UK CAR Reviews: Volvo T5 CD 2.3 20V DOHC Turbo Saloon 1996.



The beauty and the beast? - The sexy Volvo?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha

ho ho ho ho ho ho

he he he he he he he

Ha ha ha ha ha ha

ho ho ho ho ho ho

he he he he he he he

Ha ha ha ha ha ha   ......................................................... !!!!!!


Come on guys get serious, there are some things that are just fixed in stone, things which are the foundations of our society, without which it would crumble into anarchy.

We all know what they are, they are instilled into us at birth.

Ferraris are very fast.

Red sports cars are fast.

Red Ferraris go very fast indeed.

Volkswagens are reliable.

Land Rovers aren't.

German cars are well built.

Italian cars aren't.

Volvos are safe.

Volvos are boring.

Volvos are ugly.

Volvos are not not not sexy!

Well things, they are a changin'.  Take a look at the latest Volvos. What was once the last refuge of cubism has suddenly come over all curvy and sensual. The Swedes have dragged in a new English designer and what a job he did - so good that good old Ford have bought the tiny Swedish producer for a staggering 4 billion. Compare that to the pittance BM paid for the entirety of the British Motor Industry and its heritage!

But before the meatball-eaters could go from woolly jumpers to silk stockings, they had to test the water first - and that's exactly what I got hold of, the toe test: bold engine in old style 850 body.

Aint that just a loverleeee little thing,  no ! , what do you mean no ?

Well here it is then, isn't it a wonderful thing?

Okay, Okay so it's not the best looking car in the world, but there are plenty of worse looking cars, admittedly most of them are Volvos, but at least it showed the Swedes were starting to make an effort. Check out those chubby alloys, those alone must triple the sex appeal.

( yes - but 3 * 0 is still Zero ) - ED.

Beauty is of course only skin deep, and this car just as any other Volvo is thick skinned enough to protect even the most stupid and inconsiderate driver, having the usual large complement of protective Armour and safety gadgets. The interior is LARGE and roomy and the boot is usefully LARGE and will easily take two LARGE golf bags and the other usual accoutrements which accompany this car.

Pointing the remote central locking key fob at the car and blipping the button opens up the car and things start to look better - lots better! Climb in and shut the door and it closes with a satisfyingly heavy duty thunk. Then survey the vast expanse of gadgets before you.

The interior manages to contain an entire Ikea showroom, complete with three-piece leather suite,  a couple of wooden sideboards and deep pile carpets. Beige is probably my least favorite colour and, whilst I may not choose it for my front room, it does look particularly good in this Volvo.Volvo 850 T5 CD Leather Interior

Top gadget Numero Uno are the electric height adjustable memory seats which slide and tilt smoothly in just about every conceivable direction. These are top toys, shame then that once you've adjusted it to your preference and set the memory, you never get to play with it again. Still, never mind there's plenty of other toys to keep you amused - no wonder Volvo drivers never seem to be paying attention to where they are going! Fire up the motor, creep out into the traffic stream and it all seems normal. Everything feels solid and slightly heavy - steering, gear change, handbrake, pedals, indicator stalk. The whole car seems to be hewn from a single block of steel. The suspension is a little fidgety and is certainly on the firm side but at normal speeds it cruises around with a solid steady reassured feel of rock steady stability.

The traffic's starting to thin out as we reach the outskirts of civilization and as the traffic evaporates, I end up sat behind a single solitary motorist obviously looking for a turning. As he indicates, I pull, slot into third gear, pulling out past him I push the long throttle down towards the shag pile ,  .............................. wooooooooooooooow      milliseconds later the turbo has kicked in and hurled the big Volvo down the road as the rev counter sweeps past 4k, the front tyres give up the unequal struggle and wail and shriek as large amounts of decidedly uncivilized torque swamps them.

It's a trick the Volvo can play in most gears, throw in a few corners and it will perform on demand in every gear. The steering starts to join in now too, pulling against the turn strongly - torque steer, a trait most front-wheel drive wagons eliminated years ago! Those other Swedes at Saab have said all along that 200 bhp was the sensible limit for front wheel drive; those at Volvo prove it conclusively by turning the strait laced 850 into a raging beast of a car.Volvo 850 T5 2.3 engine#

But if you have a semi-sensitive right foot, it can be very usable performance. There is strength at very low revs despite the lack of turbo boost and the turbo comes in early to give a wide power-band. Depending on year, this motor may chuck out between 225 and 250 horses, but these ain't little miniature Japanese pit-ponies, these are a dirty great massive Swedish version of shire-horses.

Mid 7 second 0 to 60 or less should be possible once the wheels stop spinning, and the power won't abate until well past 140mph. These are damned impressive figures for such a big, heavy car, assuring all us mature types that there will be no need to suffer traffic light grand prix embarrassment at the hands of some spotty, baseball capped idiot in his chrome tail piped Vauxhall Nova!

Top toy number two arrives here in the form of a trip computer which shows you enough stats to keep you constantly amused. My personal favorite setting was the fuel consumption. 

Rolling down a gentle hill, sitting behind a law abiding driver saw the figures go up to a very impressive 99 mpg (yeah, right!).  It doesn't last though - low to mid-thirties for light throttle on the flat, dipping easily to low twenties up a slight incline. Press the loud pedal and it happily plummets into the teens, nail it further down and you will be far too busy to be looking at the read-out and let's face it, it's probably best not to see what the horrendous truth is at this point. The most useful setting in reality, is probably the estimate of how many miles you have left before you will be walking to yet another petrol station. The cruise control can probably save all but the most abstemious from too severe a wallet battering but hey, what's the point of one of these if you can't indulge every now and again?Volvo 850 T5 Dashboard

Now any good performance car worth its salt should be able to  

1) draw gasps of admiration from your friends and peers, and

2) turn a few heads - either of totty as you cruise coolly by, or from gangs of youths every time you park up.

Discussing the Volvo with an Audi driving rep mate of mine, I was actually surprised to hear the awe in which this motor is held by the outside lane hoggers. Even the BM equipped, top end stripy shirts don't bother flashing the headlights at one of these; they know there is no way past. So, that's test number 1 passed with flying colours.

Unfortunately, the weather appeared to be too inclement for the totty to turn out during my tenure, so I had to revert to plan B to receive some gratuitous gratification. Go down to the take-away, park car in clear view, retire to the takeaway window and wait. Hmmmmm! Local youths don't seem too impressed either. In fact the only bite was the interest of a 50 something, bearded, pipe-smoking jumper wearer. So, that's that then! You're never going to pull in this motor and it fails test 2 miserably!


So, has Volvo turned the foundations of civilization on its head or is the status quo maintained?

I will have to reserve judgement until I've tried one of the new curvy Volvos

but, until then

Volvos are safe (mostly - as long as you don't push it too far).

Volvos are no longer ugly.

Volvos are no longer boring.

But, Volvos are still not not not yet sexy!


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