Until relatively recently, Volvo had a long-cultivated image of a safe, reliable family car. The problem with safe and reliable family cars is that they are not particularly exciting to drive. With the introduction of the 1994 Volvo 850 T5, the Swedish car company managed to change its image, almost overnight. I remember watching the 850s race in British Touring Car back in 1994 and 1995 and I thought that this was just about the coolest thing I’d ever seen. Not because they were winning, but because they looked so out of place, yet raced up there with the best of them! The Volvo 850 T5 looked like a family station wagon, yet drove and handled like a race car. What’s not to like?
The original 850 was powered by a 170 horsepower engine, which clearly wasn’t going to be enough in this case. Volvo engineers fitted a turbocharger on the 2.3 -liter, five-cylinder engine, which pushed the power to 225 horsepower. The T5 R version of the car had 250 horsepower. In either case, this was a lot of power for the front wheels to handle, and it made for a very spirited drive, to say the least.
The 1994 Volvo 850 T5 differed little from the base model in terms of look, except for bigger tires and ever slightly flaring fenders. It looked aggressive and very, very cool. It was the ultimate sleeper!