By on August 10, 2007

frpont.jpgBack in the ‘80s, when Volvo was famous for making safe cars, the brand’s vanguard was an ugly, slow, heavy machine called the 240. Admirers affectionately dubbed it “the Brick.” The 240 was indefatigable. When Volvo tried to replace the car with a more “modern” boxy model in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, 240 loyalists– vegan university professors hauling cans of paint and their dog in a 240 wagon on the way to the farmer’s market– revolted. Finally, in 1992, Volvo execs terminated the 240. Some say that Volvo gained style and lost its soul. But hey, brand loyalists always say that kind of thing. Truth to tell, the old Swede’s spirit lives on in the S40. 

Put the S40 alongside its stablemates and you can see sausage-car-design at work. Mercedes pioneered this aesthetic at the turn of the last century, when all their models looked like the same car on a slightly different scale. Park the entry-level S40 next to big brother S60 and the top ‘o the line S80 and the lack of visual differentiation is shocking. Still, all three cars boast a clean, simple design that maintains the brand’s traditional styling cues without undue fustiness or futurism. In fact, the S40’s sharper hood creases and truncated trunk make it the most distinctive of the group.

interior.jpgThe S40’s cabin features the much-ballyhooed “floating” center dash panel: a handsome bit of theater with [oxymoronic] minimalist flair. Beyond that, the S40’s interior is utterly sterile. Our tests car was black-on-black-on-black-on-black-on-black-on-black: dash, seats, floor, ceiling, steering wheel and plastic. A handful of brushed aluminum touches spruced up the place– in the sense that tossing a handful of coins on the floor of the DMV can be considered decorating the space with presidential portraits.

On the positive side, the S40’s interior is a paragon of ergonomic excellence, containing no more switchgear than absolutely necessary. The seats are supremely comfortable; the T-Tec cloth offers enough tactile satisfaction to tempt a Texan from cow skins. Audi won’t need any Ambien, but the S40 offers the kind of solid build quality and high quality fit and finish you expect in an entry-level luxury car. Equally importantly, the S40’s cabin gives you the feeling that when it’s on its fourth owner, plastered in bumper stickers and packed with cheap beer and vegetarian burritos (the car, not the owner), it will still be in good shape, plugging away, doing its job and putting up with abuse.

The S40 2.4i “features” Volvo’s naturally aspirated inline-five. I swear the Swedish engineers keep this powerplant around as a memento of an simpler, kookier time.  As I’m not a speed freak, I don’t ask much from an automobile engine. Still, I’d prefer it didn’t sound like a lawnmower engine and, worse, spend the night out drinking until dawn.

volvos40.jpgSlam on the gas, and the S40’s five-speed automatic gearbox immediately hits the snooze button. When the motor finally rousts itself and struggles out of bed, the powertrain is groggy, incoherent, confused and weak. The non-turbocharged five growls and buzzes and finally works its way up into the modest powerband, where a lucky driver may [just] be able to coax 168 horses into action.

Unfortunately, by that point, you’ve already missed the highway merge. The guy in the Mercedes next to you, who you inadvertently cut off, is showing you an insulting appendage, sticking up through his sunroof. And your fair trade latte has fallen into your lap. True story.

Still, driving the S40 is not without its charms. The handling is brand-faithfully safe, secure and predictable; and the steering surprisingly sharp and rewarding. Best of all, the suspension dismisses Northeastern potholes like a Marine drill instructor contemplating his charges at Miller Time.

rear.jpgThis is no insignificant accomplishment. Back before modern necessities like rear-view backup cameras and dynamic adaptive cruise control, a compliant and isolating ride was considered the definition of automotive luxury. As the computer age has invaded our “whips,” as gadget worship has replaced hushed and comfortable progress as the litmus of automotive lavishness, it’s nice to find a car that embodies the traditional (if bygone) upmarket virtues.

In fact, the S40’s stately driving dynamics are the primary reason I'd recommend this car. The S40’s not particularly quick, or cheap (even lightly equipped models walk along the $30-large barrier), or more than merely adequate in the fuel efficiency department (22/31) or even, dare I say it, vastly safer than comparable cars. 

But it you’re a driver who likes to fly just above the radar feeling coddled– rather than entertained or invigorated– the S40 2.4i is ideal. Even without a slightly more powerful and willing engine (please Mr. Mahindra), it’s as much of a “real” Volvo as the 240. For some, praise simply doesn’t come any higher.

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86 Comments on “Volvo S40 Review...”

  • avatar

    I’ve been driving the exact same car (passion red and all) in the pictures for a week while my new XC90 is at the dealer. Your review is right on, I’ve named this one “little-big car.” It’s nice around town, not too fast and it feels like a much bigger car than it is going down the road. Would I buy one? For my daughter if I had one. I wouldn’t pay $28k for this either but we all know that’s not the “real price.”

  • avatar

    Having just purchased a Volvo S40 I find this review accurate but incomplete. Full disclosure: my wife drives a Volvo V50. I have a 1994 Volvo 850 Turbo for sale, and a project 1979 242GT with 877,000 miles in the garage.

    While the normally aspirated 2.4i engine is a bit underwhelming, it is perfectly adequate for around-town use. Torque comes on early, and both our cars easily keep up with traffic. Yes, you must plan freeway merges, but if you need more power you can opt for the turbocharged model with 227 hp. Inline fives are not as smooth as the V6 engines offered in some competing cars, but I find ours not as annoying as Justin implied. The engine in my wife’s V50 is typical of Volvo’s five cylinder; you can hear it working but it is never obtrusive. The engine in my S40 is a freak, almost as smooth as a V6, quieter than my wife’s V50, and acceleration is more than adequate for freeway maneuvers.

    The transmission is not nearly as bad as Justin said. If you find it snoozing just tap it over into manual-shift mode and work it through the gears. The tranny has adapative software, and one trip through the gears in manual mode wakes it up like a shot of double espresso.

    If you’re worried about the price, do what I did and buy a retired service loaner. Our local Volvo dealer knocked $6500 off the list price to move the car. I can’t think of anything else for $24k that I’d rather buy.

    Whatever you do, get the sport package with the 17-inch wheels. This transforms the car (sedan or wagon) from highly competent to a genuine canyon carver. Also consider Volvo’s extended warranty. They offer up to seven years and 100,000 mile bumper-to-bumper coverage. We bought them for both cars, and plan to keep them until the warranties expire.

  • avatar

    Somehow $30k seems a little steep when the S40’s stablemate, the Mazda3, can be had for around $20k in well-fitted form. And how did they lose the Mazda3’s excellent driving dynamics and much better fuel mileage? Perhaps the wizards at Ford decided they needed a “Lincoln” version of the Mazda…

  • avatar

    This review is pretty much on the mark, but it gives the little Volvo more credit than it deserves. I rented one of these from National in South Florida for a few days in June and while it seemed to handle securely on smooth Florida roads it is also pure transportation appliance with all the charm of a melamine storage cabinet from IKEA.

