a tank disguised as a sleek, handsome, compact auto? Try
the Volvo S40 (or companion V50 wagon). The Swedish luxury
auto maker's reputation for safety as the foundation of
every auto it builds seems as intact as ever. Besides its
longstanding reputation for making bullet-proof vehicles,
Volvo (now under Ford Motor ownership) has done an about
face in recent years, enhancing its luxury image with a
Scandinavian style and the latest in upscale technology
and amenities. Despite its position as entry-level Volvo,
the S40/V50 two-pack is no exception.
sedan and subsequently the wagon got major overhauls during
the past two years, with redesigns from inside out. The
result: A handsome small auto with contemporary eye candy
appeal that can handle curvy road challenges with ease,
and lap competitors without being winded. For 2006, Volvo
offers three sedan and three wagon versions, each with added
refinements that enhance the vehicle's good looks. New are
standard audio steering wheel controls for 2.4i models,
and "pushdown" reverse for the six-speed manual
on T5 and T5-AWD sedan or wagon.
expect the most effective safety features on this vehicle,
and they're there, augmented by an intelligent driver information
system. Among standard safety features: Anti-submarine seats
to prevent one from sliding under the dash during a crash,
front- and rear-seat protecting side curtain airbags, side
impact airbags and side protection system, automatic height
adjusting front belt system, and whiplash protection seating.
Options include Dynamic Stability and Traction Control for
handling safety. Both models have several layers of "crunch"
capability that escalates protection with increased crash
"40" autos ride on a five-cylinder engine, generating
168-horsepower, or 218-HP when turbo-charged. Optional for
all models is a five-speed automatic with "Auto Stick"
override when manual mode would be more fun.
inside story is equally appealing. The S40/V50 has the the
same uncluttered appearance of Scandinavian furniture, particularly
in the center console, with brushed metal backing, designed
with the feel of an electronic remote control for maximizing
functionality with little fuss. Add-on amenities include
off-black leather seating, DVD-based nav system with remote
control and handy grocery bag holder.
retail prices start at $23,775 for the S40 and $26,205 for
the V50, plus $695 destination charge, and go up from there
depending on trim level. Not bad for a plush, near lux auto
with an indestructible attitude.