So first things first: I know we set a limit of $2,000 on our Cheap Heap of the Week feature cars, but what good are rules if you don’t break them? This reasonably sound looking Volvo 850 Turbo Wagon is selling on CraigsList in Bend, OR for $2,250 – or just nice meal more than our limit. Cook at home for a few weeks to make up the difference.
Second: for those paying attention, my search preferences have apparently transitioned from tubby Ameican luxo-barges to Swedes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Unless you’ve been watching Season 2 of The Umbrella Academy – but I’ll let you figure that out for yourself.
Unlike many of our Cheap Heaps – I’ve actually got some experience with this one. In fact, the first station wagon my wife and I ever bought was this car – but in purple and known affectionately by her first grade students (not totally surprisingly) as the Purple People Eater. We bought it in 1999 with about 115,000 miles on it, and drove it for a couple of years before trading for a Saab 9-5 that was essentially new. The only problem we really had was that there was an incessant rattle under the floorboards every time you turned a corner. Not really catastrophic in the grand scheme of things, and probably very fixable with a little patience (which I sorely lack in such circumstances).
This car obviously needs a good bath, but on the whole it appears remarkably intact and not completely horrible. While the ad doesn’t specify, it looks to me that the front seat upholstery has been replaced at some point in the car’s life, and the rears show a little more “patina”. There’s not indication of the condition of the carpet under the rubber mats, but new mats are readily available if there are carpeting sins to be hidden in a slightly less generic fashion. The seller does indicate that the windshield is new and that the AC and heat “work great”.
A slightly warped dash is not uncommon on these cars, and this one has it. As someone who likes to be coddled, I hope that the factory seat heaters still work. The Swedes do know how to keep their buns warm. The aftermarket Panasonic radio is probably better than the factory system, but appears a little dated by today’s standards, with a standard auxiliary jack and a (huh!) CD player – no sign of USB support here. Bluetooth? I’m guessing no, but a new single-DIN radio to replace this – even a pretty good one – is about $200 installed.
The 850 Turbo’s transverse-mounted inline-five cylinder motor delivered 222hp and 221 lb-ft of torque. That meant that the front wheels – with just a little bit of torque steer – could pull the car from stop to 60mph in just under 7 seconds and on to a top speed of about 145mph. The only real contemporary for this car as a performance wagon – at least on U.S. shores – was the Audi S6 which had comparable performance also from an inline-5. These days, the Audis command more of a premium, especially as the basic Volvo Turbo wagons were overshadowed my the more powerful T5-R which does indeed sell for some big money even is questionable condition.
While somewhat seen as the modern “younger brother” to the stodgy 240-series wagons here in the States, 850 Turbo Wagons were formidable competitors in European racing – most notable the British Touring Car Championship series. They were also the mid-90s “go to” vehicle for police forces throughout Europe because they were faster than just about anything criminals drove. Not bad references, especially for a $2,250 car.
We are big station wagon fans at my house, having owned something like seven of them over the years, even before kids. Heck – we even tried the minivan thing but went back to wagons because we are just car people at heart. The 850 Turbo was one of our favorites, because it has huge cargo capacity (absolutely cavernous if you fold the back seat down), has lots of get up and go, is easy to work on, nicely equipped, and just a little different than what most of the other soccer moms and dads drive. Did I mention that it’s fast? It also makes good engine noise. Need a fun hauler? Haul in this.