Fast Estates: Volvo 850 R

Given its brash looks, Gareth's 850 R is far from the ill-mannered hooligan you might imagine it to be. It's sensible, refined and approachable. You might even call it a bit soft if you're feeling harsh.

Part of the reason for this is that, despite it's wild-child skirts, spoilers, colour and wheels, it's still a Volvo. And that means comfy seats, sensible, clear switchgear and instrumentation, and (of course) oodles of space.

The 850 R is also, despite looks, power and marketing to the contrary, not the most extreme of the fast 850s. That accolade goes to the limited-run T5-R, which was actually created with a more focussed and less comfort-biased set-up than the later R models, the logic apparently being that since the R was a full production model it would have to be softened off at its dynamic edges.

You can see the logic, too - sure, the old girl judders and shudders a bit around corners and there's plenty of body roll, but for a 15-year old car worth around £1800 it can move along the road at a fair old lick, and that turbocharged 5-cylinder motor produces a pleasant muted off-beat gargle.

The only problem with Gareth's car is that its auto gearbox does rob it of a wee bit of its urge. Although even that has its positive side - the torque converter eliminates all but the merest hint of torque steer

Smita: "The looks bely that amazingly refined chassis"

Chris: "The 850 looks great fun, and when I see it I don't see the road car - I can only imagine it as that mad touring car"

Jeremy: "It's refined but pacey - to be honest it was quite a surprise, nothing like you'd expect"

Pics: George Williams

P.H. O'meter

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