2008 S40 New Car Test Drive
The S40 and V50 have given Volvo a legitimate alternative to the less-expensive cars from other import luxury brands. We'd go so far as to call these small Volvos sport sedans (or wagons, as the case may be), and with substantial improvements for 2008, the S40 and V50 are better than ever.
Changes for 2008 are about as extensive as one expects between complete model overhauls. Both the S40 sedan and V50 wagon get a fresh look, thanks to restyled front and rear ends. Interior improvements add small-item storage space, and all models now come standard with an auxiliary audio jack and USB port. In the Volvo fashion, there are also safety enhancements, including a feature that automatically starts the emergency flashers in the event of a collision. Volvo's BLIS blind-spot monitoring system and active Bi-Xenon headlights are now optional on the both S40 and V50. On the performance side, the turbocharged T5 models get a boost from 218 to 227 peak horsepower.
The Volvo S40 sedan and Volvo V50 wagon are relatively small cars: essentially the same size as a Honda Civic. Yet there's plenty of room for passengers and cargo inside, and the compact exterior dimensions make them easier to park. They are designed to be extremely safe, with active and passive safety features to help drivers avoid accidents, then protect them if there is a crash. Both the sedan and wagon rank among the best looking Volvos ever, and inside they offer clean, Scandinavian elegance. For both appearance and ease of function, the interiors rank among best in class.
The S40 looks and feels like a sports sedan. The same applies to the V50 wagon. The V50 wagon drives just like the S40 sedan, and it's nearly identical in size, measuring less than two inches longer in overall length. In fact, the S40 sedan and V50 wagon are nearly identical in every way.
On the open road, these cars are stable and relaxed. They hold there own with the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, and other cars in this class, even at high speeds.
The 2.4i models of the S40 and V50 feature a five-cylinder engine that delivers strong torque. As a result, they deliver decent acceleration performance. They also offer a good balance between ride comfort and handling response, with a suspension that's firm but not jarring. The brakes are excellent. All come with a five-speed automatic, though the S40 2.4i is available with a five-speed manual that gives it livelier acceleration performance.
The turbocharged engine in the T5 models is wonderfully smooth and responsive, delivering acceleration that is both even and exhilarating. The automatic transmission works as well as any in this class, and the T5 can be equipped with all-wheel drive for an extra element of performance or all-weather security.
The Volvo S40 and V50 are priced right, especially compared to the entry-level cars from other European luxury brands such as Mercedes-Benz. The high-tech systems in these Volvos tend to be those that work for most buyers, rather than technology for technology's sake.
Bottom line, the S40 and V50 are excellent choices in their class, and could be a great alternative for many to more familiar entry models from Mercedes, Audi, or BMW.
The 2008 Volvo S40 sedan and V50 wagon are essentially the same car, save the obvious sedan/wagon distinctions. Both seat five passengers. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is available.
The S40 2.4i ($24,365) and V50 2.4i ($26,815) are powered by a 2.4-liter five-cylinder engine generating 168 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. The S40 2.4i comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission, while the V50 2.4i gets Volvo's Geartronic five-speed automatic with a manual shift feature. The automatic is optional on the S40 2.4i ($1,250). Standard equipment includes manual air conditioning with cabin filtration, power windows and door locks with remote locking, cruise control, a tilt-telescoping leather steering wheel with audio controls, 80-watt audio with six speakers and single CD, and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Option packages for the 2.4i models: The Climate Package ($675) adds heated front seats, headlight washers and rain-sensing wipers, while the Select Package for S40 ($2,095) and V50 ($2,145) includes an eight-way power driver's seat, power tilt/slide sunroof, a 160-watt audio upgrade with six-CD changer, oak or aluminum inlays and 17-inch wheels. There are also two stand-alone options: metallic paint ($475) and leather seating ($1,200).
The S40 T5 ($28,515) and V50 T5 ($29,715) have a slightly larger 2.5-liter turbocharged version of the five-cylinder engine. Power increases slightly to 227 hp and 236 pound-feet of torque. The T5 models all come with the five-speed automatic. Standard equipment is further upgraded with fog lights, a power driver's seat, leather gearshift knob and trip computer.
The S40 T5 AWD ($30,365) and V50 T5 AWD ($31,565) add Volvo's full-time variable all-wheel-drive system.
Options for the T5 models: The Premium Package for the S40 ($2,350) and V50 ($2,480) include a power sunroof, leather seating, power passenger seat, memory for the driver seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and Homelink transmitter. The Dynamic Trim Package ($1,695) adds sportier suspension settings and enhances the look with a front chin spoiler, rear lower valance spoiler, side skirts, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The DVD-based navigation system ($2,120) includes a remote for passenger operation and the Dynaudio Package, with a 650-watt amplifier, 12 speakers and Dolby Pro-Logic II processing. Stand-alone options include keyless drive ($450) and 17-inch wheels ($1,350).
Safety features include front-impact airbags, torso-protecting side-impact airbags for front passengers, and head-protecting curtains for all outboard passengers. All models come with antilock brakes and Volvo's Dynamic Stability Traction Control (DSTC), which senses and then tries to correct a potential skid. Volvo's Whiplash Seat Protection System, or WHIPS, uses specially designed seats to minimize potential for neck injuries in a rear-end impact.
New for 2008 is an Automatic Hazard Warning feature that starts the emergency flashers in the event of a collision. Optional safety features include Volvo's Blind Spot Information System, or BLIS ($695), which warns the driver of nearby vehicles that might not be visible in the mirrors. Active Bi-Xenon headlights ($800) point into curves and remain level over bumpy surfaces. Built-in, height-adjustable child booster seats ($300) are available.