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Volvo 850 Wagons

This weekend we bought a 96 850 Wagon with 34k miles from a So. Cal dealership. I've been a long time member of Edmunds Town Hall forums under the Hatchback Saab 9-3 title. I had to search quite a bit around the Edmunds forums to find the general information I was seeking about Volvo ownership expereinces before we bought one.

We shopped for a month in the Los Angeles area before we bought from a dealership in Orange County. I drove as far north as Ventura (1 1/2 hour) looking for quality used Volvos from dealerships. The day before we bought our car I even got a call from a San Diego dealership that had been alerted by an Los Angeles dealership that I was in the market looking for a specific wagon that they did not happen to have in stock.

Our Volvo shopping experience in Los Angeles was generally been very positive. The only distastfull experince we had was at a dealership that also sold an American marque. Typical cheesy salesman sleeze!

The farther North I went looking for Volvos outside of L.A. the smaller the dealerships got but their attitude was still very polite and the sales people maintained a no nonsense approach to showing and selling their cars.

Our last car was a 1999 Saab 9-3 that we leased back in August. After seven months ownership I fell asleep at the wheeel and rolled this car out in the desert. I survived this crash with little more than some abrassions to my arm and a few stitches above my eye where I hit the open sunroof. We really liked the Saab but they no longer offered the same deal and the Vovlvo wagon was really our aspiration.

We paid $20,500 plus tax & lisc. for our base 96 850 wagon with 34 k miles auto, cloth, pwr drivers seat, and premium wheels. They had a couple base sedans w/ loooooow mileage available that we could have gotten out the door for less than $20K but I wanted a wagon! Chase Manhattan provided financing on our car @ 7.35% w/ $2K down. We had a 720 credit rating.


  • basmanbasman Posts: 2
    About the Volvo 850: please email me at:
    I'm not aware of the "Estate" nomenclature on Volvos. If it is a base 850 w/ the 166 bhp engine I'd definitly recomend the stick. We own an auto and acceleration is a bit anemic and loud. Fuel economy is decent @ 20 MPG - 28 MPG but then I'm from the land of SUV's.

    $27,000 sounds "O.K." but I'm not privy to all the options on the car your talking about. If it is totally decked out with nearly everything your probably in the ball park on price. We live in a very large metropolitan area with more than half a dozen dealerships nearby. $27,000 on a decked out turbo w/ auto and low mileage would probably fly here in Los Angeles. Check Edmunds Used Car section to get a reasonable appraisal on the vehicle your considering.
  • basmanbasman Posts: 2
    Thanks for your advise Frederick, I appreciate it. About the options, it indeed does have nearly everything so the offering price is competitive.

    About the transmission, we do quite some commuting (traffic jams) so I think the automatic will be more convenient. Besides, the fuel economy you mentioned sounds fair enough.

    Does your car transmission have the option sport/economy and Winter? Is there much difference using one or the other in terms of performance and fuel economy?

    Thanks again.
  • danfdanf Posts: 1
    Hi! I'm going to get a `94 or `95 Volvo 850 Turbo wagon in about 6 to 9 months. I test drove the Audi A4, the Chrysler 300M, and the Saab 9-3. I loved the Volvo the most. The Saab was the closest competitor but it had too much turbo lag, though it was loads of fun on boost. The Audi's interior was too small for my height, and the 300M didn't seem very fast, even if it was. So...the Volvo wins.

    Anyway, I'm minorly concerned about having a car with a turbo. I would imagine Volvo has had the time to make a long-lasting turbo by now. Does anyone know how the 850 turbo holds up with 150k to 200k miles? A car under my care would have excellent maintenance. I would not be inclined to buy a car that generally needs a major service (turbo rebuild) at say every 100k miles.

    Thanks for any info someone might pass along!
    Now here is a group of automobiles that is near a dear to my heart in one way or another, or maybe not.

    In August 14998 we leased a 9-3, our first Saab, and seven months later I totalled it in the California desert when I fell asleep at the wheel.

    The 9-3 (turbo equiped) had great accelleration and enourmous carrying capacity for a car of its size. I racked up one speeding ticket and was able to stuff increadible amounts into its cargo area. The car was not crisp though and it did not give the fit and finish sense I expected for a car at its price.

    The A4 is a very nice atractive, if not sensuos, car. Great exterior styling with a sumptious interior. The engine is anemic though its a V-6.
    After a five hour drive in the middle backseat of an A4 from Munich to Prague and back I very definitly catagorize the A4 as marginally a four adult hauler.

    The 300M looked very nice on the surface and was cosmetically a very attractive car. The engine was loud and unrefined at almost any speed. It had the typical American marque "you get what you pay for" feel to it and I personally believe not much of a contender.

