When Volvo reached

for the stars

Volvo 850 estate, front
Volvo 850 T5, British Touring Car Championships
Volvo 850 saloon, front
Volvo 850 saloon, side
Volvo 850 estate, side
Volvo 850 estate, rear

TIME zooms by very quickly in the automotive arena so it is hard to believe that 25 years have passed since Volvo launched a real game changer.

The Volvo 850 was the car that set the company on a new course - it was a front-wheel-drive car with a five-cylinder transverse engine and achieved great things.

The 850 was the result of the Galaxy project, which got its name because it was aiming for the stars.

Apart from playing a major role on the driveways of Britain it gained great success in the field of motorsport, and was the first car from Volvo available with all-wheel-drive.

The Volvo 850 GLT had its world premiere in the Stockholm Globe Arena on June 11 in 1991.

The model was the result of one of Sweden's largest industrial investments and differed fundamentally from previous Volvo designs. In addition to front-wheel drive, and its then unusual five-cylinder transverse engine it offered a whole new level of driving pleasure for Volvo fans.

Sophistication was the name of the game with Delta-link rear axle designed in-house, an integrated side-impact protection system, SIPS, and the self-adjusting front seat belt.

Even though the design was reminiscent of the 700 series, the 850 was a completely new car.

The work on developing the model began back in 1978. At a meeting held that year, it was decided that it was now time to think freely and aim for the stars. That's why the project was christened Galaxy.

Project Galaxy resulted in two model series - one Swedish and one Dutch. The underlying technology was developed jointly; after this the teams split up. The Dutch company Volvo Car B.V went on to develop what would become the 400 series, while Volvo Cars in Sweden developed the 850 series.

The first model to be presented was the 850 GLT, with its 20-valve naturally aspirated engine producing 170bhp.

During the development phase, Volvo worked actively to make the 850 GLT a lively car that delivered great driving pleasure while achieving the correct intake and exhaust noise.

The next important 850 version was presented in February 1993 - the estate car. It boasted typical Volvo features such as the abruptly ending rear section for maximum load capacity. One new design feature, however, was the extended vertical tail lights that covered the entire D-post.

The estate version was subsequently awarded the coveted Japanese distinction "1994 Good Design Grand Prize" as well as the Italian "Most beautiful estate".

The 850 series was soon expanded with various engine options.

The model that would achieve most attention was presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 1994. With its distinctive yellow colour, the T-5R really stood out like an exclamation mark on wheels.

This special model was intended to be manufactured in a run of 2,500 cars. The turbocharged engine with intercooler produced 240bhp and 330Nm of torque. The equipment on the car included special spoilers, a square exhaust pipe and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The yellow cars sold out in a couple of weeks, and so the same number of black cars were produced, finally followed by a run of 2,500 dark green T-5Rs.

Right from the outset, the press called the Volvo 850 "the world's safest car", and in 1995 it introduced another world first in terms of safety. At this point, the Volvo 850 became the first mass-produced car to come with side-impact airbags.

1996 was the final year the 850 was in production. When the models underwent a major upgrade in 1997, the designations were changed to S70 for the saloon models and V70 for the estate version.

A total of 1,360,522 cars were built in model versions originating from the 850 series.


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