Three decades after its launch, the Volvo 850 still stands as a testament to the Swedish company’s commitment to innovation. First unveiled in 1991, the model not only marked a departure from traditional Volvo design, but also introduced unprecedented technical features that set new standards in the automotive industry.
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Why do we like it?
And that’s why we love it. With the 850, Volvo, known for its emphasis on safety, took a bold step, introducing a sleek and aerodynamic design that departed from the boxy aesthetics of its predecessors. The car’s overall appeal was further enhanced by its innovative features, including an advanced chassis design, new inline-five engine, and new safety systems.
Seen from today’s perspective, the 850 is exactly the kind of car we miss. Take the 850 R for example – a big wagon with a five-cylinder turbo engine and enough space to carry everything you need on a long trip. Strong mechanics, timeless design and mid-range comfort. Honestly, that’s all we need in a car.
When was the car launched?
The 850 was officially launched in 1991. It served as the successor to the successful 240 model series and was produced in Sweden, Belgium, Canada, Indonesia, Philippines. The car remained on sale until 1996, when it was replaced by the sleeker S70 and V70.
Interestingly, development of the 800 series first began in 1978. The so-called Project Galaxy eventually resulted in the 850 and introduced new manufacturing technologies. When development was finished, Volvo had spent the largest amount of money in Sweden’s history on an industrial project.
Where does it sit in the brand’s lineup?
The Volvo 850 was positioned as a mid-size executive car. It bridged the gap between Volvo’s flagship 900 series models and the more affordable S40 and V40 compact cars. The 850 was a major player in redefining Volvo’s image as a brand that could meet the needs of a wide audience without compromising its core values.
When it was launched in the United States in 1992, the 850 became the first FWD model in Volvo’s history to be available in the state. The automaker also held a patent in the US for a rear axle bushing that compresses under load, giving the 850 passive rear steering.
Two other major innovations were the integrated side impact protection system and the self-adjusting belt reel. In fact, the 850 was the world’s first production car with side airbags. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated this car as the fourth safest car in the American market at that time.
What engines were in it?
One of the standout features of the 850 was its introduction of a transverse five-cylinder engine, which was different from the longitudinal engines commonly used by Volvo at the time. This innovative engine configuration allowed better space utilization and better handling, and paved the way for the development of the company’s future engine designs. The 850 was available with a wide range of engines, including turbocharged variants and power up to 250 horsepower. Meanwhile, the 2.5-litre diesel was considered one of the most durable engines at the time.
Did it sell well?
A total of 716,903 cars of the 850 series were sold during the vehicle’s six-year production run. Only 2,039 of them had all-wheel drive and only 309 had a right-hand steering wheel. Interestingly, sedan and wagon models had almost equal share in sales.
The Volvo 850 remains a darling of the youth in automotive history, celebrated not only for its striking design but also for the technological innovations it introduced. From its transverse five-cylinder engine to its commitment to safety, the 850 set new standards for Volvo. The company continued to develop standards during the next decades of car production.