    The seats are good, but you’d expect that in a Volvo. Ergonomics are OK. Transmission is fine if you use the manual function, otherwise it’s shift points are few and far between. In full automatic mode, putting your foot down to pass, say from 65 to 80, and there’s not a whole lot going on. The throttle sends a message to the tranny, which seems to think about it. Then the engine wakes up, “What?! You’re talking to me? Why do you want to go faster? But 65 feels nice!” And sometime later you arrive at 80 mph. In manual mode the car simply won’t accelerate in top gear. You simply have to shift. But I guess I’m spoiled from the turbo 4 cylinders in my Saabs.

    The only neat feature was the turn signal, which has a lane change feature so you can hit it once and the signal flashes about 5 times then cancels. Convenient.

    I don’t know why anyone would buy one of these, especially for the money. I can think of lots of cars that are equally boring for less money. Or much less boring for the same price.

    So I was back in S Florida a week later, and National served up a Hyundai Sonata. It’s four cylinder was a nicer mill than the Volvo’s motor, but still underwhelming. But it seemed peppier and more fun, more eager. Ditto the manual mode in the tranny. The fit and finish was about as good as the S40’s. The steering was OK, but a tad light for my liking. Ride was equal, but this was only on smooth roads. And the Hyundai got better gas mileage.

    In terms of size, not price, these cars compete. I hadn’t been in a Hyundai in years, and was surprised to find it a decent car for what it is. I wouldn’t buy either one, but if I’m going to rent something I’d probably go for the Sonata, and this comes from a guy who doesn’t like most Asian cars.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    I shopped the S40 last year and found that the suspension was not isolating at all; in fact, it did the worst job of all the cars I was comparing at dispatching Chicago-sized potholes. Every one sent a sharp jolt up through the seat. The car I drove had the optional sport package, which may be at fault.

    The floating center stack didn’t wow me in person, and the rest of the interior felt sterile. On the other hand, the T-Tec cloth is indeed awesome. It ought to be, since a well-equipped S40 2.4i with leather costs $2000 more than a faster, equally solid-feeling TSX, which also has Bluetooth (aftermarket install only on the Volvo) and Xenons (not available in the 2.4i). I really can’t imagine why anyone who didn’t specifically want a Volvo would choose the S40 over the TSX, GLI, or Legacy.

    For some reason Volvo priced the C30 with the T5 motor below the S40 2.4i. I can’t see a lot of people picking the lesser-engined S40 unless they desperately need the two extra doors. Unfortunately the local Volvo dealer has informed me that C30s won’t be arriving until the end of the year.

    As far as the S40 / Mazda3 comparison goes, there’s really no comparison. The S40 is and drives like an entry-level luxury car; the Mazda3 is zippy, agile, and cheap and cheerful. Two entirely different personalities for two different markets.

  • avatar

    fair trade latte has fallen into your lap

    Scalding one’s appendages is a good way to shake off any morning grogginess, I have found.

    I never really understood inline 5s (or V10s for that matter). And GM entered the fray with it’s own 3.5L (now 3.7L) fiver.

  • avatar

    My sister just picked up one of these this year with the manual tranny and it is a kick in the pants to drive. It’s no muscle-car but merging onto the freeway was never an issue at all when I drove this car. The manual is hard to come by, but it sounds like it ups the driving dynamics and it also takes a big bite out of the sticker price, from what I understand. If I was looking for a new sedan, the S40 would be on the short list.

  • avatar

    # edgett:
    August 10th, 2007 at 9:19 am

    Somehow $30k seems a little steep when the S40’s stablemate, the Mazda3, can be had for around $20k in well-fitted form. And how did they lose the Mazda3’s excellent driving dynamics and much better fuel mileage? Perhaps the wizards at Ford decided they needed a “Lincoln” version of the Mazda…

    Volvo no doubt also left the Mazda3’s rotten side impact safety ratings behind too. Never buy a 3 sans the side air bags which are not included on the lowest end model.

  • avatar

    Looks like a Mitsubishi Lancer 2008 but a little bigger and also the 2007 Toyota Camry.

    I noticed in the highways that the majority of cars for 2007 and 2008 has the same front and rear end styling. Like Camry, Lexus,Infiniti,Volvo and Mitsubishi Lancer.

    The Volvo is a very fast car especially with a turbo and but not fuel efficient.

    Reliability on a Volvo is like a Japanese car or better.

  • avatar

    The styling is what makes the S40 and V50 winners. There was a true artist at work here.

  • avatar

    The reason the I5 is popular is because it has less frictional mass than an I6 and is more compact, yet it is smoother than an I4 because engines with 5 or more cylinders have some cycle overlap in a 4 cycle engine.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    I found the S40 underwhelming. In 2.4i trim, the drivetrain is incredibly nasty, especially when you compare it with price-competitive engines in the A4 2.0, TSX, Saab 9-3, etc., not to mention the sweet V6’s in the Accord/Camry/Altima’s (which fully loaded start looking really nice compared to Volvo’s idea of basic transportation).

    Not sure why anyone would pick an S40 over the V50, either — all the virtues of the S40 with the ability to haul a TV to boot. The T5 version gets really pricey, too, with Volvo adopting Audi/BMW’s fast-escalating options pricing model.

    Unless you’re a Volvo loyalist or a fan of style over function, the S40 seems lost.

  • avatar

    I live in an area where Swedish cars enjoy a substantial following. Growing up in the 70s’, Volvo was the car for people who fancied themselves above automotive fashion. Saabs were for the cooler left-liberal folks, and as a teenager, my dream ride was a 99 Turbo. Anyway, I have to admit I’d like a manual wagon version of this because of the way it makes me think of the old 240s I still see cruising around. I think the styling actually evokes its slightly smaller and more sculpted predecessor, the 140 series. Either way, it seems like Volvo is on the right track pursuing the market for exceptionally solid, well-designed mid-sized cars rather than trying to compete for BMW buyers.

  • avatar

    The little Volvo five cylinder engine comes alive with a manual transmission. I drove an 850 so equipped for many years and it was fun, efficient and plenty quick enough. How is it that zero-60 times of anything more than 8 seconds came to be seen as “slow”? In the past four decades our roads have become clogged with traffic while at the same time new cars are expected to get ever more powerful. Really dumb.

    Now a 1982 VW Vanagon, that is too slow!

  • avatar
    Pelle Schultz

    My wife’s dad (who lives in Madrid, Spain) drives one of these with the 1.9L TDI engine and a 5-speed. What a great little car. Too bad the diesel engine isn’t available in the US.

    I’ve had this model (and the V50 with the same specs) as loaners. The interiors are of better overall quality than than those of other cars I’ve owned, even a 2002 Audi A4 1.8T. But overall I was left wanting. But I’ve heard that with the turbo mill, these are more than competitive (and far prettier) than the equivalent options from the Germans.

  • avatar

    First, great review Justin.

    I don’t understand this car. I drove it and compared it to the A4, 325i and a TSX. The S40 was dead last. I did like how tight it felt and really liked its looks, but compared to the others, it felt smaller inside, weaker in the power department, and definitely not as refined as the others. I guess if you don’t care what you drive, it might be worth a look, but then if that’s the case, go buy an Accord or Civic. Similar size and driving dynamic and a helluva lot less money.

