In the market for an uncommon estate that can outrun the average hot hatchback? We’ve got just the car for you – and it might not be one that you expect.
It comes from Volvo, a brand that now epitomises premium comfort and technology. Dramatic, exuberant special-edition models? Not so much.
We’re focusing on the Volvo 850, which was introduced in 1991 as the successor to the Volvo 240. Available in both estate and saloon body-styles, the 850 is practical and classy in equal measure. But we’re more interested in the performance version – the second one, to be precise, which is the aptly named 850R.
Introduced in 1996, the 850R followed the limited-edition 850 T-5R, which itself produced 18bhp more than the standard 850 Turbo. The 850R, meanwhile, bumped up the performance to even greater heights.
Under the skin, it gained a bigger Garrett turbocharger and upgrades for the intercooler, manifolds and fuel pressure sensor. Its suspension was also bolstered with stiffer dampers and slimmer anti-roll bars.
So power, then. The 850R produced 247bhp and 243lb ft of torque from a 2.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which meant it could cover 0-62mph in 6.9sec using a five-speed manual, or 7.5sec with the four-speed auto. Top speed was capped at 155mph.
The heavy-duty manual gearbox is deemed the ultimate choice for this front-wheel-drive model because it was designed specifically for the 850R. It also benefited from a viscous-coupling limited-slip differential.
There were a few exterior styling changes for a subtly sporty look, such as a new rear spoiler and 17in Volan wheels, while the inside had Alcantara sports seats, a two-tone leather steering wheel and ‘R’ branding.
The downside is you might have to search high and low for an 850R, because they’re increasingly rare. Just 143 remain on UK roads, with a further 162 currently SORN.