Smaller but Sensational: The New Volvo S40 and V50

Jean Swenson

,
Ashly Knapp

Physician's Money Digest, April15 2005, Volume 12, Issue 7

Volvo is in the catbird seat inthe premium small car classification. The new Volvo S40sedan and V50 wagon areunique in size, larger than a Jetta yetsmaller than a Passat. Coming in at about176 inches long and weighing a littlemore than 3000 pounds, these cars havean especially agile character.

There are only a handful of cars wetell you about each year, and we considerthese models some of the finestproducts to hold on to over the nextdecade. These cars have the Volvo look,and yet have very distinct, taut, muscularlines that both men and womenseem to find appealing.

Superior Driving

The optional dynamic trim packageadds quiet front and rear spoilers, a sportsuspension that's a little firmer, body sidemoldings, and sculptured alloy wheels. Itbrings together the whole body in sportyfashion. However, you might like thelook but dislike the suspension, so test drivethis package before you decide tobuy it. Besides the uniquely safe andstructurally rigid frame of the S40 andV50, we like the all-wheel drive and theway its activation was designed.

The all-wheel drive is powered by theoutstanding Haldex system. When thefront wheels begin to slip, the Haldex systemkicks in the all-wheel drive, givingyou power through turns as needed. It's amost economical feature that allows youto feel the road and its skittish naturefirst, and then activates the all-wheeldrive as needed. The Haldex is in the rearof the car and is fully programmable viathe computer drive that receives powerfrom a propeller shaft. The system is programmableto provide all-wheel drive allthe time, but if you don't need it, it's simplya waste of fuel.

Enjoyable Options

The S40 and V50 are fun cars jam-packedwith luxury and performancefeatures. These vehicles come with agood system that is easy to figure outand program. Volvos are very thoughtfulcars, and their electronics, like thoseof a BMW, are anticipatory. For example,you can order optional laminatedside glass, cutting out noise and givingyourself better impact protection. Thisand the Haldex system are examples ofVolvo's leadership.

The S40 and V50 are loaded withactive and passive safety features,including a tilt and telescoping steeringwheel, stability control, side curtainairbags, side seat airbags, and an antiwhiplashseat and headrest. The powerseats handle smaller people well, butbecause it is designed with tall Swedes inmind, tall motorists will also find it comfortable.Popular optional features onthe S40 and V50 include a navigationsystem, power glass moon roof, and a 5-speed Geartronic automatic transmission.Only about 10% of buyers go forthe quick 6-speed manual.

Solid 2-wheel drive S40s can be hadfor just $23,560. Go ahead and option itthe way you want as a family sedan, oropt for a sportier model and drive it likea fine European sports car. The performancewill have your heart racing andthe dependable safety will give youpeace of mind.

and Ashly Knapp are independent

research reporters and the founders of

AutoAdvisor.com.

Jean Swenson