1996 Volvo 850 Turbo Platinum Edition

This page is about my 1996 Volvo 850 Turbo Platinum Edition. I bought the car in 2013 at the IPD Garage Sale in Portland, OR – one of the largest Volvo car shows in the country.

About the Platinum Edition

1500 Platinum Edition (also known as the “TLA” model) cars were built, with supposedly 1000 sedan models and 500 wagon models.  Presumably, the platinum edition refers to the “Platinum Anniversary” (70 years) of Volvo Cars, which was founded in 1926 (although the first car rolled off the line in 1927).

Here are photos of the platinum edition sedan and wagon from Volvo:

854

855

The defining feature of the Platinum Edition is the special 3-layer pearlescent white paint (Paint Code 424 – Platinum Pearl Metallic).  The cars were also loaded with nearly all factory options, and came with the high-output (high-pressure) “Turbo” engine option and the 16″x6″ five spoke “Persus” wheels.

Below are the full specifications for United States 850 models, comparing 1996 models primarily, but with a few notes on other years.

Click to Show Specifications Table

Styles Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
Starting MSRP (1996) $26,300 $29,635 $33,135 $36,885 $37,925
Body Exterior Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
Number of doors: 4 X X X X X
Power door mirrors X X X X X
Heated door mirrors X X X X X
Spoiler $385 $385 $385 S X
Rear cargo Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
Trunk S S S S S
Liftgate W W W W W
Cargo Cover O (W) O (W) O (W) O (W) O (W)
Convenience Features Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
Power moonroof X X X X
Memory seat $495 X X X X
Air conditioning X X X X X
Power front windows X X X X X
Remote keyless entry O X X X X
Automatic temperature control O X X X X
Tilt steering wheel X X X X X
Telescoping steering wheel X X X X X
Speed (cruise) control X X X X X
Entertainment Features Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
AM/FM radio X X X X X
Cassette X X X X X
CD player $485 $485 $485 X X
Lighting, Visibility and Instrumentation Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
Trip computer $395 $395 X X X
Rear window wiper W W W W W
Rear window defroster X X X X X
Outside temperature display $485 $485 $485 X X
Headlight cleaning $485 $485 $485 X X
Front fog lights $725 $725 $725 X X
Powertrain Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
Engine: non-turbo (B5254S) X 1993-96
Engine: low-pressure turbo (B5254T) 1997
Engine: high-pressure turbo (B5234T) X X
Engine: high-pressure turbo (B5234TR) X
Engine cylinders: Inline-5 X X X X X
Engine valves: 20 valves, DOHC X X X X X
Fuel tank capacity: 19.3 gal. X X X X X
Engine liters Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
2.4 liters (B5254S, B5254T) X X
2.3 liters (B5234T, B5234TR) X X X
Fuel economy city Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
20mpg X X
19mpg X X X
Fuel economy highway Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
29mpg X X
26mpg X X X
Horsepower Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
168hp @ 6,200RPM (B5254S) X 1993-96
190hp @ 5,100RPM (B5254T) 1997
222hp @ 5,200RPM (B5234T) X X
240hp @ 5,200RPM (B5234TR) X
Torque Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
162 lb.-ft. @ 3,300RPM (B5254S) X 1993-96
199 lb.-ft. @ 1,800 RPM (B5254T) 1997
221 lb.-ft. @ 2,100RPM (B5234T, R) X X X
Recommended fuel Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
Premium unleaded X X
Regular unleaded X X X
Transmission Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
4 speed automatic (AW 50-42) $975 $975 X X X
5 speed manual (M56H) X X
Safety and Security Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
Dual front impact airbags X X X X X
Front side impact airbags X X X X X
Security system X X X X X
Integrated rear child (booster) seats O O O O O
ABS brakes X X X X X
Traction control $810 $810 $810 X X
Seats and Trim Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
Front seats: bucket X X X X X
Rear seats: split folding X X X X X
Heated front seats $485 $485 $485 X X
Power driver seat $495 X X X X
Power passenger seat $495 $495 $495 X X
Leather upholstery $1,195 $1,195 $1,195 X X
Leather steering wheel wrap $395 $395 X X X
Suspension/Handling Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
Power steering X X X X X
Auto-leveling rear suspension (Nivomat) O O O O O
Alloy wheels $400 X X X X
Tires Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
195/60V R15 X X
205/50Z R16 BSW X X
205/45Z R17 X
Wheels Base GLT Turbo Platinum R
Steel with plastic hub cover, 15″ X
Alloy, 15×6.5″ 43mm offset – typically “Cetus” $400 X
Alloy, 16×6.5″ 43mm offset – typically “Columba” X
Alloy, 16×6.5″ 43mm offset – “Persus” X
Alloy, 17×7″ 43mm offset – “Volans” (on 1995 T5-R, “Titan”) X

 

 

Note that outside the U.S. you could also get a 10-valve engine for fuel economy (instead of 20-valve), and Turbo and R models were available with a manual transmission.  Wheel options were also different in other markets.

