1994 Volvo 850

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3 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

  • I


  • II


  • Turbo


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Our 1994 Volvo 850 trim comparison will help you decide.

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1994 Volvo 850 review: Our expert's take

By Cars.com Editors

I don’t like the looks of the Volvo 850 Sportswagon.

Then again I can’t recall any Volvo – except the classic P1800 – whose looks I have liked.

In fact, after testing Volvos on and off for five years, I think I am finally getting the message: Volvos aren’t about trendy styling or driving the best-looking machine on your block.

Nope. The real beauty of a Volvo can be found underneath the fenders. It’s the durability, the ruggedness and the built-in safety features of the machine that make you like it.

To dwell on the 850 Sportswagon’s dowdy styling and weird taillights is to miss the point.


The most powerful engine Volvo has ever built rests under the square hood of the Volvo 850 Sportswagon. It’s a 222-horsepower, turbocharged, in-line five-cylinder aluminum engine of 2.3 liters.

This terrific lightweight engine – which drives the front wheels – delivers the same level of performance you would expect from a small V-8.

Smooth is not exactly how I would describe the way this engine runs. Perhaps the odd number of cylinders makes for more vibration than a four- or six-cylinder engine. However, I like the way the five-cylinder engine runs. It feels powerful. And it is.

Nowhere in Volvo’s press materials are you going to find an official 0-to-60 mph time – after all, Volvo has that safety reputation to protect. But in the pages of enthusiasts magazines such as Road and Track, you’ll find that the 850 Sportswagon can reach 60 mph in just 7.4 seconds. That’s fast.

If you like cars that are quick from a stop, then you will be smitten with this car. Pressing the accelerator hard enough to activate the turbocharger gives the 850 enough power to make it leap into action.

A turbocharger, by the way, is a pump driven by exhaust gas. It forces a denser mixture of fuel and air into the engine, which increases power while only marginally affecting fuel mileage. If you drive normally, you won’tuse the turbocharger much, but the device kicks in to make passing power nothing short of excellent.

Speaking of fuel mileage, on a 900-mile one-day driving marathon to Pensacola and back, the 850 averaged 24.9 mpg on the road.


Has any car that ever looked so dull handled so brilliantly? Probably not.

The 850 Sportswagon is definitely a street sleeper. The only thing that hints that the 850 is equipped with some serious high-performance hardware are its big 16-inch alloy rims and low-profile tires.

You can drive the 850 just as hard and fast as you want. It can handle any curve at any legal speed. That would be a respectable feat for a sedan or sports coupe, but it’s almost unheard of for a wagon, especially one not wearing a BMW badge.

The ride is firm but not so stiff as to make the car tiresome to drive. It is very quiet on the road and over bumps.

Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering allows you to turn a complete circle in a tight 33.5 feet. And the four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes provide excellent stopping power.

Our test car came with optional traction control, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. I tried it on a dirt road, but with the dash-mounted switch in either position, the front tires still spun.

Volvo, which is a newcomer to front-wheel drive cars, really did its homework with the 850. You can’t tell the front wheels are driving the car.


Even though the interior of the 850 Sportswagon is adorned with wood trim and leather upholstery, it still comes off as being more functional than stylish.

The dash is rather square and plain-looking. The analog instruments, with their white letters, black background and orange needles are easy to read but not especially noteworthy. And the switches and buttons all have a somewhat heavy and utilitarian feel to them.

Be that as it may, the interior of the 850 is an exceptionally comfortable placet be. I know; I spent 15 hours – 10 straight – behind the wheel.

The heavily padded front bucket seats are just terrific. You don’t just sit on them, you sit in them. You sink slightly in and then the seat firms up and holds you in place. The high head restraints look a bit awkward, but I can’t recall a test vehicle that I felt protected my head and neck – and those of my passenger – better.

More than any car I can remember, the seats in the 850 give you a feeling of security.

Even though the 850 Sportswagon is a mid-sized car, it is an extremely well packaged vehicle, so it feels more like a large car. There is an abundant amount of head and leg room front and rear.

The rear seats split and fold forward to allow for odd-size parcels to be stowed in the rear cargo area. Our test car came with a built-in child safety seat and practically every power accessory you could want, including a power sunroof.

All in all, the Volvo 850 Sportswagon is right up there with the Oldsmobile Aurora and Saab 900 S as one of the best vehicles I’ve tested this year.


1994 Volvo 850 Sportswagon Base price: $31,735 EPA rating: 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway Price as tested: $33,790 Incentives: None

Truett’s tip: The 850 Sportswagon is the ideal vehicle for young families. It’s a car that can haul the kids as well as be driven fast and hard like a sports coupe. It just may be Volvo’s best car.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.3
  • Interior 4.2
  • Performance 4.7
  • Value 4.2
  • Exterior 4.5
  • Reliability 4.0
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Most recent consumer reviews


Very good car

I purchased this car new while stationed in Europe in 1994, an 850 Turbo sedan. Ran it hard on the German Autobahn, routinely at 120+ MPH, even hit 151 MPH a time or two with it before the governor kicked in. Later, my wife was in an accident when she was clipped by a drunk driver, car was repaired. Best car I've ever owned, although it has had a few problems. A transmission sensor went bad when my wife spun the wheels trying to get unstuck from a snow drift. We didn't have winter tires at the time. (1996?) Had to replace alternator in 2006, when it went it took the battery and some of the dash LEDs (approx 100,000 miles?) Odometer quit working in 2009 at about 118,000 miles Rear knock sensor went bad, resulting in constant check engine light. Minor oil leak around the turbo. I also replaced the front struts and bearings at some point, but that's normal wear & tear. I hit a deer in 2007, which technically totaled the car. But I kept driving it anyway, and kind of let it go. Due to the odometer, I don't know my exact mileage, but I think it's around 175,000. Unfortunately, I tested the airbags in Nov 2013 by sliding off a gravel road, head-on into a utility pole. They worked, and I walked away with some seat belt bruises and minor abrasions. But now the car is TOTALLY totaled. (RIP, 19 years with one car is a pretty good run, yes?) I have now replaced it with a '97 850 wagon. I only hope it is as good!


I feel in love with this car

I wasn't too impressed with this car when I bought it 16 years ago to replace a Nissan maxima. BUT, it really grew on me over time and I really hated to give it up. I racked up 184,000 on one engineer and another 100,000 on a used one I bought with 93,000. I LOVED driving this car. It was comfort and fast on the highway. The mileage was decent. It bounced back from a hit. I had to let it go because of mounting repairs that are normal when the Odometer is reading 275,000. I wanted to get a 1998 S70 but give up on that after my husband bought me a 1993 940 Volvo. It had 82,000 miles on it, so we shall see. My mechanic claims he put 300,000 miles on one. I hope to equal that.


1969 Volvo

This car should be classed in "excellent" condition. It's body is spotless, garage kept, and the engine is leak free and well serviced. It has received maintenance from a prominant foreign auto area shop. Lastly, it is a very modern looking model that is SAFE. All of the extras in this "executive" model work and when that Turbo engages you really feel it. To help understand its condition and value, look at the Blue book for a 1994 850 Turbo in excellent condition.

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New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Volvo
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
Less than 5 years/less than 80,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
5 years/unlimited miles , upgradeable up to 10 years
Dealer certification required
170- plus point inspection
Roadside assistance
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