1997 Volvo 850 Review

Type:

Pros & Cons

  • Side-impact airbags, superb seat comfort, solid construction
  • Oddly laid-out controls, price
Other years
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List Price Estimate
$667 - $1,609

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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.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

The Best Volvo
baristablaine,06/12/2013
This Volvo 850 has been the best car I have ever owned. I currently Have 315,000 miles on it.
Good Used Car Value
robkn,10/12/2011
Just bought a '97 base with automatic - has 124k miles. Rides like a limo - best front seats I have ever seen. Getting 25 mpg in mixed driving. Find one that has been maintained and you can keep it forever. You may spend some repair money every year, but it is cheaper than a car payment.
Great Car
nuffsaid1,08/08/2009
I have owned this car for 12 years and it has been fun to drive gets good gas mileage and is very fast. The seats are fantastic and the stereo is very good. I have had one incident and that is the ABS light comes on. The first time it happened was in the first year of ownership and no cost to me (dealer cost $1000). It occurred again this year and I found a guy on the internet who fixed it for $50. I love this car. Find a good Volvo mechanic and save yourself a lot of money
Best Value
george,08/02/2010
I bought it last year (second owner), and couldn't be happier. Very solid, powerful, reliable, and smooth. Very fun to drive. I feel very safe in it, and therefore feel comfortable with my kids driving it. I've had to replace the alternator, that's all, but I have 175,000 miles on it, so what do you expect? Despite the mileage, it still runs very smooth, I imagine as smooth as when it was new. I love driving this car! I would definitely consider another Volvo on my next purchase. The only other fix was the gas cap cover, it no longer locks, but it's very minor and have yet to fix it.

Features & Specs

See all Used 1997 Volvo 850 features & specs

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
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
    Good

More about the 1997 Volvo 850

Used 1997 Volvo 850 Overview

The Used 1997 Volvo 850 is offered in the following submodels: 850 Sedan, 850 Wagon, 850 R. Available styles include R Turbo 4dr Sedan, R Turbo 4dr Wagon, T5 Turbo 4dr Sedan, T5 Turbo 4dr Wagon, 4dr Sedan, 4dr Wagon, GLT Turbo 4dr Wagon, and GLT Turbo 4dr Sedan.

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

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Which used 1997 Volvo 850s are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 1997 Volvo 850 for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 1997 Volvo 850.

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

Find a used Volvo 850 for sale - 2 great deals out of 9 listings starting at $9,121.

Find a used Volvo for sale - 7 great deals out of 11 listings starting at $14,554.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volvo 850 for sale - 4 great deals out of 10 listings starting at $22,940.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volvo for sale - 8 great deals out of 14 listings starting at $11,200.

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.

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Check out Volvo 850 lease specials