 

Many Options for fast Wagons

But wait, why not an 850 R instead of a platinum?  They’re faster and cooler, right?  Well, that depends on your point of view.  They are good looking cars, especially the lemon yellow of the desirable 1995 T5-R models.

1995 Volvo 850 T-5R wagon

VP1856

1996-97 Volvo 850 R wagon

VP1855

There are also the later 1998-2000 V70R models, but they do not really hold my interest because of their unreliable (and unavoidable) all-wheel-drive. This was Volvo’s first foray into all-wheel-drive and while the system was good, it requires a lot of upkeep. Some people end up removing the driveshaft and just using them as front-wheel-drive cars.

1998+ V70R wagon

VP1857

Another good option for a fast wagon from this era would be the 1998-2000 V70 “T5 M” – meaning a Turbo/T-5 motor option (high pressure turbo) combined with a manual transmission (M56 five-speed).  However, these models are fairly uncommon.

Starting in 2001, of course, Volvo switched from the P80 platform (1993-2000 front wheel drive / all wheel drive models) to the P2 platform (2001-2007  S60, V70, and XC70).

 

Volvo 850 Turbo models versus the “R” models

While 1995 850 T5-R and 1996-97 850 R models are plentiful (some estimates say 5,000 were produced globally, including 2,000 of the 1995 T5-R model, and other sources say 5,000-7,000 850 R and 5,500 T5-R were produced, for over 10,000 total), many of them have been heavily abused and are often tastelessly modified.  Modifications only add value to a car if you would have made the same choices.  Otherwise, it’s one more thing to have to fix.

So what about the 850 Turbo, which the Platinum Edition is based off of?  Isn’t that a lower spec than the 850 R?

In the United States, the 850 R has the same motor (B5234T), transmission (AW 50-42), and turbocharger (Mistubishi 15g) as the 850 Turbo.  The only difference is that the R engine has a slightly different computer with a higher maximum turbo boost for 23 more peak horsepower.

Outside the U.S., there are more meaningful differences, mainly between the manual transmission and automatic transmission Turbo and R models.  According to the wikipedia page, a very rare 1996 850 R was produced with a larger turbocharger (Mitsu. 16t instead of 15g), redesigned intercooler and exhaust manifold, and heavier-duty M59 manual transmission with limited slip.  But, pie in the sky for U.S. residents.

The 850 R models also had a lot of styling accessories – bigger wheels (17″x7″ instead of 16″x6″ on the Turbo), a different interior (stainless steel door sills, “sport” leather seats” and so forth), a different front bumper, and the wagon models of the 850 R got a rear spoiler (1996-97 anyway). The 850 R supposedly also had firmer suspension (springs, shocks and sway bars), and a rare few had Ohlins shocks and struts.

But none of the R models had pearlesent paint, and almost all had the “R interior” which is one of those polarizing “love it or hate it” kind of things.  Personally, I can do without it – it looks like it’s trying too hard.

 

Why an 850?  Why switch to front-wheel-drive?

Two of my main reasons for looking for an upgrade to the 240 are safety and comfort.  The 850 nails it in both of these categories.  First, safety: 4 airbags (instead of 1), better design for side impacts (SIPS), transversely mounted engine for better frontal-offset impact outcomes, traction control, and engineers so confident that Volvo gave you a free a $1 million life insurance policy ($250,000 per occupant) on all new 850s during the warranty period.  While the 240 is a very safe car (although designed in the 1970s), it’s hard to argue that it’s safer than the 850 (designed in the 1990s).

As far as comfort goes, the 850 has a nice ride, independent rear suspension (well sort of) and it is a lot quieter inside.  The seats are more comfortable, and everything is more luxurious.  There is also the 60/40 split rear seat, which is really nice to have when you need it.  But that’s what you’d expect from a car that cost almost $40,000 back in 1996 (about $58,000 today, adjusted for inflation).

 

Why did I buy this platinum 850?

Well first, it’s been well maintained – in the last year, it had:

  • timing belt
  • water pump
  • ignition components
  • PCV system
  • brakes
  • ABS module replacement

The paint and interior are also in excellent condition for the age (except for the leather seats, which need to be recovered).

