Weekly Craigslist Hidden Treasure: 1997 Volvo 850 AWD Turbo Wagon

Car Culture

So cool it even has a manual gearbox. Too bad it was built for just one model year.

Either you like station wagons or you don’t. There’s not much middle ground with this one. And that’s just fine. Wagons, aka estates in Europe, never attained the sales status of sedans, not to mention SUVs, crossovers and even minivans. But wagons are still being built today, albeit in far fewer numbers from fewer brands. Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz all offer wagons, though mainly for Europe.

But who knows, perhaps wagons could make a comeback of sorts. Trends come and go. There was and still is one other European automaker that has remained loyal to wagons, one of which is the subject of this week’s Craigslist Hidden Treasure. Volvo is synonymous with station wagons, dating back to the Amazon wagon, built from 1962 until 1969. Today, it sells the V60, V90, and V90 Cross Country.

But many of us are far more familiar with the 200 Series, which debuted back in 1974. It was everyone’s favorite brick. Body styles included two- and four-door sedans as well as a wagon. They were boring and bland, a reflection of many of the corduroy-loving college professors who bought them. But safety-conscious buyers were drawn to them because, well, they were tough as bricks.

The 200 Series was finally replaced for 1992 with the 850, which initially debuted as a sedan only. The wagon arrived the following year. Still boxy? Yes, but more stylish than its predecessor. Before the 850 sedan and wagon were retired in 1996, Volvo figured it’d be cool to give the wagon an interesting, one model-year only send off, and the 850 AWD was born.

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As its name suggests, all-wheel drive was standard. Power came from a then-new turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine with 190 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque, paired to a five-speed manual gearbox. No other transmission was offered. Additional changes from the standard 850 wagon included a slightly higher ride height and a new multilink rear axle with a rear self-leveling suspension. The only visual changes included front and rear mud flaps, a right-side rear exhaust with dual outlets, and unique ‘AWD’ badges.

Performance was decent enough for the time with a claimed 0-62 mph time of 7.8 seconds, a nearly a second faster than the non-turbo 850s. The very fact Volvo decided to build the 850 AWD as a wagon only is, quite honestly, pretty darn cool. Brave, too, considering sedans were far more popular than wagons back then.

This 1997 Volvo 850 AWD wagon is currently up for sale on Craigslist for the reasonable asking price of $8,000. The seller claims this one is rust free, which is quite impressive considering the original owner resided in British Columbia, Canada, a region synonymous with wet and cold weather. Oddly, the listing is for Craigslist Los Angeles, but the seller clearly indicates he or she is in Canada. In any case, the ad claims only 200 examples were made for this single model year and only around 50 survive today. This one was never taken off-roading and has exterior no dents or scratches.

The interior is described as “mint, 10 out of 10.” It has a total of 136,701 miles on its clock. For anyone who thinks eight grand is still a bit too high for a high-mileage Volvo wagon, despite its rarity, the seller acknowledges they’re not entirely sure of the exact value because they haven’t seen others like it for sale. They are, however, willing to consider trading it for “something cool like a Volkswagen Beetle or split window bus.”

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