2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the Volvo 850. Dubbed by the automaker as the car that changed everything, the 850 was Volvo's replacement for the 200 Series and featured the world's first transverse five-cylinder engine.
Work on developing the 850 began as early as 1978 during a meeting. According to Volvo, the new car was to “aim for the starts” and the project was christened Galaxy. The Volvo 850 made its world premiere in the Stockholm Globe Arena on June 11 1991 and was considered one of the biggest engineering endeavors in Sweden at the time.
It was launched with the slogan "A dynamic car with four unique innovations" and these included the aforementioned five cylinder transverse engine, the Delta-link rear axle, Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) and the self adjusting seat belt reel for the front seats. The wagon soon followed nearly two years later when it was launched in February 1993 and was given a slight facelift in 1994.
While it offered a host of innovations under the skin, the 850's exterior was traditional Volvo with a modern twist with signature boxy design featuring a few soft edges. The Volvo 850 also became the first mass-produced car to come with side-impact airbags plus ABS standard across the range. The wagon on the other hand featured tail lights that ran the whole height of the D-pillar, now a common trait in Volvo wagons. Initially introduced with a 2.5 liter 20-valve engine, it produces 170 PS and 220 Nm of torque. A more sedate 10-valve version appeared in 1994 with 144 PS and 206 Nm of torque.
A high performance model joined the lineup in 1994 with the 850 Turbo, renamed 850 T5 year after. A Porsche-developed T-5R was launched in 1995 which boosted power by 18 PS from the T5's output of 225 PS. The T-5R put 243 PS and 340 Nm of torque. It was followed up the 850R in 1996.
Following the footsteps of its predecessor, the 200 Series, the 850 also entered motorsports. The 850 has been noted for being the first wagon to enter touring car racing when it ran the British Touring Car Championship during the 1994 season. The sedan raced in the series from 1995 to 1996.
By the end of its production in 1996, Volvo had built 1,360,522 850s over the span of five years. It was succeeded by the S70, a heavily updated version of the 850.