Best 1990s Sleeper Ever: The 1996 Volvo 850R Sportswagon – Prove Us Wrong

Best 1990s Sleeper Ever: The 1996 Volvo 850R Sportswagon – Prove Us Wrong

Yeah, 20 years on and I still want one of these things. I remember chewing up every car magazine that came to my house when I was 16 years old and every single one of them lost their mind over this particular car. A turbocharged 5-cylinder engine and in the case of this review an automatic transmission made this car hustle well. It was the suspension that rally got people spun up. The whole chassis of the car was updated and upgraded in all the ways that we now expect with more aggressive spring rates, upgraded sway bars, nice 18″ wheels with high performance tires, etc.

The European market got a stick shift version that actually made more power because of the upgraded transmission and clutch that were used in that application. The USA only got the automatic but whatever, I still want one.

I think this car was the best sleeper of the 1990s because it was way out of left field. Volvos were the suburban mom-buggy of the upwardly mobile at that time and no one in their right freaking mind would have expected them to produce a high performance station wagon that (a) actually looked cool (b) actually had some guts and (c) could blow the doors off of a 454SS pickup truck at the strip and certainly in the twisties.

Personally, I think these cars have aged well and I’d love to find a relatively clean one and maybe even lean on it a little harder than they did from the factory. A little most boost and fuel and that sucker would make 300hp all day long and really be some fun to drive.

Am I crazy or just plain wrong? You tell me.

Press play to see this retro-review of the 1996 Volvo 850R Sportswagon

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6 thoughts on “Best 1990s Sleeper Ever: The 1996 Volvo 850R Sportswagon – Prove Us Wrong

  1. cletus

    Meh. I can say as a former owner of a 1990 ss454 when i was 18, id much rather had the truck. it may be slower, but when i turned the key it turned heads. smokey burnouts for days, plus i could tow the boat to the lake like there wasnt anything behind me. the only downside i ever acknowledge about it was the gas footage and having to run 89 minimum in it.

  2. Patrick

    I believe the Volvo wagons beat the factory Camaros in SCCA showroom stock for the championship

  3. stitchdup

    I used to watch them race in the bttc championships on tv, and the cops on this side of the pond loved them because of the power and handling. I’m sure I read somewhere that the only mods to the cop version was an uprated oil cooler for the turbo

  4. larryw

    My brother in law had one of these. Good (not great) fun on high speed winding roads where you can keep it spooled up, but a real turd in normal driving. No low-end and the turbo would only come in on the upper end. That romance ended quickly.

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