I love my 850. It is my first car that my family has owned since 1997. Four years ago when I started driving it I was admittedly ashamed to have a "soccer mom car". My attitude quickly changed. Its a N/A four speed automatic that is going on 274000 miles. The car is showing its age with little squeaks and rattles, the hatch no longer stays open on its own, and little bits and bobs seem to be wearing out. Despite this it has been an incredibly safe form of transportation. While repairs are far from cheap, the engine and transmission are bulletproof and continue to work well, and I tend to push this wagon very hard.
The interior space and comfort is the best thing about this wagon. I call it my front-wheel-drive pick up truck because when the seats are folded down you realize how cavernous this car can be. The seats are the most comfortable I have ever sat in and road trips are a breeze.
Do yourself a favor and buy a manual. The automatic is quite sluggish and not very efficient. If you can't drive stick, make sure to get one with the sport switch which lets you more easily access the higher RPM's.
I bought a 95 Turbo wagon 14 months ago. It had been loved by 2 owners, 220,000 miles. Finding it was not easy. I looked at 6 different wagons before I found my car. Luckily, I met a local mechanic/enthusiast in LA, twice I was close to buying but hired him to inspect the vehicles which I highly recommend. Both times I avoided buying pieces of junk from liars. Do your research, know the common problems. I bought the car and restored the interior for next to nothing thanks to all of the junkyards in the area. Also had the engine restored and swapped my auto trans for a manual. The car is amazing for what I paid. I purchased a tune, and the car is so viscous, a blast to drive.
Turbo, manual trans, spacious cushy road trip wagon. Durable, I drive it very hard and it takes it all. I blast the engine to red line, it's tough. An impressive engine, great car for the price.
The dashboard. Was very noisy, read forums for suggestions and strategies to reduce rattling.
Know that if you buy this car, you will need a trustworthy mechanic at your disposal unless you are willing to learn to work on them yourself. This is a great car for novices to work on, but you will need a stocked local junkyard at your disposal.
We got a good deal on an 850,after my Caprice died unexpectedly. It was my first 'foreign' car,and aside from a little getting used to it turned out to be pretty durable and low maintenance...even up to the 250,000 I had it. Ultimately it started to develop a head gasket issue that we found wasn't worth fixing at that stage.
I bought my 850 used, the previous owner beat the crap out of it and I've been restoring it. My 850 lacks the turbo, it is a bit slow. However, the 5 cyl engine that Volvo used in this car is rock solid, it starts every time.
The car drives like a dream, it holds just about anything you can imagine, the MPG is nothing to write home about (avg 19.8 MPG). The gear shifter is a little notchy, requires a large throw. The odometer stopped working at 185k miles, but using the computer diag port, it's actually got 214k miles - the vehicle shows no sign of giving out - it just keeps going! The suspension and all wheel disc brakes give it a sporty edge, but the engine is under powered.
The climate control is a little weird, but it works well enough. The turning radius is crazy awesome, the brakes are great.
Wish the electronic seat was more reliable, wish the 5-speed manual came with a turbo.