    The Volvo base 850/V70 is a brick and its fels like one too. You get no where fast with this car. You do feel safe in this car and you always know just exactly what is going on between it and the road. The 850/V70 feel is a bit peculiar for the typical American but it does give you a strong sense of security.

    I've riden in @/or extensivly driven the cars you've listed and for me most of them come close or exceed the Volvo in one or two areas but they don't over all make up for the safety, firmness, solidly built, or know depreciation of a used Volvo.

    Nice group of cars yes! But real long term contenders, no!
  • jeffryjeffry Posts: 36
    Has anyone towed a light trailer w/ a Volvo-turbo?? They are supposed to pull 3300 lbs but I am not sure how well. I am considering a light travel trailer 1500-2000 lbs, a Casita or similar. I have an 850 Turbo and am considering the V70 T5-w/ my car the ground clearance would seem to preclude pulling anything as the front scrapes pulling into ANY driveway unless at an angle and slowly, so I am not sure how they consider it could pull anything. Any Feedback or experience is appreciated.
    Volvo offered a rear leveling suspension specifically for use in towing. Your T5 would have Volvo's sport suspension which when added with the lower profile tires you would inevetably be a very low slung automobile. The front scraping problem would most likely go away when pulling a trailer unless you have the rear leveling suspension. The weight on the rear lifts the front end naturally.

    Interesting note to the Volvo is that the head lights are easily re-adjusted for towing. There is a simple dial under the hood behind the head lights that will adjust your light quickly for towing.

    Your trailer is relatively lite but since you most likely you have the sport suspension you'll have to take it easy over any bump.

    I do not own a turbo version but I'm sure Volvo took into account the interest in towing when it built the turbos since the 162 bhp base engine really would be a dog under tow.

    Hope more enteries to your question will preceed since towing is a basic question to Volvo ownership especially in the wagon form.

    Best wishes for the family summer vacation!
    The Volvo wagons you're talking about are literal pocket rockets. They'll smoke the tires off most regular sedans in the market and haul all the stuff home too. The "R" version of these wagons is a serious contender.

    These cars were designed to be as solid as a brick but get up an hustle with any sedan that cared to try. The wagons look better than the sedan too!
    We just purchased a 96 850 base w/ 34K miles white w/ cloth interior no third seat for $20500 from a Los Angeles dealership. I went to at least eight dealerships in our area looking for four weeks at wagons and never came across one near the same mileage or near the same price.

    I think the fact that you know the foibles of the car you might purchase is rather beneficial. I don't know how much you know about cars but if you take a crawl under the car to take a look at the repair from the Corvette you'd get a better idea of how extensive the repair from the rear ending was. $1800 sounds like a rather cosmetic kind of damage so I'd not be inclined to think to badly towards the car your considering.

    If you know who the repair shop was or at least that they were a reputable Volvo repair place I wouldn't worry to much about this accident. Since the 850 is a front wheel drive car there really is little that a car like a Corvette could do to the rear end at slow speed.

    Brakes are another matter though I tend to believe that current Volvos suffer this problem universally. Volvo brakes are very grabby and if you've ever driven the car your considering you'd notice right off the the brakes are very sensitive but then this accounts for Volvo's unbelievably short stopping distance.

    The front brakes on our 34k mile wagon were replaced by the dealership before we purchased it which some what alarmed me too. I've read though in other forums that brakes and the dust they creat on Volvo and Saab's too seem to be a bit problematic but they recommended that you replace your pads with metalic composits from Raybestos next time you got the chance.

    Best wishes and enjoy should you decide to purchase this "bargain."
    #1 of 2: Harmonics (twoof1) Sat 12 Jun '99 (09:43 AM)

    I notice a harmonic distortion with the rear
    window only rolled down. This is not uncommon. It
    has also happened in previous cars I have owned. It
    can be very annoying when my 5-year old decides
    it's time to play roll down the window, however all
    I have to do is lock out the windows and open the
    sun roof for him. Problem solved
    #2 of 2: Noise- (FREDERICK) Sun 13 Jun '99 (07:17 PM)

    We have the same problem with our 850 base wagon.
    It happens only when the rear windows are rolled
    down with everthing else closed. I thought at
    first it might be related to the tires but you'd
    obviously have different tires on your XC than we
  • riig1riig1 Posts: 1
    Last weekend we actually drove the 850 wagon (1996 Black leather etc. around $18K) and were happy to find that the car was basically what we wanted. The only down side was that the leather was a creamish beige, and you could really tell that it was the family hauler. If you know of any heavy duty leather cleaner & conditioner, that would be great. Also, since it came with the boring stock rims (base model), we are thinking about updating / retro fitting the newer Volvo rims to give the car a newer look. The other reason is because the old owners seemed to be drawn to curbs more often than not when parking.