 

My 850 – when purchased – May 2013

Second, the modifications that had been done were tasteful and not too ridiculous:

That said, I did end up either upgrading or replacing several of those modifications.

Now for the downsides: 240,000 miles – that’s a lot for an 850, or any car.  So, a compression check was in order (which I recommend on any high-mileage car), and the results were good: 165PSI across all cylinders (spec is 156-185PSI).  Everything else checked out (the only engine codes were related to running the exhaust without a catalytic converter, and the check engine light went away after swapping on the IPD stainless exhaust and the ARD orange tune with M4.4 upgrade).  Frankly, after owning several cars with low miles that had sat around without maintenance, I would much rather own a higher-mileage car that’s had proper care than a low mileage car that hasn’t.

The other major downside of this car is that it’s been in a minor accident (about two or three years ago), enough that the hood and both front fenders were repainted.  This isn’t a big deal to me as the title is still clean, and they did a great job on the paint.  The rear bumper was also resprayed at some point.

Upgrades and Repairs

New Wheels – 2014

Various repairs and upgrades – 2013-2014

  • Replaced all burned out light bulbs, including those in the cluster, dash and console
  • Adjusted shift interlock cable to prevent shifter and key sticking
  • Replaced PCV hose clamp
  • Fixed broken cargo cover
  • Fixed rattles in dash
  • Replaced tailgate shocks with new OEM units
  • Replaced cabin air filter – and I’m glad I did
  • Replaced computer with ARD Orange Tune and M4.4 upgrade
  • Replaced OBX stainless exhaust with IPD stainless exhaust
  • Added a set of new OEM volvo tan rubber floor mats
  • Added Weathertech tan rear cargo mat (designed to fit the 850)
  • Programmed two more remotes and had the dealership cut two new keys
  • New license plates (old ones were peeling)
  • Replaced 18×8 Volvo “Mirzam” wheels (235/40/18 Riken Raptor tires) with 16×7 Enkei “J10” silver wheels (with 215/55/16 Bridgestone Potenzas)
  • Replaced front fender liners that were damaged from the giant 235/40/18 tires
  • Replaced the missing nylon steering stops (part #31212189 or #1010359) with custom made nylon stops about 3x as thick as originals, made from a nylon cutting board, to prevent new tires from rubbing on the new fender liners at full lock
  • Removed OEM trailer hitch (what are you going to tow with this car, honestly)
  • Bilstein HD front struts and rear shocks.  No more Nivomats!

Manual Transmission Swap – Summer 2015

  • Volvo M56H transmission from 1997 Volvo 850 non-turbo – also reused shifter, shifter cables, throwout fork, clutch pedal box.
  • Rebuilt transmission with new differential – Quaife Limited Slip, puchased from Re-Volv Parts, who pressed on new differential bearings for me.  Highly recommend these guys.
  • New axle seals and input shaft seal on transmission (Volvo OEM)
  • Resurfaced flywheel (single-mass from 1997 850)
  • Euro 850 R clutch and pressure plate (Volvo OEM)
  • New clutch master cylinder, hydraulic line, slave cylinder, throwout bearing, flywheel and pressure plate bolts, rear main seal (all Volvo OEM)
  • Snabb short-throw shifter kit

Other upgrades and fixes – Summer 2015

  • Non-turbo intake manifold and throttle body (came off of 1997 850 donor car, has a bigger bore) and 960 throttle body plate (found at junkyard)
  • Snabb 3″ turbo inlet pipe (black silicone)
  • IPD ram-air cone filter and airbox
  • Do88.se reverse intercooler piping and upgraded intercooler (black silicone)
  • Do88.se silicone coolant hoses, heater hoses and coolant lines throughout (black silicone)
  • Various other vacuum lines replaced with silicone
  • New Volvo OEM HD subframe bushings (from XC90)
  • New Volvo OEM front, rear, and side motor mounts
  • IPD street spec sway bars
  • IPD performance lowering springs (lowered by about about 1.7-2.0 inches)

Still needed

  • New ebrake cables and/or pads (adjustment is maxed out)
  • New seat back tilt motor cables (driver’s side had become disconnected)
  • Reupholster or replace front seats
  • Valve guide seal replacement
  • Re-shimming of AC compressor
  • Non-turbo camshaft installation
  • New upper and lower torque mounts
  • Better stereo with working FM radio

 

Pictures

Road Trip through the Southwest – May 2014

After Manual Transmission Swap – August 2015