18 May 2020
More than an old car #143: Volvo 850
I am not sure how much does the average person knows about Volvos, but perhaps you may have heard something about their brick/tank-like safety. To be honest, when I saw this previously, I did not really put much thought in it other than 'it's a old car'. After some research, I was quite surprised that this 1996 Volvo 850 SE was a unicorn!
Volvo had built up a reputation for making safe and reliable cars, but as a result of this it was often associated with a less-than-favourable image of snobbish intellectual elites. Sales started to slow down and it reported its first loss in history in 1990. Therefore, Volvo had to reinvent itself to remain relevant during that period.
When it was first introduced in 1991, it was launched with the slogan "A dynamic car with 4 unique innovations", namely the newly-developed 5-cylinder engine that powered the front wheels, Delta-link rear axle, Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) and a self-adjusting seatbelt reel for the front seats. The 850 still retained iconic cues such as the boxy, spacious interior and the emphasis on safety with SIPS, a system of honeycomb material used in the sills, B-pillar and doors that dispersed the shock of a side impact. It was originally available only in sedan form, with the wagon coming later in 1993. The 850 was facelifted in 1994, featuring thinner headlights, new indicators and bumpers. Sedans, previously known as the GLE, was renamed to SE too.
Volvo also made a limited-edition version known as the T-5R, featuring a more powerful turbocharged engine with unique wheels and interior modifications. From what I understand, there used to be a handful of them in Singapore but none have remained. This 850 SE was powered by a 1984 cc B5204FS i5 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 215 km/h with an acceleration of 8.6 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4661 mm long and weighed 1500 kg, with a fuel consumption of 8.8 litres/100 km.
Production of the 850 ended in 1996 with 716,903 units made in total. The 850 was first sold locally in 1992 by SM Motors, our local Volvo dealer. This particular unit was once red before it underwent a makeover to look like the range-topping T-5R, from the iconic Cream Yellow paint to the more aggressive-looking front lip. I believe this car is still around although I have not seen it ever since I took this picture 3 years ago. This could very well be the only one left here, with not more than 5 as a reasonable estimate! I do not know whether you can see this again, but at least you will be aware of this unlikely classic roaming the roads!