The 1996 Volvo 850 R Was the Polestar of Its Day

So, it’s not wild and crazy, but it was definitely a uniquely Volvo take on performance.

Volvo has only sold road cars under the Polestar brand name for a few years now, but back in 1996 it offered something very similar, the 850 R. The original 850 R wasn’t a hardcore performance car out for BMW M5 blood, but like today’s V60 Polestar, it mated Volvo’s sensible qualities with some decent real-world performance.

The 850 R was powered by a turbocharged 2.3-liter five-cylinder making 240 hp, and mated to a four-speed automatic. Based on MotorWeek’s testing, this combination delivered a 7.3-second 0-60 mph run, though the 850 R’s braking performance was even more impressive. It took just 100 feet to bring the 850 R from 60 mph to a halt–impressive even by 2017’s standards.

MotorWeek’s John Davis praises the 850 R’s handling and straight-line performance, but criticizes its harsh, not-very-luxurious ride. You could say many of the same things about the current V60 Polestar.

Volvo has changed a lot in recent years, becoming one of the best luxury automakers in the world. But, as this old review shows, they haven’t strayed too far into uncharted territory.


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