1995 Volvo 850
Driver training guru Charlie Goodman points out that if your
car goes 0 to 100 km/h three seconds quicker than his, you'll
get to Montreal three seconds before he does.
(You all obey the speed limit, don't you?)
Practical guy, Charlie. As are most Volvo owners. Which
suggests the 850 GLE (introduced last year) is a brilliant
marketing ploy by Volvo Canada.
By substituting a two-valves-per-cylinder, 2.4 litre,
five-cylinder engine for the 20-valve unit in the GLT, and
trimming equipment levels here and there, the company can offer
an 850 sedan or wagon for almost $7,000 less.
Canada only, I should add. The U.S. offers a base-level 850
without the GLE designation, but with the 20-valve engine and
different levels of equipment.
To see whether this strategy produces a car you can live with
in the cut and thrust of realworld driving, I tried 10 and
20-valve 850 automatics back to back, plus a manual gearbox
10-valve. (We were unable to round up Volvo Canada test fleet
models so our thanks to McMillanSaunders Volvo in Rexdale for
handing over the keys — brave, weren't they?).
The GLE produces 138 horsepower at 5400 r.p.m., versus 168 for
the GLT. The torque differential is even smaller — 152
poundfeet at 3600 r.p.m., versus 162 at 3200.
The ample torque, plus crisp throttle response and an
automatic transmission that lets the engine spool up quickly for
better than expected off-the-line grunt, gives the lesser engine
surprisingly good subjective performance.
A well driven manual gearbox car would be quicker on a
dragstrip, of course, but you need not fear freeway ramps even
in the automatic.
You'll want the three-position slushbox in sport mode most of
the time, which hangs on to lower ratios longer for quicker
full-throttle acceleration. (Economy and winter are the other
The 20-valve is a more relaxed car to drive. Stoplight Grands
Prix are easier, onramps require less white-knuckle
concentration and you'll be on the throttle pedal less, which
may result in better fuel economy.
Indeed, Transport Canada fuel consumption figures give the
more powerful engine the nod.
But $7,000 buys a lot of gas.
The GLE is still a well equipped car, with heated seats,
headlight wipers, power locks, windows and mirrors, dual bags
and anti-lock brakes. The wagon comes with an integrated child's
The GLE has manual air conditioning versus automatic on the
GLT; steel wheels in place of alloys; manual height-adjustable
drivers seat, versus power; an 80-watt stereo rather than 100.
GLE options include a manual steel sunroof, as opposed to a
glass power roof that's standard on the GLT.
The GLE has undoubtedly stolen some sales from the pricier
GLT. But it gives Volvo an opportunity to land a customer they
might otherwise have lost to Camry or Accord.
That can't be a bad idea from their perspective, anyway.