1996 Volvo 850 2.3 from Finland


Rock-hard reliability, comfort and safety


I keep the car well serviced, so many parts have been replaced. I will only list the ones that caused inconvenience (not the ones that I replaced before they broke):

Radiator and pump replaced at 340.000 km.

Rear shocks replaced at 350.000 km.

Lambda sensor replaced at 340.000 km.

ABS unit replaced at 340.000 km.

And yes, that's it. Impressive for a car with almost 400.000 km, right? And it still runs smoothly like the day it rolled off the dealer's lot.

Thanks, Volvo, for making vehicles worth investing in.

General Comments:

An excellent, safe and precise sedan for the whole family despite its age. It's the only 20-year old car out there able to keep up with modern sedans as far as safety and comfort.

The engine is so smooth you can easily forget it's running. This is definitely not a racer, but it will give any BMW or Audi a run for its money out on the highway.

If you take good care of it, keep track of the timing belt changes, the oil changes, and fix things when they should be fixed, this car might easily reach a million kilometers.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 24th December, 2014

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.