging, just a bit of an annoyance.
Leather seats a little worn.
Boot light automatic function inoperative (i.e. light does not turn off when shut the boot)
Driver's side reading light switch faulty.
Heating fan can "hum" and vibrate at low speeds (1 and 2) from time to time.
Nothing major as yet.
After driving a manual Volvo 240 that belonged to my parents, it was time to get my own car. There wasn't much of a choice for me, I knew I wanted a Volvo from the fantastic impression the 240 left me with, but something a little more modern/safer. My family have since got two other 850s for themselves, a GLE and T-5 (which have been interesting in terms of comparison with mine).
I chose this 1996 (model year) Volvo 850 S that has ABS and four airbags (two front, two side) which is still not standard in many Australian cars yet. Managed to pick it up for $4500 from an engineer who was leaving for work in another country and had a quick sale.
Had the car for about a year now and put 20,000kms on the clock. Coming from a reasonably zippy manual to this fairly sedate automatic took a little getting used to, but I now love it. This car is certainly no speed freak (the turbo T-5 is a COMPLETELY different matter!), and manages 0-100kmh in about 11 seconds. The car likes to take off slowly, unless you really stick your foot on it, in which case it will give a fairly good take-off. I always drive with the transmission mode in ECONomy (as opposed to SPORT), which is geared, as the name suggests, for economical driving, and will shift up at lower revs more quickly than in sport mode. In sport mode, the transmission is much more aware of your foot movements on the pedal, anticipating and shifting down well when you want it to. It also has a winter mode, which locks out 1st/2nd and starts the car in 3rd, allowing you to accelerate on slippery surfaces such as ice without wheelspin. This is great when you park on a wet lawn on a slope or something without digging it up. Overtaking performance is good enough, although it can have trouble holding highway speeds on a slight climb in overdrive with A/C on. 5 cyl engine has a lovely sound.
Fantastically reassuring car to drive. Handling is great, one if its best qualities, a bit "squidgier" around bends than turbo models, but obviously a little more comfortable in terms of a smoother ride. Hugs bends like nothing else, never feel like you're losing it at all. Excellent tight turning radius makes it easy to park, although visibility out of the sedan when reversing is not great. A lot of mirror use necessary.
Fuel consumption around Hobart (lots of hills, only about 10 minutes of highway between my house/city, a lot of stopping and starting in city) is about varies between 11-12L/100km, depending on how much time I spend driving around the city. Exclusively on highways or long journeys will get down to around 8.5L/100km. Not too bad for a two-tonne car.
Interior build quality is excellent, hardly any rattles, and has an excellent sounding 6-speaker sound system. Leather is a little worn in mine as I don't believe previous owners looked after it much and the car spent most of its time basking in the Victorian sun. Paintwork is in excellent condition (apart from usual stone chips/scuffs etc). Excellent heater and air conditioner. Ergonomics are spot-on, as usual with Volvo. Not many buttons but everything is there and simple to use. Heaps of room and seats are exceptionally comfortable, with tilt/reach steering and seats that adjust in every possible way. Only thing I'd add would be an armrest for the inside arm of the passenger/driver.
Transmission can give a tiny jerk changing from 1st to 2nd under light acceleration, but I have been told this is normal for a car with this many ks.
Beautiful, luxurious car to drive, reassuring handling, excellent build (still has that lovely Volvo door-shutting "thunk"), very safe and relatively economical. Non-turbos could do with a little more oomph though. Still a joy to drive.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 12th April, 2008