Volvo 850 and T5/T5R (1992 – 1997) Review

Volvo 850 and T5/T5R (1992 – 1997) At A Glance


+Superb performance with old school turbo kick, great five-cylinder soundtrack, oodles of room inside, BTCC kudos

-Understated to look at, savage torque steer and appetite for tyres

When it arrived in 1991, the Volvo 850 was a game-changer for its maker - even if it didn't look like one. It marked a turning point for Volvo, because it finally saw that most conservative of Swedish carmakers fully embrace front-wheel drive - 10 years after most of the opposition. Not that you'd know to look at it - at the time you'd have sworn it was a scaled-down 740.

Top of the new range at launch was the T5, a turbocharged  five-cylinder sporting model with 230bhp on tap, and little visual clue to its near 150mph capability. Two years later, that was trumped by the T5R. And it was this car that that really caused people to sit up and take notice. With a wheelspin-inducing 250bhp from its turbocharged 2435cc engine, pumped through the front wheels, here was a Volvo that was both safe and practical yet also fast and a little sexy.

Thanks to the exploits of Tom Wakinshaw Racing  in British Touring Cars, the estate will always be remembered for its exploits on track.

Join the club

Formed in 1962, the Volvo Owners' Club has 3000 members. It offers dedicated, expert advice to keep members' cars on the road and has helped preserve models that are still used daily. It also embraces modern Volvos and plays an important role in helping its solving the complex electronic issues modern cars can present. All Volvos are welcome, from traditional classics like the PV544 and Amazon, 1980s modern classics like the 700, and newer models like the S40, S60, V60 and XC60. The cost of joining the club is £35 (£30 membership and £5 joining fee) - but the joining fee will be waived for new members quoting HJ19.

Ask Honest John

I need a part for my old car, but it's no longer available - what should I do?

"We are using a 1995 Volvo 850 estate that has given us excellent service since bought used in 1998. However, recently we have experienced a very occasional failure of the direction indicators which led me to consult my local garage. It seems that a replacement steering column direction indicator switch cannot be sourced through Volvo, who have given us the part number. I cannot find one through the Volvo owners club or various pattern parts manufacturers. A replacement relay would be available, so it really depends whether the fault lies there or in the switch. Can you advise me on any possible way forward? "
I'd be very tempted to try a Volvo breakers to see if you can get the bits you need. You could try Lakes Autos on 01480 212291. Failing that, ask for help on the club forums - chances are that someone somewhere has a spares car.
Answered by Keith Moody

I want a Volvo 850 T5-R - what are the pitfalls of buying a Japanese import

"When I was a cop in the 90s, I considered the Volvo 850 T5 to have been the best ever police patrol car, and always hankered after buying one. Bringing up a family made that dream impossible, but at nearly seventy years of age, unless I do it soon it will never happen. I know precisely what I want, an 850 T5-R saloon in Gul Yellow, but to find one would involve buying a Japanese import which appears to be a very affordable option at around £8k. Is it too good to be true, and what are the difficulties and pitfalls of such a plan please? "
By the time you've added 20 per cent VAT, 10 per cent customs, port costs, DVLA costs and whatever you have to pay in shipping, I'd be amazed if you get much change out of £3000 taking your total costs to about £11k. I know that everyone wants a gul yellow T5-R but there are ways to keep the price down. You could choose a different colour which will keep the cost below £10k, or go for the 850R which replaced it. To be honest, even just the 'basic' T5 is a corker and if you're into modifying you can easily eek a bit more power out of it. Failing that, what about a rear-wheel drive 700 turbo? Another great car if you're willing to compromise. Sadly, you missed the boat on T5-Rs as prices have shot up over the past four or five years.
Answered by Keith Moody

Can I use super-unleaded fuel in my Volvo 850?

"I have just acquired a K reg Volvo 850 GLT with just 25,000 fully-documented miles on the clock. Is it okay to use super-unleaded fuel in this car? Also, would it be wise to use a petrol additive such as Fortes to flush the engine?"
Check the manual, but I think these are okay to run on 95 but running it on 98 super-unleaded will be fine. You don't need to use an additive to flush the engine as most good quality super-unleaded fuels contain something similar. If you're experiencing a flat spot under acceleration, then a few tanks of super should help clean things up. They were never the most economical cars in the world, so if you're looking to get the best fuel consumption make sure the servicing is up to date with fresh oil, filter, plugs and leads. These are great old buses that will soldier on for many hundreds of miles if they're well looked after. Enjoy!
Answered by Keith Moody

Insurer wants to write off a classic car

"I have a 1996 Volvo 850R Estate with only 77k on the clock. It is immaculate inside, much cherished and cared for during the 18 years I have owned it. Last week a third party scraped the side of it in a car park, and has admitted liability. The estimate to repair, including one alloy refurbishment, is about £990, but has been rejected by the third party insurers on the basis of it being uneconomic to repair. This car is quite sought after by enthusiasts and I have seen ads for similar aged cars but with double the mileage for between £3k and £4k. Should the third party insurer be obliged to recognize this fact, rather than comparing my car with an ordinary low spec Volvo 850, where the 60% of market value principle might be applied. I had no intention of disposing of the vehicle, it is good for another 70k miles. His insurers and the accident management company, acting on my behalf through my insurers' no-fault dept, are talking of a total write-off, (which is quite absurd). What is the best course of action for me, as it currently looks like I shall end up with nothing, except a scraped car, when I was completely blameless. "
If you wanted to insure your car for its value to enthusiasts you should have had it on an "agreed value" classic car policy. As it is, county courts have held that the only liability of the other party's insurer is to either repair the car or give you "market value" for it. And if they go by some kind of guide or assessment that says it's worth £600, then you have to prove with visible evidence that it is worth the £3k to £4k that it probably is worth to an enthusiast. What you absolutely MUST do now is prevent the other party's insurer arbitrarily writing off your car without your permission. I'd get three quotes from really good bodyshops, get it repaired for the lowest quote, then sue the third party personally for the cost of the repair. Have nothing whatsoever to do with any accident management company that only wants to tuck you up in an overpriced hire car for the duration of the repair and will realise there is nothing in it for them in your case. Do not under any circumstances allow any insurer to inspect and write the car off.
Answered by Honest John
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