Used 1997 Volvo 850 R

1997 Volvo 850
List price range
1997 Volvo 850


  • Side-impact airbags, superb seat comfort, solid construction


  • Oddly laid-out controls, price

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Edmunds' Expert Review

vehicle overview

Somebody in Sweden loves you. This must be true; why else would the people at Volvo spend so much time guaranteeing passenger safety? The 850 boasts an impressive array of standard equipment that is designed to ensure your safety: daytime running lights, antilock brakes, optional traction control (TRACS), dual airbags, side-impact airbags, fog lights, fixed head restraints, an integrated child-seat (wagon), and a wet weather automatic transmission system are just some of the goodies that Volvo included in this car to keep you and your loved ones out of the emergency room. Indeed, all of these safety features can leave passengers feeling as if they are cruising around town in a well-appointed tank.

The driver, however, will know that the 850 is anything but tank-like. Steering is snappy and responsive. Braking is so effective that it takes some getting used to. Gauges are easy to see. Unlike many of this Volvo's American and Japanese competitors, there is nothing extraneous about this car. Even back seat passengers will enjoy the luxury of the 850; there is plenty of room for two six-footers. Cargo space in the sedan is cavernous, liftover height is low, and the trunk includes a handy pass-through to the passenger compartment that nicely accommodates a pair of skis. The wagon's cargo area is so huge that it could easily carry all of the possessions of a new college graduate. Our problem with the 850's interior? Dashboard controls appear to have been placed according to some obscure automotive chaos theory. Either that, or stylists were enjoying Finlandia shots during interior design day.

The 850 is available in four trim levels. Base models are the only ones that can be equipped with a manual transmission. Uplevel GLTs receive a much needed boost in power for 1997, thanks to a new 2.4-liter five-cylinder that Volvo has wittily termed the High Torque Low Rev engine. Breaking from tradition and shattering brand equity, the Turbo model has been renamed the T-5 this year. Finally, the limited-edition R model returns for an encore. All trim levels can be applied to sedan or wagon.

When decked out in R trim, the 850 becomes something more than mechanical. Zero to 60 times in under seven seconds are unusual in a mid-sized sedan. Seventeen-inch tires should never be standard equipment for a family hauler. Indeed, Volvo has broken all of the rules with this sportster, including that dictating tastefully understated wood interior trim. The bleached-blond look of the R's Scandinavian Birch dash is horrifying. Pity the Mustang GT owners who are get dusted by "mom's taxi" in the stop-light drags.

For 1997, Volvo leaves well enough alone. Aside from the Turbo name change and the sweet new motor under the hood of the GLT, it is important to note that base and GLT models meet TLEV standards in California, Massachusetts, and New York. We have a question, though. The new GLT engine comes in two versions: one passes TLEV, and one doesn't. Both are the same size, have the same power, and offer the same torque. EPA mileage figures are identical. Yet, only California, Massachusetts and New York get the TLEV engine. Uh...why?

The Volvo 850 is a very nice car, particularly when its price tag is compared to other European vehicles with the same features. We think that anyone interested in safety, quality, and performance should take a long look at the 850, especially the newly stout GLT model.

1997 Highlights

The Turbo is now known as the T-5. GLT models get a new engine that makes 22 more horsepower than last year, and peak torque at a low 1,800 rpm. Base and GLT models meet Transitional Low Emission Vehicle (TLEV) regulations this year.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1997 Volvo 850.

Overall Consumer Rating

Most helpful consumer reviews

850R raises some questions
Dalmatian Wagon,09/09/2002
Why buy a Volvo? My reasons was space, performance, and a raise at work. This wagon zooms to 60mph in 7.0 seconds with 240hp and 220 ft. lbs of torque @ a low 2000 rpm. Love the Turbo! It’s a solid performer, but not as smooth as I had hoped. Steering feel, cornering feel, and brake feel just don’t feel as solid and confidence inspiring as I had hoped. The power band, however, keeps me coming back for more every day. Timing belt was just changed so time will tell how this hellion holds up. If you see a white wagon on your tail, you may want to move to the right…
Unreliable, maintenance headache
Unless you or a friend are certified Volvo mechanics - STAY AWAY from these cars. I have thoroughly enjoyed this car - but only when it was behaving properly. I have been eaten alive with repairs and excessive maintenance. For what was originally a $40,000 car, this is the biggest rip off I have ever had the displeasure of owning.
Fast Car
This car is just a rreal pleasure to drive, I will keep this for a long time. Comfort, speed and reliable, My wife just loves leaving people behind off the red light. go figure.
Fast and Fun!
I purchased this car after looking at later year S70 AWD models. My wife actually said "that looks like you" when she saw it on the lot. It took about 10 seconds to figure out this was the right car. Unbelievable acceleration, control, comfort and class. Wouldn't consider driving anything else. It really is fun when the turbo kicks in at about 15 mph and you leave the rest of the pack behind. A completely wonderful car in all aspects. Even get about 21 mpg's. Not bad for one heck of a performance car.
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Features & Specs

17 city / 24 hwy
Seats 0
4-speed automatic
240 hp @ 5600 rpm
17 city / 24 hwy
Seats 0
4-speed automatic
240 hp @ 5600 rpm
See all Used 1997 Volvo 850 R features & specs


IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1997 Volvo 850
Used 1997 Volvo 850 R Overview

The Used 1997 Volvo 850 R is offered in the following styles: R Turbo 4dr Wagon, and R Turbo 4dr Sedan.

What's a good price on a Used 1997 Volvo 850 R?

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Can't find a used 1997 Volvo 850 850 R you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Volvo 850 for sale - 4 great deals out of 17 listings starting at $8,969.

Find a used Volvo for sale - 10 great deals out of 20 listings starting at $8,023.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volvo 850 for sale - 1 great deals out of 18 listings starting at $16,150.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volvo for sale - 10 great deals out of 10 listings starting at $13,935.

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Should I lease or buy a 1997 Volvo 850?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Volvo lease specials
Check out Volvo 850 lease specials