San Francisco: In
mid-year 2004, Volvo introduced its 2005 Volvo S40 entry-level car.
However, with prices starting around the $24,00 mark, “entry” hardly
fits this completely new Volvo. While the previous S40 was based on a
Mitsubishi platform, the new model shares some of its some of its
architecture with the Mazda 3 and the second-generation Ford Focus that
is now on sale in Europe.
However, most of the S40 is unique including the styling, interior,
engine, and drivetrain. This is a real Volvo, just a bit smaller and
less expensive than the rest of the lineup. That was not really the case
with the previous version of the S40, and thus sales suffered. The new
S40 also bears a closer resemblance to the larger Volvos though obvious
borrowing of styling cues. The S40 is built in Belgium, not Sweden.
The Volvo S40 comes in two flavors, the base 2.4i and higher performing
T5. Both models are powered by a five-cylinder, dual overhead camshaft (DOHC),
20-valve, inline engines. The 2.4i stands for the 2.4-liter normally
aspirated engine that produces 168-horsepower at 6000 rpm and 166
pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. The T5 is motivated by a 2.5-liter,
turbocharged engine that makes 218 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 236
pound-feet at 1500 rpm.
The 2.4i can be mated with either a five-speed manual or five-speed,
Geartonic automatic transmission. The T5 can be ordered with a six-speed
manual or five-speed Geartronic. While both versions features
front-wheel-drive, the T5 also comes with all-wheel-drive. The fuel tank
holds 15.9 gallons. Properly equipped, the all S40s can tow 2000 pounds.
Sliding behind the wheel you are greeted by what at first glance seems
to be a very stark interior, especially the instrument panel with its
unique, slim center stack that houses the climate control, radio, CD
player, etc. However, not only is it very neat looking with a definite
Swedish look, this is of the most functional and user friendly units I
have found in any vehicle recently.
Instruments are easy to read under all lighting conditions. About the
only complaint is the tiny storage compartment shared with two cup
holders between the seats. A leather wrapped, tilting and telescoping
steering wheel is standard. Control buttons on the steering wheel are
standard only on the T5. A navigation system is a $2120 option.
While the new S40 is about two-inches shorter than the old S40, it is
about two-inches wider and taller. This adds up to more interior space
for four full size adults, five in a pinch, though rear seat legroom is
on the skimpy side. The trunk is enormous for a car of this size, but
access is through a rather small opening. The rear 60/40 seatbacks can
be folded down for more carrying capacity. If you need even more
capacity consider the Volvo V50, the station wagon version of the S40.
The V50 is available with the same engine and transmission choices
As expected in any Volvo, safety takes center stage. Anti-lock disc
brakes, front side airbags, head-protecting curtain side airbags and
Volvo’s Whiplash Injury Prevention System (WHIPS) are standard. As one
example of the car’s outstanding crashworthiness, the engine compartment
was laid out so the east west mounted engine fits into the space
remaining after a simulated crash test. Thus, the engine should not wind
up in the front seat in a severe crash. While STC (Stability and
TractionControl) is standard, Volvo’s DSTC (Dynamic Stability and
Traction Control) anti-skid system is an option on both models.
Standard on the T5 are items like automatic climate control, power
drivers seat, mini trip computer front fog lights and Caligo alloy
wheels for the P205/155R16 tires. These are available as options on the
2.4i also. Being a "near-luxury" car, features like air conditioning,
cruise control, keyless remote entry and power everything are standard
fare on both. However, leather upholstery, heated seats, and a moonroof
are optional on both.
While the S40 provides more than adequate everyday performance even with
automatic transmission, serious enthusiasts will opt for the much hotter
turbocharged T5 that also comes with a firmer suspension, which may be
too harsh for some. Even the 2.4i suspension is on the firm side. Road
handling is very good on the 2.4i and outstanding on the T5. Steering is
precise, but a bit stiff and brakes are very good. Both are easy to
drive, but the T5 is more fun.
Prices for the 2.4i start at $24,255, go
to $27,255 for the T5 and to $28,865 for a T5 AWD model. Add a few
options desired by most near luxury car buyers and you are in the same
price territory of some other high rated sports sedans from Audi,
Infiniti and Lexus plus others. However, Volvo’s pendent for safety that
earns it very high marks in government safety testing is a real plus for
By Bill Siuru © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
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