  • avatar

    I don’t see how you reviewers always manage to have trouble merging with sub-200hp engines. Back when I had an 82hp car, yes, I had trouble too, but anything over ~120hp is easy.

  • avatar

    The S40 is a good-lookin car, especially from the front. The grille/headlight look is especially wel done.

    That being said, an I-5 powerplant is a goofy solution. I’d much rather thave a Mazda 3 GT with the 2.3 and poscket the change. Or, for the same money, an Acura TSX, which has exquisite driving dynamics.

  • avatar
    Alex Dykes

    Volvo needs to work on the noises some of their engines make. All of the 5-cylinder engine variants are essentially the same, some with VVT, some with dual VVT, some with and without turbos. What makes no sense is that some sound great (the T5 in the S60, and the R engines), others sound like you have marbles in a squirrel cage under the hood (2.4i) and yet others sound like an anemic Dustbuster (2.5T). Either way, their new 6-cylinder inline engines are a welcome change, hopefully trickle down car-economics will take effect in time.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    I don’t see how you reviewers always manage to have trouble merging with sub-200hp engines. Back when I had an 82hp car, yes, I had trouble too, but anything over ~120hp is easy.
    True. But the Volvo S40 2.4i is a 3200 lb car with a sluggish auto transmission.

  • avatar

    I test drove the S40 in turbo guise a couple of years ago and I must say compared to the smoother, more powerful better handling and equipped Acura TSX, it didn’t nearly impress me as much as it did Justin. The S40 is not a bad car but when you factor in the average resale value it comes a distant second to the TSX.

  • avatar

    Now, unless you need 4 (or 5 doors), the C30 seems like a better option: cheaper, always comes with the T5, arguably better looking, and a bit more original.

    I don’t see how you reviewers always manage to have trouble merging with sub-200hp engines. Back when I had an 82hp car, yes, I had trouble too, but anything over ~120hp is easy.

    Carlissimo, thanks! It always troubles me too: how can I merge comfortably in my gold when better drivers can’t with 150hp-200hp cars?

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz


    Acura TSX, VW GLI, Audi A3 2.0T, Audi A4 2.0T, Subaru Legacy GT, Mazdaspeed6… all of these make the S40 a tough sell. I agree that the TSX is the real deal killer for most, though. And don’t forget that BMW will soon be selling a 1-series in the U.S.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    We have a 2006 V50 T5, and the one thing that surprises me is the poor fuel mileage. Driving quite conservatively, no hard acceleration–after all, I have a track car to satisfy my need for speed–I can’t get better than 20 mpg, usually 19.5 on the IP computer. I think that’s awful for a 2.5-liter engine, particularly when I hardly ever get into the turbo.

    One other thing I don’t like about it is that the aluminum trim is very subject to little dings–it’s too thin to shrug them off.

    First automatic I’ve owned in 57 years of car ownership. There wasn’t a single manual on the entire East Coast.

  • avatar

    Swedish automakers Volvo and Saab enjoyed a period of success in the US market during the 1970s and 1980s when there products were actually somewhat unique and indentifiably better than those cars coming out of the land of the rising sun. During that time Honda, Mazda, Nissan, and Toyota were not making cars that were truly capable of competing with likes of what was being produced in Europe. Think about a 1983 accord v. an 1983 Volvo 240 or Saab 900, there was a major difference in these cars and an Accord of that era would not satisfy the demands of someone who looking for a European car. Both Saab and Volvo were considered far more sophiticated than any Japanese car of that era. The exterior, interior designs, drving dynamics etc. were different and well, cool compared to the funk japanese auto interiors of that era that were generally in the same color as the exterior, uhhhh!
    During this time Volvo just about owned the sportswagon market with its “unique” RWD 740 turbo that could be purchased with a manual transmission. Also during this time Volvos and Saab generally had a 30 to 40 hp advantage over any Asian import or compact domestic sedan with their excellent turbo engines. Like the US domestic industry, little to no competition does wonders for the bottom line.

    Unfortunately the world changed in 1986 with the introduction of Honda’s Acura line of cars in the USA. The orginal Acura Legend was pure poison for both Saab and Volvo. The Legend was the break out product from a company that actually had a better engineering team. The Legend also had a nice price advantage and was a better car than a 740 or 9000! We all know the rest of this story with Infiniti and Lexus coming to patry in 1990.

    Honesty today Volvo is a “what is the point?” brand. Just like the rest of Ford PAG Volvo is an expensive brand of cars that are outclassed by many other less expensive and better cars on the market. No one ever asked for FWD Volvos. The move to FWD made Volvos as fragil as just about every other FWD car on the road, destroying the major uniquenes factor of that brand, RWD.

    Today compare a TSX to an s40. The TSX really makes an s40 look like a car in seach of a purpose.

  • avatar

    I love this car. It may not have the driving dynamics of a 3 or an A4 or even a TSX, but it’s better-looking than the latter and more unique than the former two. Driving a Volvo says something about you in a way driving most other cars doesn’t, and I think that’s one of the main reasons to buy one. Sure, on paper a V6 Camry or Accord may be a better choice, but cars aren’t just about the numbers and the features – some people like having the rest of the world know they’re pot-smoking university professors on a mission to get some hummus.

    As far as the engine is concerned, I’ve never had a problem with it when driving my friend’s. If it’s feeling sluggish just kick it into manual mode for a bit.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    @Stephan Wilkinson:
    A Volvo V50 T5? The man with the gold-plated Porsche has a Volvo wagon? What has happened to the world?!

    Speaking of which, love the book.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    I love small wagons–one of the smartest car configurations there is. (Hatchbacks and minivans are two others.) The V50 follows an A4 Avant, which our daughter has now in San Fran. bikes go in back, double kayak on top. (If you want to see something really silly-looking, it’s a V50 with the 18-foot mahogany kayak I made sitting on top of it.)

    We cover the waterfront: wagon (V50), roadster (Boxster) and toy (911). Thanks for liking the book!

  • avatar


    Agree with every word you said!

  • avatar
    Paul Milenkovic

    Given my political leanings, I wouldn’t be caught dead driving a Volvo, but I took a look at a Volvo showroom last summer because I want a car with stability control (Yes, I want the handling nanny. I call it a Lautenschlager after a certain Midwestern-state Attorney General who lost her reelection bid after she drove a state car off the road in a snowstorm, was asked to walk a straight line and touch her nose by a courteous Highway Patrol officer, and stonewalled the blood alcohol test).

    So I went to the local Volvo dealer and saw a car parked out front with a typical Volvo-driver political slogan. I resolved to write to Alan Mullaly about the need for Ford to get dealers to exercise more control over the buying experience for Ford-family products.

    Actually a wanted a Ford sedan with stability control, and Volvo still gives my poppa brownie points with the brass in Dearborn.

