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Volvo S40/V50

2006 Volvo S40 / V50 Review

by Martha Hindes

Volvo S40/V50
Volvo S40/V50 Interior

Want 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 clean, crisp
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.

The 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.

You'd 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 severity.

All "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.

The 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.

Suggested 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.