2001 S40 New Car Test Drive
Volvo's compact S40 packs all that traditional Swedish goodness, all that genuine Volvo obsession with safety, into a more manageable, more affordable package.
Volvo has been building compact cars since the mid-1970s, but only recently did Volvo decide to bring its compact model to these shores.
That model is the S40. The four-door sedan and four-door wagon (called V40) come in only one well-equipped trim level, with air conditioning, automatic transmission, power windows, power heated mirrors, remote keyless entry, eight-way adjustable driver's seat and a sophisticated six-speaker, AM/FM/cassette stereo. At $23,500, Volvo has aggressively priced the S40 sedan against a similarly equipped Accord or Camry. The V40 wagon costs just $1,000 more.
There is just one engine choice: a 1.9-liter in-line four that uses light-pressure turbocharging to produce an impressive 160 horsepower at 5100 rpm. Volvo engineers have extensively revised this engine for 2001, adding continuously variable valve timing on the exhaust side, which lowers emissions and boosts torque from 170 to 177 pound-feet at 1800 rpm. But it is mostly the light-pressure turbo that delivers terrific high-end horsepower with workhorse low-end torque, a difficult combination to achieve otherwise. The S40 feels powerful; in fact its performance is on par with many V6-powered compacts.
No manual transmission is offered, but the high-torque turbo engine works very well with the automatic transmission; which has also been upgraded for 2001, from a four-speed to a five-speed. The extra gear improves acceleration slightly but the biggest gains are in fuel economy and noise reduction.
As you would expect from Volvo, safety equipment such as multi-stage front airbags, side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags and four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS, are standard. Stand-alone options are few and include leather upholstery ($1200), power driver's seat ($450), and power sunroof ($1200). Volvo has instead packaged a wide variety of desirable equipment, including a traction control system called Dynamic Stability Assistance, heated seats, and headlamp washer/wipers, into an $850 Cold Weather Package. There's also a $550 Sports Package, with a spoiler and fog lights; as well as various audio and interior upgrade packages.
Several dealer-installed accessories, such as a dog guard and cargo mats, are also available.