    Are the seats really Volvo-good in that car, and am I going to be happy with something with that tight on driver’s leg room (whopping center console) on long trips even if the seats are ergonomically Scandinavian?

    If I am to get something that tight inside, if I weren’t restricting myself to the Ford stable, I would prefer something like a Corolla or Civic that got much, much better gas mileage. Is this thing built that much more Volvo-safe to be worth the gas mileage penalty?

    Given the sort of tradeoffs between size, safety, performance, gas mileage, and interior ergonomics, does this car make some good trades of gas mileage and perhaps lukewarm performance against safety and driver comfort?

  • avatar

    “Honesty today Volvo is a “what is the point?” brand. Just like the rest of Ford PAG Volvo is an expensive brand of cars that are outclassed by many other less expensive and better cars on the market.”

    Volvos may be outclassed in terms of driving dynamics, but even for pistonheads that’s not the only reason to buy a car. My friend’s a pretty big car nut, and he freely admits his Volvo is inferior to Acuras and BMWs in terms of how it drives. That wasn’t why he bought it. He bought it because the S40 has a sort of emotional resonance and distinctiveness you don’t get driving the same 325i as every other junior partner and dentist in town.

    “No one ever asked for FWD Volvos. The move to FWD made Volvos as fragil as just about every other FWD car on the road, destroying the major uniquenes factor of that brand, RWD.”

    The move to FWD probably has something to do with the fact that Volvo is Swedish, and you can’t sell yourself on safety while selling RWD in a country that gets lots of snow (or, for that matter, in states that get lots of snow: Volvos are enormously popular in the Northeast).

    I agree that it’s time to ditch plain-Jane FWD, though. Maybe if BMW buys them we’ll see some good rear-biased AWD coming from the land of the smörgåsbord.

  • avatar

    The 3rd picture is from Ye Olde (that is, pre-facelift) S40…

    I agree with the ones who said it’s a good car but subpar to it’s direct competition.

    The I5 engine sounds distinctive and is a real selling point for Volvos in Europe. Also, Audi used to make some great I5s (RS2/Sportquattro anyone)

    I also agree that it’s adequately powered, the slushbox is probably your problem. Here in Europe it’s even sold with a 1.8 4 cylinder petrol and 1.6 diesel (110HP) and even those are perfectly adequate (with the manual gearbox, obviously)

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    All Volvos are available with all-wheel drive, you don’t need to have just FWD.

  • avatar

    “Given the sort of tradeoffs between size, safety, performance, gas mileage, and interior ergonomics, does this car make some good trades of gas mileage and perhaps lukewarm performance against safety and driver comfort?”

    I’m a pretty tall guy, and the S40 has never seemed cramped to me. The T-tec seats are really superb, and ergonomically the interior is just this side of flawless. On those fronts, and on safety, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

    But you can find a car for the same or less money that will be better than the S40/V50 on paper in pretty much any respect. The same can be said, of course, for pretty much any luxury car south of $35k. You do pay a premium for style and prestige when you buy a luxury nameplate.

    The S40 has style by the boatload, and prestige as well (certainly among people on a certain side of the political spectrum). And, minmaxing aside, it’s a superb car. But if you’re not in love with it after a test drive there’s no compelling reason to buy one over any of the other equally superb choices out there in the pricerange.

    On a somewhat tangential note, Volvo’s status as the Liberal Car par excellence has always amused me. I wonder how that came about.

  • avatar

    “All Volvos are available with all-wheel drive, you don’t need to have just FWD.”

    Isn’t Volvo’s AWD system front-biased, though?

  • avatar

    Paul Milenkovic: “Given my political leanings, I wouldn’t be caught dead driving a Volvo…”

    Volvos are not what they used to be and neither are their owners. I saw a number of late-model Volvos, last election cycle, with “W-04” stickers on them. I think the Socialists and the Greens have not yet traded in their 240s (and, if they ever do, I wouldn’t be surprised if they switched to Toy-ondas).

  • avatar

    Lots of conservatives drive Volvos. Gen. Colin Powell is a huge Volvo fanatic and has been spotted dragging one through Alexandria more than once in the past.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure I’d agree that LOTS of conservatives drive Volvos.

  • avatar

    “Volvo’s status as the Liberal Car par excellence has always amused me.”

    It wasn’t the “liberal car” so much as the “anti-car.” In the mid-70s, the perception among many intellectual types was that Detroit iron was flashy, trendy and unreliable, and Volvos were a simple, sturdy alternative for folks too smart to be suckered by the latest marketing campaign. That sounds quaint now, but compare a 140 or 240-series Volvo with a Caprice or LTD of the time and you can see the appeal. The fact that those things were seemingly carved from solid steel, crashed well, and would easily run for 200,000+ miles added to the appeal. I think part of Volvo’s problem from a business standpoint is that many of their original U.S. customers kept their cars for 10-15 years.

    I think the “liberal” stereotype came from some right-wing talk show host recently as a stand-in for “foreign.” You can’t criticize Japanese cars because too many people own them, and you can’t criticize the Germans because a certain segement of rich conservatives love them and others aspire to own them. Swedish cars have (or had) a unique association with college professors and the hippies who bought them used, two categories of people who conservatives could safely vilify.

  • avatar

    Justin: great review, I like how you drew the analogy between this car and ye ol’240. But given the reader’s comments (and the predominant North American tastes of TTAC’s patrons), it’s clear that TTAC’s got to get their hands on one spec’d with the T5, sport chassis, and 6-speed manual.

    To cure your point about the bland interior, Volvo now offers that famous floating centre console and armrests in a natural (solid?) wood finish -judging from their photos, the effect against a dark leather interior is striking -will probably prove to be a love it/hate it trim option.

  • avatar

    I really like the wood trim in the facelifted S40.

    “Swedish cars have (or had) a unique association with college professors and the hippies who bought them used, two categories of people who conservatives could safely vilify.”

    Makes a lot of sense to me. I think the Liberal Car stereotype has actually been a great boon for Volvo, though, perhaps contrary to the wishes of the talk radio blowhards who propagated it. Volvo now has a segment of the population that views it as an aspirational brand, and if it alienates people who’d rather be driving lawyermobiles anyway then so be it. Volvo shouldn’t need to play the poor man’s BMW in order to sell cars.

  • avatar

    I bought a 2005 V50 recently. The review was about on although the reviewer has a clear bias for sportier machines.

    The exterior looks… I like them, they are distinctive enough to differentiate it from most other cars. That’s a bonus in my books. A lot of cars look very similar now. I recalled seeing a BMW 325i and a Mazda 3 back to back and thought, “Hey! 2 exact same BMWs… Oh wait.” The look is orders of magnitude nicer than the previous generations of Volvos. Plus I think the S40 and S50 look better than Volvo’s larger models. With may the exception of the XC90.

    The interior looks… I like it, even with the black on black on black. It’s simple and clean and also distinctive that it differentiates itself from other brands and models. The seats are pretty good with lumbar adjust for the fronts. The driver side has height control but I find it doesn’t have that big a range as I would hope. Steering has both telescopic and tilt which is nice.

