We have owned this car since new, now in the family 16 years. Has been very reliable comfortable and versatile. Manual gear box makes it fun to drive. Station wagon configuration makes as useful as any large SUV with vastly better gas mileage and nicer road handling. Odometer gear failed and I replaced the gear with an e bay source that included instructions on installation. ABS module failed and internet lead me to a place to buy a rebuilt one and installed it myself. These are two classic weak spots of this car that are easily fixed by the owner. Fuel pump did fail and was replaced. We now have 181K on odometer. Still running well. This model supports the legendary Volvo value
As of 6/19/2017 car has 220,500 miles of city stop and go miles. Overall car has been reliable. Since I am 5'10", the excellent headroom and speed control has made long distance driving a joy. I use semi synthetic 10W-30 motor oil to reduce or minimize oil consumption. No oil leaks. Car has original engine, original transmission. Would not hesitate to recommend this car to anyone. Plan on keeping the car until a minimum of 300,000 miles.
Nov/16 update. At the end of Sept of '16, my 14 year old, 100 lb. chocolate lab Cody passed. Prior to having Cody, I had his 80 lb. mother Dodie. Since 1999, I have never had the 2nd row seats in an upright position. As a 'mobile dog house', the entire back of the car was used to carry supplies and big dogs. Now, being 'dogless', I cleared out all the blankets and beddings and finally up righted the 2 row seats. The black leather is in perfect condition. Still love my Volvo. I own at 1996 850 Turbo Wagon. I am the 2nd owner, having bought it in 9/99 with 39k miles. Just hit 273k miles in 5/16. Serviced w/dealers up through 2004 in Santa Clara, CA & Portland, OR when average commute was 40mi/day on freeways. But best mechanic is 'a Volvo guy' on the Oregon Coast, which he loves 'cause 1996 model was still a 'Swedish made vehicle'. MPG on highway has been 28, in town 24. Since 2004, I have been religious about routine maintenance every 3k miles. The usual brakes replacements at 45K intervals, timing belts at 80k intervals. Air condition part replacement at 190k. Since 2004, daily commute is 50mi round trip on the winding Oregon Coast. In 2014, hit black ice and 'off-roaded' for 100 yards. 100 lb. chocolate lab in the back ended up in the front seat by the time the Volvo got me solidly back on the road, with only loosing the driver's side mirror. Body shop still thinks my car is blessed when I showed them the images of the tire tracks in the woods. Aiming to hit the 300Kmi mark, so my mechanic can send his pic and story into Volvo. Previously owned a 1968 142 Sedan from 1974-1980, then every car in between (Dodge, Saab, Honda, Peugeot, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Toyota and a Cadillac (those were my 'LA years'), went back to Volvo in 1999 and never looked back. Yeah, they knew the cup holder placement was a mistake when they launched the 850 series in 1993, so they changed it by 1997/98. V70 fixed some of the issues, but created more. 1996 & 1997 850 Turbo Wagons were that last, great Swedish Car. My friends from Sweden tell me so!
Great car to drive, but expensive to keep on the road. It has high mileage, but Volvos are expected to be solid. Replacements over the last couple of years - ABS unit, turbo (expected at 150K), AC compressor, both O2 sensors, shocks and complete brakes (rears twice) water pump, fuel pump,2 ABS sensors, + minor items. It currently is burning / losing oil. Source not found yet. I did a lot of research on this vehicle prior to buying it and unfortunately, was very disapointed in the reliability.
Originally submitted review of this car after 2 months of ownership. In one year I've gone thorugh: brakes - 4 rotors, 3 sets of pads and 2 calipers; engine - 2 air mass meters, a set of plugs, wires, rotor, and distributor; gas - approximately the pre-war output of Iraq. When it works, it's the greatest car I've ever owned, but the brakes are a nightmare, and it is just too heavy - killing mileage, brakes, tires, etc.