Buying a Volvo 850 or 70 Series car
The Volvo 850 was the car that turned the tides for Volvo, giving a new image that was modern and up-to-date in motoring terms. The 850 T5 was not a car to argue with, and this led many UK police forces to buy the car in large numbers especially for motorway policing. The BTCC saw its first Volvo under the guidance of TWR, who previously raced the Jaguar. Such was the appreciation of the technology of the new series of Volvo cars.
The car has been sold in large numbers all over the world, and many fleet managers have added them to their fleets. The resale values of the 850 series have now come down and they can be bought by younger motorists who want to enjoy the pleasures that driving these cars give. In the UK an ex police T5 estate with around 170,000 miles on the clock can be bought for as little as £2500. The 850 has continued to live up to the Volvo reputation of longevity. In fact, low or average mileage cars are hard to find. If you own one you want to drive it, often.
The original 850 was still a little 'boxy' but in a very pleasing way. It was smooth and quiet and had a large range of options of trim. The leg room in front and rear is good and the rear arm rest can double as a child seat. Heated front seats are standard and heated rear are optional. Sunroofs were not normally fitted if the car had AC or ECC. The dash was well laid out and wood is available on some models, and ventilation is good, but the side windows do mist up in the winter if the windows are shut. If you have dogs in the back then this can get bad. Extractor fans are an accessory and will remove condensation in the cabin. Engine options are 2.0, 2.5, 2.3 Turbo and a low pressure turbo. The 2.0 and 2.5 also come in 10 valve or 20 valve variants. The 20 valve variant is much smoother. The T5 (225bhp)and T5R (250bhp) are for those who want a car with performance. But be aware that this power will cost you new front tyres after about 8,000 miles if you constantly drive it hard. It is possible to get around 25,000 miles if driven sensibly. The auto versions have a 'Sport' mode button on the gear box. The power comes in very quickly on the T5 and R and it is easy to spin the front wheels even on a dry road. You need to get up to about 30mph before 'opening it up'. You need to control the right foot, or see your tyres wear away infront of your eyes. In July 2000 the 850 T5 estate was voted as the 'best buy' in the used car market by the UK's "Top Gear"
The S70 and V70 series that took over from the 850 in late 1996 was more rounded and the interior was redesigned. There were a number of improvements to the engine. On the turbo models the power curve was re-mapped to reduce the raw power at low rpm. This was intended to improve the driveability. The power output of some of the engines was also increased slightly. The T5 had 240bhp but the 'Sport' mode button was removed as it was fitted with an 'adaptive' gearbox. A number of new options were available on most models. Around 1999 there were more changes to the engine and gearboxes. These were based on the S80.
In March 2000 the 'new' V70 was released and was based on the S80, with many new changes. The pre 2000 V70 was renamed the V70 Classic and came with many extras at a very attractive price.
The depreciation of these cars is lower than most cars, and finding good ones can take some time. Most models sold were estates. So what do you look for when buying one?
All models go through brake discs (rotors) and pads quickly, especially if you drive them hard, or tow. Average life is around 30-40,000 miles. But this varies according to how the car is driven. But this is a price you pay for outstanding brakes. You don't get anything for nothing.
If you are looking at a turbo version listen for any whine from the turbo, this is best heard at low speeds at moderate acceleration. If there is a turbo gauge fitted then pull away from rest with just enough acceleration to put the needle into the red area, this shows the turbo is engaged. Although it is not a fault, as many turbos do whine, it can also indicate wear. They don't come cheap.
Check the tyres for abnormal wear patters, this could indicate problems with steering or suspension. Also make sure the steering is positive, without any free play. Also be sure the make of tyre is a suitable make and not a cheap tyre. Tyres for the T5 and T5R can cost up to £150 each. Do not fit cheap tyres to these cars as you will only be inviting an accident.
Check the load area of estates for any indications that it has been used by a builder or similar. Premature wear of the rear shock absorbers could be present here.
If the car is fitted with air conditioning or electronic climate control be sure they work correctly. Faulty components can lead to very high repair bills.
The body is sound and should not present any problems, but check for paint discolouration or mis-match as this could be accident repair.