    The power plant… It purrs. Maybe a bit louder than some may expect but coming from 4cyl engines it’s much improved. 5 gear auto is nice. This car won’t win any races but for the most part, it will beat the majority of the other cars off the line, highway behavior is more than adaquate, handling is better than the majority of the cars out there. Now speaking for the majority of the people who are driving on the roads, this car will have plenty of pep, great handling and very comfortable ride characteristics. Those who will be left a bit wanting will be comparing this car to a sports car (or sportier car.)

    Comparing with other cars… Volvos do have a bit of premium. That’s mainly why I bought a lease return. But if you look at what you get base with the car, you really need to pile on the options for other cars to match feature for feature. Bringing up the price of the other car to be a little closers. Even then the safety rating may not be on par. But yeah, Volvos will be still a bit more but not as much as initially seen. With other higher priced brands, Volvos will be closer to the bottom end in price and yet still be competitive. However if you have that kind of money to spend on a pricier brand then this really isn’t an issue. Volvos don’t really have a lot of options compared to, say, a Mazda 3, because the base has a lot included.

    My reason for getting the V50. Long history for being a safe, reliable and long lasting car. New looks are unique and pleasing. The price was right (March End Madness Sale.) And being a lease return it had a lot of extras.

    Current gripes:
    (I haven’t driven a lot of cars so take this with a grain of salt. It maybe common with a lot of models.)
    – Wet roads at a stop, I can sometimes spin the wheels when I try to get going. And I’m not even lead footing it. I wonder if it’s the Michelin radials that come standard with the car.

    – The windshield column and rear view mirror are placed just right to obstruct a useful view when driving. I had this with a Caliber that I rented but the Caliber had a bigger seat height adjust range to get around it. I guess I’m stuck with it.

    Other Cars I was looking at:
    Toyota Matrix – Parents and my brother owns one. Great cars. Reliable, no frills. A bit harsher in suspension.
    Mazda 3 – A co-worker owns one of these. Probably one of the better looking cars IMO. Fit and finish quality of Mazda was a concern.
    Nissan Versa – Not bad looks, I detect a bit of the Ugly Renault in its design. CVT was something I’d like. I drove a Suzuki Burgman 650 for quite a while and I loved the CVT on that machine.

    I spent extra for the Volvo because of the reasons above.

  • avatar

    I recalled seeing a BMW 325i and a Mazda 3 back to back and thought, “Hey! 2 exact same BMWs… Oh wait…”


    I thought it nice that some Volvos have available booster seats for the little ones, that you didn’t have to worry about not having them in a pinch. Then I found out how much the accompanying vehicle cost, that they’re no longer available on the S40, and figured that even a pair of Britax Monarch booster seats were a relative steal of $300.

  • avatar

    Wow. A modern car in which you have to “plan freeway merges.” I would expect that from a sub-$20K Scion, but not a near-$30K Volvo.

  • avatar

    nice writing. you sound like RF a bit, but thats not a bad thing at all… really, I like your style. keep up the good work.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    I own a 240 Estate. You will have to pry the keys from my dead fingers. I like planning freeway merging, revving my 263,200 mile tractor engine up to 5,500RPMS as I push forward the 3,100 mass with the vigor of a dead turtle. I like that my dash looks utterly repulsive to eye. My RAZR fits snuggly in the tray above the HVAC controls, right with my Sirius remote. Best thing though has to be the seat warmers.

    Oh yeah, nice S40.

  • avatar

    While I like Volvo’s, I can’t imagine buying this over a Magnum or Chrysler 300 with the 3.5l. For $26-30k you get power, strong safety, good handling, a great Boston Acoustics stereo and something that looks, well…. manly & cool.
    Or, if you like, a TSX or Maxima are a much better drive too. Or, the s60 starts at $30k.

    For this thing to be viable it should be sold like the TSX, a 2.4i and 2.4t with the options all in and at more competitive prices. As it is, you need to option it up to make it attractive and the way they’re priced, it ruins the deal.

  • avatar

    Like Boosterseat said, any informed buyer is going to opt for a TSX over the S40. The price of the S40 goes north of 30k really fast if you opt for just a couple of options. A loaded TSX with Navi can be had for 28,500. No contest really.

  • avatar

    I can’t imagine buying this over a Magnum or Chrysler 300 with the 3.5l.

    I can – especially since Chrysler now has an ex-Home Depot CEO at the head of Cerebus (with a track record of failure at his former position).

    Then again, most offerings from the Big 2.5 is a risky proposition due to their bean-counter engineering philosophy…

  • avatar

    If (I agree) the new S40 competes and loses against the TSX, a 2- or 3-year-old S40 stacks up pretty well against a similar Accord or Legacy. Off-lease Volvos in the $15-20K range seem like a decent deal compared to the nearly depreciation-free Japanese competition.

  • avatar

    “While I like Volvo’s, I can’t imagine buying this over a Magnum or Chrysler 300 with the 3.5l.”

    I can think of several reasons. The Volvo is smaller and more fuel efficient. It’s a luxury brand, has a nicer interior and an exterior that’s at least equally appealing, likely better reliability, and it’s safer. The S40’s got a pretty killer sound system too if you’ve picked up the option. Plus there’s the unquantifiable joy of driving the Liberal Car par excellence.

    “Or, if you like, a TSX or Maxima are a much better drive too. Or, the s60 starts at $30k.”

    The Maxima isn’t anywhere near as good a vehicle as the S40. The TSX may be a better buy from a strictly performance standpoint, but it’s a much blander car inside and out. For some people style matters as much as performance. Why would anyone get an S60 instead of an S40? It’s an older, blander, bigger model.

    “For this thing to be viable it should be sold like the TSX, a 2.4i and 2.4t with the options all in and at more competitive prices. As it is, you need to option it up to make it attractive and the way they’re priced, it ruins the deal.”

    A TSX is the same price as an S40 with all the options anyone could possibly want checked. The TSX has no price advantage.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    A very interesting write-up. You hit on a lot of good points, and I hope what I’m about to add will be worthwhile to the group.

    As a new car purchase in an automatic, the S40 has some remarkable similarities to the classic 240 as it pertains to market positioning. The S40 is an extremely safe vehicle (albeit more compact than the competition) and most of the powertrain components have been around for an extremely long time. The five cylinder has been around since the mid-1990’s in various forms (850, S70, V70, C70 1st gen S40) and is one of the most durable engines in today’s market. Virtually every example I see at the auctions runs great with the sole exception of those that have yet to receive their throttle body recalls. It’s one of the few engines out there that can consistently go over 250k if it’s maintained appropriately.

    For an enthusiast, the car is slow as an automatic. But for the every day driving that 90+% of folks do it’s more than perfectly fine. The S40 in an automatic is more orientated towards those seeking a family driver than an outright sports sedan. I would imagine the typical buyer is looking for something a bit more interesting to drive and involving than a Camry/Accord. But still wants the safety and a bit more luxury. In otherwords, a conservative person seeking something that has a bit of European character to it.

