The Volvo 850 turns 25, was first with side airbags image

The Swedish automaker is marking the 25th anniversary of the 850 by taking us on a historic road back to the model that was titled as “a dynamic car with four world firsts.”

The first time the public glanced at the 850 was at the Stockholm Globe Arena in 1991, with the model the culmination of almost 13 years of research and development. Billed as the model “that changed everything,” the 850 was “fundamentally” different from its predecessors. The “four world firsts” included the Delta-link rear axle, a self-adjusting front seat belt, and an integrated side-impact protection system. The fourth innovation was the use of transverse-mounted five-cylinder engine which had 170 horsepower. Of course the sedan became an instant hit, followed by the wagon model that was revealed in 1993. It was mostly identical to the sedan but will go down in history as the first Volvo with vertical taillights that span across the full D-pillar.

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While the Swedish automaker is best known for its safety credentials, the performance side has always been also present in its DNA. A year after the regular 850 was revealed, Volvo took the wraps off the 850 T-5R at the Geneva Motor Show – it came with an aggressive body kit and a turbocharged engine that delivered 240 hp and 243 pound-feet of torque. In 1994 the company returned to racing with two modified wagons taking part in the British Touring Car Championship. The 850 was also the first mass-produced car which deployed side-impact airbags and also the first Volvo packing all-wheel drive.