Back when I was in high school, I had a pretty cool car: a 1996 Volvo 850 Turbo sedan. This may not sound cool to you, the casual observer, but it was cool: It had 222 horsepower, and a rather exciting turbocharged engine that made it seem like nothing was going to happen until something happened. And oh, boy, did something happen. Usually, it broke. But it was pretty quick.
This was an especially cool car because everyone else in my high school drove boring vehicles, like Hondas, and Kias, and hand-me-down Ford Explorers, so I had the fastest car in the parking lot. And while this should’ve satisfied me, the budding car freak, I always wanted more. I always wanted faster. I always wanted better. I always wanted … yellower. I wanted the 850 T-5R.
For those of you who aren’t huge Volvo geeks, allow me to tell you about the T-5R. The Volvo 850 came out in 1993, and I believe it was Volvo’s first-ever front-wheel-drive vehicle, which was nice, because rear-wheel drive was rapidly going out of style. In 1994, they debuted the “Turbo” model, with its 222 horsepower (compared to 170 hp in the base-level 850) — and in 1995, it came out: the T-5R.
The T-5R was available in yellow or black (or, apparently, a small number in dark green), and it was offered as a sedan or a wagon. I’m not sure how many came to the States, but the number was very small; I seem to recall hearing 1,500 total, or maybe 1,500 each of sedans and wagons. The T-5R also had a few other benefits over the standard 850 Turbo, like a more aggressive front end, suede-trimmed seats, an extra 18 horsepower and what quite honestly may be the most attractive wheels ever fitted to a normal automobile.
In 1996, the T-5R was renamed the R, beginning a tradition that Volvo carried on for more than a decade with various other “R” models — but, to me, the specialness of the ’95 car was lost. The wheels were gone, for one, and yellow was no longer a color option. Plus, the regular 850R was a lot more common.
Eventually, my family ditched my ’96 850 Turbo, and you rarely see Volvo 850s of any variety anymore. But about once a year, I’ll catch a T-5R on the street, and I’ll get all excited. I might just be the only person still lusting after that bright yellow Volvo. Find a Volvo 850 for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.