    Due to it’s compact chassis and taut suspension it’s not really a good choice for those who live in places with rough roads. But for those who aren’t in that category, the real world purchase price of an S40 is actually a bit more competitive than you would expect. As a slightly used year old model, it’s an even stronger value and for those who would like a stick and a wagon (V50), it’s an excellent value with one small exception.

    Volvo is no longer an ‘enduring’ vehicle. Just go to and look at all the complaints about the electronics and the PITA maintenance requirements. The core of Volvo enthusiasts hate this car not because it’s a bad car, but because too many shortcuts are being taken in the quality of components. Volvo’s used to be designed to last nearly 2 decades in Scandinavia on average and Volvo’s current lineup simply doesn’t live up to that standard. I’m not sure if any manufacturer’s lineup does at this point, but that’s a subject for another rant.

    As a slightly used car with a 100,000 mile extended warranty, it’s actually a great value so long as you’re not aiming to keep it for the next 15 years. As a new vehicle, only a 5-speed would be a worthy consideration.

    The 5-speed is a little known Q-ship that is definitely worth the consideration.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    jabdalmalik: $2,293 is hardly nothing – and that’s not counting the $1,375 worth of extra equipment on the TSX.

    It’d be easier to get away with making statements like that if there weren’t a handy car price comparator right on this page.

  • avatar

    Not to beat this dead horse any longer, but a 2.4t (the 2.4i is just putsy) with 17″ wheels, heated lthr and a sunroof goes for $35k exactly. Ouch. A TSX goes out at $31k even and a Chrysler 300 is $31,700, both 10% less than the Volvo.
    Plus the TSX and 300 have dvd nav in the deal. Big difference for my money.
    The TSX is better on gas and while 80’s and 90’s Volvo’s lasted forever (owned one), they are no longer stars here. Score: TSX 2, s40t, 0.
    As for the ‘unquantifiable joy of being a liberal car\'(nice!), I think the campus-king image from the 80’s is largely gone (the Prius ripped that dubious crown right off their head) – they are owned by Ford, makers of that mighty liberal machine, the Excursion.
    Plus, Volvo will likely be sold off to a Chinese, Russian, Tata or private owner any day now anyway.

    I haven’t driven all 3 but I’ve been in them, and while I admire the interior of the S40/V50, to put my own money into a new one over the TSX or 300 ain’t gonna happen. That thing needs to be no more than $31k with options, then it gets compelling.

    car talk is fun. eh?

  • avatar

    “jabdalmalik: $2,293 is hardly nothing – and that’s not counting the $1,375 worth of extra equipment on the TSX.

    It’d be easier to get away with making statements like that if there weren’t a handy car price comparator right on this page.”

    I went to the build and price at Volvo’s and Acura’s respective websites, though I’ve no clue how that resulted in such a massive discrepancy in price. An S40 2.4i with the Select, Sport, and Climate packages and an automatic transmission comes out to $29,558. A TSX with an automatic is $28,860.

    What standard equipment on the TSX are you talking about that’s worth all these extra thousands of dollars?

  • avatar

    “Not to beat this dead horse any longer, but a 2.4t (the 2.4i is just putsy)”

    I think you’re being overly dismissive of an engine that’s more than adequate for the way the vast majority of folks are going to drive their family sedans.

    “car talk is fun. eh?”

    I agree wholeheartedly.

  • avatar

    I don’t like the 30 chiclet sized buttons on the floating center stack. Taking the time to figure out which one recirculates the A/C takes my eyes off the road for too long.

  • avatar

    i configured an S40 on

    I suppose to truly match the TSX (i drive an 05 one) you’d need to also check the sirius option and the leather seating surfaces (all tsxes have leather surfaces and XM).

    according to carsdirect this brings you up to about msrp $31053 including destination for a 2007 s40 and you still dont have a nav system. A 2008 TSX costs slightly less than that @ $30960 or something. A 2007 msrp costs $200 less btw.

    So basically both cars with every option cost about the same msrp. EXCEPT that the acura has a few other features such as bluetooth , 2 more speakers and the nav system. the s40 with climate package does have rainsensing wipers and headlight wipers (cant get those on the tsx).

    Anyhow, I think i’d rather have nav and bluetooth than the wipers. That said, the S40 can be had significantly under MSRP right now, I think its like $4500 off where you might be able to get $1500 off on the s40 according to the cars direct price.

    So at the actual transaction price the S40 isn’t a horrible value compared to a TSX (it would cost about the same as a tsx without the nav system so its reasonably equivalent content wise).

    Now I’ve never driven an S40 but I already think my tsx is slightly underpowered and to pay that much money for a car with even less horse power and less content I dont think I could have done. So basically a loaded S40 would have to cost maybe $25000 actual transaction price …. so basically mazda 3 money to be really competitive.

  • avatar

    The s40 T5 btw is much more competitive content wise. it bests the TSX on power, has an optional NAV system and xenon lights (the normal S40 doesnt have a xenon option which is standard on the TSX).

    so yeah, i guess if the T5 cost what the normal one did, and the normal one was mazda 3 price…. it seems to be reflected in their actual sale prices anyway if carsdirect prices can be used to estimate that.

  • avatar

    You can also do European delivery for an S40, which shaves a good 7% off the price and you get a cheap vacation in the bargain.

  • avatar

    I'm surprised no one is comparing this particular Volvo to the Audi A3. I think the A4 is way more of a luxury ride and probably a lot more expensive, feature for feature, and not really comparable. I shopped the S40 and V50 and bought the Audi. In base trim, it can be had for a lot less, with a WAY better motor (the 2.0T is sweeeeeeet!), better utility (than the S40, anyway), a nicer interior, better base stereo, better gas mileage (in spite of 40 more ponies under the hood) and off the charts better handling. A base A3 will absolutely SHAME a base S40 in any driving metric one can think of and is at least as sensible a ride. As to the liberal image of the Volvo, most of this can be attributed to its country of origin. Sweden is about as liberal a country as one could find and I am totally cool with that. Nice that sensible is synonymous with liberal, eh? And that ridiculous bling machines like a Chrysler 300 or a Hummer not so much. 

  • avatar

    August 10th, 2007 at 11:31 am

    The styling is what makes the S40 and V50 winners. There was a true artist at work here.

    I know that styling is subjective. And I know that I’m artistically challenged. But “true artist”? I’d go so far as to say unoffensive, but that’s about it.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz


    Agreed! Decent looking car, but not a work of art. Maserati Quattroporte, Alfa 156 – gorgeous works of art. The Renault Avantime, as a distinctly Museum of Modern Art French proposition. Those are the passionate, artistic cars if you ask me.

  • avatar

    I think of the S40 as the world’s gift to Acura. It’s got these words carved on it:

    “Here Acura. You won. You deserve all the praise in the world for making a car in the TSX that beats our famous Volvo in every department yet costs less. On top of that we’ll honor you with horrible depreciation and reliability of our famous Volvo. Well done…”

    The TSX has a marvel of a powertrain packed into an upscale car that handles like a dream. Volvo needs to try much harder.

