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Volvo 850

1993-1997 - P80 Platform - T5, GLT, T5R

In the 1980s, Volvo intended to replace their already long-running 200-series (240 and 260) with the more upscale 740 and 760, but continued strong sales of the 240 persuaded Volvo to continue production alongside the 700- and later 900-series models, with the 240 kept as an entry-level option.

By the 1990s, the 20-year-old 240 was finally put out to pasture and replaced as an entry level option by the 850 sedan and wagon, with the 5- in 850 representing the new "white block" all-aluminum inline five engine, and the 8- representing both the model's position under the 900-series in Volvo's lineup and the new platform, code-named P80 internally by Volvo. These new "white block" motors featured advanced Bosch engine management, with Motronic 4 gradually replacing the earlier LH Jetronic before the 1996 industry-wide implementation of OBD II.

The Volvo 850 represented a lot of firsts for Volvo:

  • First use of the "white block" transverse inline 5-cylinder
  • First US-market front-wheel-drive Volvo
  • Unique Delta-link semi-independent rear suspension
  • First use of SIPS (Side Impact Protection System), a series of door and chassis reinforcements designed to better absorb side-impact crash energy

The Volvo faithful at the time were skeptical of both the FWD layout and the new, untested engine, but the competitiveness of an 850 in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) under the Tom Walkinshaw Racing team banner showcased the power of the new 5-cylinder and the grip of the new Delta-link suspension layout.

Volvo celebrated this racing connection with a series of high-performance variants, all turbocharged: the 850 Turbo, the 850 T-5R, and the 850 R. Aside from early 5-speed M56 manual 850 Turbos, most of these cars were only available in the US with a 4-speed Aisin-Warner AW50-42 automatic.

Late in the 850's production run was the 850 AWD, a precursor to the Cross Country (XC) line and the first Volvo with four driven wheels. With a slight increase in ground clearance and a viscous coupler engaging the rear wheels in slippery conditions, this rugged wagon set the stage for later Cross Country models like the V70 XC and the XC70; the US would have to wait until the V70 XC in 1998 for an AWD Volvo.

  • Volvo 850 4-door sedan and 5-door station wagon
  • Based on the P80 platform
  • Sold in the USA from 1993 through 1997
  • USA models were equipped with inline 5 gasoline engines
    • Light-pressure turbo models had a 2.4L "GLT" engine and Bosch Motronic ME4 (4.3, later 4.4) engine management
    • High-pressure turbo models had a 2.3L "Turbo/T5" engine and Bosch Motronic ME4 4.3 engine management
    • Special "R" performance model had a highly tuned T5 engine paired exclusively with an automatic transmission, as well as stiffer suspension and unique styling
    • Naturally aspirated models had a 2.5L engine and Bosh LH Jetronic 3.2 (later Motronic ME4 4.3) engine management
  • All USA cars were FWD only, with manual or automatic transmissions:
    • M56 5-speed manual
    • AW50-42 4-speed automatic
  • Facelifted versions became the S70 sedan and V70 wagon from 1998-2000

Model information is based on the USA vehicle market. Other model variations may exist outside the USA.

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