VOLVO 850 T5 Turbo

Volvo LOOKS . Cubist Sleek
PERFORMANCE . Impressive
HANDLING . Super Cool
QUALITY . Mostly Fine
STEREO . Substantial
GADGET FACTOR . Entertaining
CACHET . Most Mod


Sticker . $32,715.
Wagon. $33,640.
POWER . 222 horsepower
0 TO 60 . 6 to 7 sec.
TEST MILEAGE . 21.7 mpg
TRUNK . 15 cu. ft. Wagon 37/67 cu. ft..
PARKING . Time to calm down


Way fast, way hairy, way cool ! Given its heritage, I have no idea where this rocket came from, but I love it. Forget the old Volvo, wash every preconception of insipid performance and leaden response from the memory banks, this is a new age cruiser.

The 850, introduced in 1994, was the first new design from new minds in Sweden. Retaining and upgrading the roominess, open comfort and robust quality of Volvo lore and tucking an indiscreet 222 HP super-tech power plant under the hood makes it a Turbo version, now called the T5. Floating it on near-race rubber and a supple, poised chassis with a tautness unseen from Scandinavia since Anita Ekberg passed 40 makes it amusing. If this is not enough for you, thee is an R version of both the wagon and the sedan available, which boasts 240 horsepower, courtesy of an extra dose of turbo boost and more serious tires and wheels.

We spun both the wagon and sedan versions to find each well suited to appropriate duties. The 4 door was quieter, harder to see out of and generally superb on the comfort meter. Wagon featured the optional extra stiff sport springing, which I would pass on, massive acreage, and a funny little booster seat to raise junior's eye point. Nice thought, but the contraption looked mighty uncomfortable.

Decor is angular, lathered with woodgrain, two-tone taupe leather seats with a buttery feel and wide range of adjustment. Beautiful sound system. Plenty of gadgets and such (rear fog lamp for safety, etc.).

Performance is simply outstanding. Particularly fast , instant passing response.. Exhilaration, brakes and road command are well above the norm. Mileage surprisingly high at 21.7 mpg with a planted throttle.

The 850 is such a gas that I hate to quibble, but there were a few too many flimsy plastic bits in important places and my trouble vibe hints at some finickiness lurking in the techno-mix. I would expect a few trips to the service bay over time to keep this baby sweet.

A uniquely enjoyable car, useful and wicked. Now that Volvo has announced the successors to the 850 series the S70 and V70, 850's are being heavily discounted. While lacking the upgraded interiors of the new models the 850's are very similar under the skin and represent a great buy. Snap one up quick.