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    I agree that the S40 is among the more visually interesting cars in its class. I admire the restraint in its design.

    But if Volvo wants to make “Scandinavian chic” its selling point, the stylists need to make a much riskier, more visible statement. Americans don’t seem to value “class” in the way that the Euro market does; most want to be noticed and associated with an easily identifiable brand image, which Volvo is not cultivating (“we’re like the German brands, except not”).

    That said, I have no idea why Volvo took this tack in the first place. Volvo was selling plenty of cars when its hook was anti-fashion, and when its cars genuinely felt like tanks. Today we have a lineup trying (and failing) to beat BMW at its own game, while marketers make weak references to the brand’s long-gone advantages in safety and reliability.

    Bring back the turbo bricks, Volvo. If you fizzle out anyway, at least you’ll have gone your own road.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Having attended the press launch of the S80 (not the S40) in Sweden and having sat through Volvo’s marketing presentations, I can be a little more specific about Scandinavian chic (emphasis on “a little”) and explain that it’s specifically “Scandinavian luxury” that Volvo is trying to sell. And Scandinavian luxury, as they explain it, is a matter of creating something elegant, then deciding how far you can back off making a statement with it, and then backing off just a tad more. It’s largely Minimalism…well, that’s an oxymoron, it’s Minimalism.

    Volvo took us to a cooperative mega-millionaire’s riverfront summer house to give us an example of this, and we were accompanied by the architect of the small house. (All houses are small in Sweden.) Approaching it from the street, I thought it was the house’s garage, not the house. Inside, it was what you or I would think a nice Cape Cod summer cottage. That’s Scandinavian luxury. (The owner’s two Ferraris were discreetly parked down the street, away from the house…)

  • avatar

    I just rented one these and drove it for about 300 miles. In sum, I came away very impressed. Here’s a couple of observations:

    The car is relatively luxurious, even in base trim. The interior appears to be screwed together well, and neither the switchgear nor materials feel cheap. The dashboard control setup is intuitive, though the base stereo sucks.

    I didn’t notice the floating center until a friend pointed it out to me. The storage bin behind it is awkwardly placed, but it’s better than having none at all.

    Volvo’s had a good reputation for seats in the past. I’m less enthused about the ones in this car; they seem to dip toward the middle. It wasn’t enough to be uncomfortable, but I still noticed.

    Visibility’s not as good as it could be. The A-pillars are thick and there’s some strange black masking above the mirror that blocks parts of the view. The driver’s headrest also blocks rear visibility when going backwards. The car has a pleasant ‘cocooned’ feel, however, and the rear seats are perfectly usable, even for 6′+ adults.

    Per the engine and tranny, I was mostly impressed. The engine is smooth up to 4K, after which it becomes slightly rough. Torque is all over the place from low RPM though, and it pulls all the way to redline unlike some of my pushrod GM V6s. But there’s throttle lag, just like a Mazda 6 V6 I tried, and just as annoying. It’s something like 3/4 of a second, and roughly 2.5X that of the GM V6.

    The autobox is totally decent if you don’t push it. The default shifting profile doesn’t like to downshift, though it’ll hold a gear if you’re past halfway on the pedal. The auto-manual mode is mostly a gimmick, but works fine if you want a little more control when you push the car.

    Handling is great. ‘Taut’ is the word that comes to mind. Very stable, great steering. Cruising at 90 is effortless, and the car has a strong tendency to center itself, unlike the Porsche Cayenne I drove which took continuous mental effort to keep in one lane. There’s a fair bit of steering feel too; the car is very confidence-inspiring, and I found myself driving faster than usual.

    There’s a strong understeer bias which is further exacerbated by FWD. It’s easy to find the car’s limits, at which point it washes wide in a predictable fashion. The tires are quiet, but without much grip. Some suspension tweaks and better rubber would improve the ultimate limits hugely; the chassis is definitely up for it.

    Excellent, excellent brakes. Linear, easy, and limited only by the tires. I’d prefer a slightly harder pedal feel, but these were east to modulate once I got used to them. Perhaps a bit less forgiving of rough technique, as good brakes should be.

    And that’s about it. All considered, an excellent car for someone who wants Germanic handling a level above the usual sedans, but won’t be too aggressive on the throttle.

  • avatar

    I absolutely LOVE my Volvo S40. Mine is not the one being tested here as I opted for the T5 version with leather. Being a car guy, I understand that there are several aspects of performance where the direct competition beats it out, but in my opinion the exterior design and overall package of the Volvo makes it stand out.

    Where Justin sees bland in the interior, I see clean and uncluttered.

    Where many of the my TTAC bretheren have ‘sticker shock’ I would argue that no one pays MSRP, and Acura, Audi, etc are less willing to deal. I got mine just before the new models arrived for $4k less than sticker.

    I’ve NEVER had a problem with power, the T5 Turbo kicks up the performance to a very comfortable level.

    My feeling is that Volvo is no longer the place for hippie college professors to ponder their next establishment freak-out, but more of an mid-level luxury brand for people who appreciate good European design and comfort without the arrogance of a BMW or a Benz.

    Call it Euro-Lux-Lite or Sub-Asian-Lux but I’ll still call it the most satisfying car I’ve owned.

  • avatar

    And now that I’ve efficiently heaped praise upon the car and by extension the company that created it, let me explain why I am not currently on speaking terms with Volvo.

    Again, love the car. But after driving it for three years, there are a few options I’d like to change due to changes in my own life.

    I’ve moved to an area where lake effect snow is a way of life so I’d like to get the AWD. There is also very little traffic compared to my previous address, so I’m looking to trade in the Auto-box for a nice manual tranny. In addition, I really like the unique T-Tec fabric and am ready to have kids so I want to switch out the leather.

    So I tool over to Volvo’s website and begin building my new S40…and find the proverbial catch.

    In order to move down to the T-Tec, I’d not just be giving up the leather but the entire Premium Package:
    – Power Glass Moonroof
    – Power-Adjustable Passenger Seat, 8-Way
    – Memory Function on Power-Adjustable Driver Seat
    – Auto-Dimming Rear View Mirror with Compass
    – Homelink

    I really think that in this age of technology auto companies should drop this ‘package’ philosophy. I know it creates a longer list of features and higher profits by pairing items a buyer wouldn’t normally want with something they consider a ‘must have’ but this is ridiculous! I can’t get a moon roof unless I buy leather seats?!?! Really!?!?!

    Why did they develop this cool new fabric if they were just going to steer anyone who wanted a moonroof into leather anyway?

    I think I’ll try Blizzak tires for the first winter, but if I still want AWD by April my only option is to be the owner of a not quite what I wanted new Volvo S40 AWD.

    How does it make sense to pay $28k-$30k for a new car and have it be not quite what you wanted?

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    My mother has one of these, T5 version, same red paint with the sport suspension and visual kit. She’s had it for two years and still raves about it every time we drive it. It’s not as fast as my S4, but it isn’t as thirsty either.