    Due to the price and some timing issues, we will take ownership in August. We have scheduled the car to goto the dealership for Volvo's standard safety inspection (roughly $100) to eliminate any final gitters. Your response was great. We believe that after we have the car completely shampooed, this will be a wonderful new car to us. Now the big question, will I get my 180,000 miles worth of enjoyment out of this car...

    Enjoy, and thanks again

    I know the the Taupe color leather your talking about. My wife and I looked at quite a few 96 cars with this color leathr interior and many of them were in quite shabby shape after only 3 years. The color however is definitly the best leather color for a black car in August. Unlike the Black leather, the Taupe shows all the dirt and scratches but with proper regular care you should be able to enjoy these seats for many years. Kids are problematic with your color seats but just roll with in and do your best to keep them conditioned and clean.

    Your soon to be family wagon should be cleaned regularly with a cleaner like Kiwi's "Propert's Leather and Saddle Soap." Twice a year application with a simple sponge, bucket of warm water, and hand towel will keep your leather soft and clean for years. There are many more sophisticated ways to clean your leather interior, but this simple soap/ conditioner is cheap, easy, proven and w/o all the harsh chemicals that over time could actually lead to acclerated deterioration of your leather.

    Saddle soap is best applied with a simple sponge moistened slightly in a bucket of warm water. Lightly rub the sponge in the Saddle soap and work up a little lather before applying to the leather. Work on small areas at a time and work the lather into the leather and then wipe away with a clean soft towel before it dries. Rinse out the sponge regularly and apply new soap to the sponge.

    You'll find an amazing amount of dirt transfered to your towel but you also be conditioning the leather at the same time. Work carefully and reapply if you feel the leather still is too dirty. Avoid rubbing lots of soap into the stitching since this can promote rotting over a long period of time. Be generous with the soap on the areas of the seats exposed to the harsh summer sunlight since these areas tend to deteriorate nearly as fast and the actual seating surfaces.

    After you've thoroughly cleaned the leather you may choose to use a matched cream polish over the scrathed, dingy, or sundamaged areas. Remeber to thoroughly rub the cream into the leather and then wipe all the residue away so that the color won't be transfered onto someones pants!

    I own a 1978 Cadillac Triple White Seville that I've kept in amazing condition with this foremetioned regimen. You can do it you've just got to do it spend a few hours each year to make those seats last for 180,000 miles.
  • thornthorn Posts: 91
    Check the new Car & Driver for a full test of Euro

    Needless to say, the two Swedes - Saab and Volvo -
    take the rear behind the superlative German wagons
    from Audi, Daimler and BMW. Volvo's Frigidaire
    styling is easily the worst, making it an ideal addition to the Ford stable of ugly.
    You've posted this memo around various Volvo and Saab sites. What exactly is the beef?
  • erikaerika Posts: 1
    Our family is considering a '96 Volvo GLT wagon w/ @ 33K miles. Although we can manage the purchase price (around $22.5), we are concerned about maintenance costs over the long run. Can anyone give us a sense of the quantity and quality of problems the car might experience over the long run?

    Your Volvo really is a little too young to know its long term build quality. Turbos have changed a lot from the early years for all car makes. Saab is developing a completely turbo based line of cars and they are at least from early indications light years ahead of those they sold in the early to mid-eighties.

    As I read around the net on 850 Volvos before we bought our base wagon, they seem to be pretty solid with a few problems in their eletrical system on the earlier models. Brake wear has definitly been an issue because I've read numerous accounts of early pad replacement. Keep your eye on your front pads and replace them when needed before you do real damage to the rotors. Pads are cheap and they are what makes for Volvo's increadibly short stopping distances.

    You've bought a pretty new model and it is much too early to know whether it'll live up to the Volvo reputation. I'm hoping, just like you, that the 850 will indead be a great long term car.

    Best Wishes and enjoy your car. Keep us posted!
  • JPhamJPham Posts: 148
    An informal survey of 850/V70 owners reveal some common reliability issues. You can check it out for yourself at
    and make up your own mind.

  • lightbulblightbulb Posts: 5

    We bought our '94 850 wagon 2 years ago and basically love it. As it was purchased through a dealership, I decided to spend the extra CDN$1,200 and buy a factory extended warranty (call it insurance 'til 2001). Good thing, there's been aprox. $2,500 worth of service to the A/C. The water pump was also just replaced. Despite the service problems, I'm considering a 2nd Volvo and would recommend it. Consider a warranty if available (make sure it's Volvo factory).
    Thorn- (no other name need be given)

    This guy has posted this message all over Edmunds Forums especially in the Saab and Volvo forums. He seems to have a chip on his shoulder against Volvo but he is NOT an OWNER.
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