1996 Volvo 850 GLT Non-turbo 5 cylinder from North America


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 SE 2.5 from Australia and New Zealand


Great car for the family


No major issues; mechanically it just goes on forever.

The car has a service every 5,000 kilometers by the same dealer I bought it from. The dealer is now an ex-dealer, as Ford-Volvo amalgamation saw all the small dealers gone. These guys are great with the models up to the V70. There has been normal servicing costs, but no surprises. Done by the book. Notice of expensive items for the next service, so cannot ask for a better car for maintenance and reliability.

I used the Volvo/Jag/Landrover dealer for 2 services over a 6 month period, when I had a rattle in the tail gate, and a squeak from the front suspension. They were super expensive and did not fix the problems. I took it back to the original dealer, and he identified the problems and fixed them.

The only bug I have had, is with the rear tailgate. The struts needed replacement (done with OEM units off eBay) and the lock rattles (due to slamming against a lock after the driver's door was locked).

The fan for the A/C & heater played up. It only ran on full speed. Needed to be replaced.

Interior has held up well (all leather), and still looks good outside. Stone chips to the front, and the lights have covers, so still running with the first set of headlights. The old girl has seen the Red Centre, and done several runs from Melbourne to Perth across the Nullabor. It is the normal 2.5 litre motor (non-turbo), so not the fastest car around. It has good acceleration in mid area for overtaking; 80-120 is good.

I carry a pod on top of the car (helps the wife to spot it in the car park) so economy is not as good as it should be. Around 7km/litre is about it. So 400 to 500 kilometres from a 70 litre tank. Without the pod, it gives a respectable 10 km/litre. So just air resistance. The suspension is good, no issues. Brakes need regular checking. Does not use oil between services.

BTW, I have a Jag XJ6, Land Rover Discovery and the Volvo, so the dealers lost big time when they failed to help me. Volvo 850 - I have 300,000 on her today, just had the service done. I will hang onto it and want to see the Magic Million - maybe before I die. She is our daily runabout, and does not get caned. Love it!

General Comments:

Do not use the dealer for these older models (pre V70 series 1). Find a good knowledgeable workshop, and follow the 5000 km service (oils and book checks).

Would love to try the Turbo and AWD models, but the reliability on this 850 is outstanding.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 6th March, 2012