    Her only real complaint is that it’s an 05 which wasn’t available with Ipod connectivity until the 07 model year. She likes to download audiobooks and listen to them on her commute. The integrated audio system makes it nearly impossible to add an MP3 player without major surgery.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    blue, I have an ’06 V50 T5, essentially the same car as a wagon. For $200 (installed), the Volvo dealer will wire in a fairly neat iPod holder that fits on the far-left air vent and transmits through the car’s audio system. It’s a little wireless FM transmitter, and you simply choose an empty (in your area) FM frequency, set it into the adapter and the radio and you’re in business.

    You can get a similar device for less through Crutchfield and install it yourself, but there is some computer-resetting (I believe) required, so I paid the higher price to have the dealer do it in an hour while I waited.

  • avatar
    blue adidas


    Thanks. I’ll check it out. Might be a good birthday gift for her.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    It was for me. Susan picked me up at the airport, John Prine was playin’, I never noticed that it wasn’t what you’d hear on any radio station I know, until she pointed out the new iPod dock. “Happy birthday!” (I lied about it being me that waited an hour for the installation. It was The War Department.)

  • avatar

    I’ve had my 2007 s40 2.4I for about 6months no complaints about power, this is a freeway car, ok around town a little stiff, but on the highway no problems with power, and yes I have the automatic, but I’ve added a KN filter and exhaust, this woke this motor up without the noise, people have to understand if you are power hungry opt for the turbo..I’m in for good good gas mileage, comfort, and the style and safety.
    Its a volvo…

  • avatar

    I recently replaced a 2000 V40 with an ’05 V50 T5. I have also owned an ’86 240 and a ’99 V70.

    The V50 is terrific car and the T5 is plenty, plenty fast. I get 35 MPG on the highway at 75 MPH. I don’t particularly enjoy the noises it makes when driving over large Chicago potholes, but everything else is great.

    In terms of style, I consider the V50 a work of art when compared to BMW or MB wagons.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Hard to believe. I have an ’06 V50 T5 AWD and can’t get above 20 mpg in normal, moderate, rural, day-to-day driving. It’s a little better on the highway, but 35 mpg? Impossible. Is my car a lemon? Well, it did 13,000 miles worth of service as the New York press-fleet V50, so I can’t imagine Volvo left a lemon in the press fleet.

    You might have once seen a 35 on the trip computer, but unless you actually have the mysterious T3 engine, I can’t accept 35 mpg. That’s a famously thirsty engine–even Volvo admits it.

    Oh, and ndotym, get rid of that K&N filter. As a substantial number of dyno tests have shown, they’re all smoke and mirrors. And I even have them on my track car (a 911) but only because nothing else works with carburetors. But to replace a perfectly good, well-engineered Volvo air filter with those is like putting the money on the porch and watching it blow away.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the comment.. I believe anythng is than a stock filter, I have not seen any test to prove the kn is junk? I’ve had them on my race vehicle a 68 Charger R/T…and had great results..please don’t get me wrong volvo is a great engineered car, but always room for improvement, otherwise ipd would not sell them. Most people don’t modify a volvo (smile) but better struts, shocks and a good set up anti sway bars…its a way to personalize what you own..

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    I assume what you’re trying to say is “anything is better than a stock filter,” but it’s hard to tell; you type too fast and spell too wrong. Still, that’s the mistake everybody makes: 500 engineers in Sweden (or Stuttgart or Toyota City) do their work and then a bunch of guys in Texas (or wherever K&N is) come along and show them how to do it right.

    I’m part of a pretty vigorous on-line community of Porsche track drivers, and when you tell one of them that something made for a 911 works better than stock, or better than what they’ve been accustomed to, you can hear dynos all over the country being fired up. So yeah, there have been hundreds of tests to quantify the gains K&N claims to make, and rarely is there any sign of an improvement in hp–occasionally a very slight improvement, usually a drop in hp.

    Remember that the point of an air filter is to filter, not simply to allow lots of air and particulates through. You can put anything on your car you wish–an old trombone mute, I don’t care–but be aware that among people who know (and test) what they’re doing, K&N filters are right up there with Marvel Mystery Oil, Motor Honey and Overhaul In a Can.

    I assume that if you’re “racing” a ’68 Dodge it’s drag car, and that you very well might show an improvement by using a K&N for quarter-mile runs. You very well might show an even greater improvement by leaving the air filter off entirely.

  • avatar

    I just drove 360 highway miles today and the trip computer shows 34.6 Average MPG. I reset it before I left northern Wisconsin.

    All summer long I never averaged below 27 MPG doing moderate, rural driving.

    I suppose the computer could be wrong, but I’m not the kind of person that second-guesses a computer.

    In heavy, stop-and-go city traffic, which is my Spring, Fall and Winter driving environment I get between 16 (with A/C) and 18.5 MPG according to the trip computer.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    One of us apparently has a useless trip computer, and it’s also apparent that neither of us has actually checked our gas receipts. I’m gonna start doing so, as a result of what you’re telling me, but I nonetheless am aware that a very common complaint about that engine is its lousy fuel economy.

    I’ll be meeting with a bunch of Volvo engineers day after tomorrow–I’m testing the C30–so I’ll see what they have to say. But I think we need to both admit that we’re believing the readout of “a computer,” not reality.

  • avatar

    As I said, I’m not one to second-guess a computer. That probably tells you all you need to know about me.

    In any event, I’m very pleased with the performance of the engine.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Having been a commercially licensed pilot for 40 years, I long ago learned never to “trust computers.” Saved my ass a number of times.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    So today I met with a bunch of Volvo engineers and product managers and told them Cahibostep’s story of 36 highway mpg from a T5 engine. They had one word for it: “Impossible.” Well, one had a few more; he said, “Maybe downhill all the way with the cruise control on.”

    Cahibo says he believes trip computers and that’s all there is to it.

    Reminds me of the days not long ago when pilots joked about the possibility of computerized airline flights. The favorite was the day 350 passengers boarded a Boeing, which took off and climbed to altitude while the PA came to life and a mechanical voice said, “Welcome aboard the first totally computerized air-transport flight in history. There is absolutely no crew aboard this aircraft, only computers. However, there is nothing to be afraid of…raidofraidofraidofraidofraidofraidofraidof…

  • avatar

    Thankfully I’m not one of those gullible gadget freaks who feel that rear-view backup cameras and dynamic adaptive cruise control are necessities.

    With all due respect to the many Volvo fans, styling is subjective, and they have never been attractive in my opinion. Decades of auto journalism prove that handling and powertrain are not Volvo strong points, and never have been, even with Ford’s active involvement. Driving a Volvo back-to-back with an Audi, BMW, or Lexus will leave one with a very clear understanding of what a state-of-the-art sports sedan/wagon can do. Pay a little more, get a lot more.

    That said, if you just need solid comfortable transportation, and you aren’t particular about handling and dynamic performance, then a Volvo is a decent choice — or Buick, or Saab, or Acura, any of which might give you a better bargain depending on the sale this month. Picking one from amongst this crowd of “value/luxury” cars is like picking this week’s ice cream flavor – you may have your preference, but they all work about the same, and none are offensive.

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