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Shelby Mustang Cobra GT500, Geneva Auto Show, New York Auto Show, Detailers Paradise, Nissan Titan, Porsche 911 Carrera S, Volvo S40
Issue Seventeen
March 28, 2005
2005 Geneva Auto Show
Photo Gallery:
2005 Geneva Auto Show
2005 New York Auto Show
Photo Gallery:
2005 NY Auto Show
Hot Lap with:
Detailers Paradise
Nissan Titan
Porsche 911 Carrera S
2005 Volvo S40

2005 Volvo S40:
Ford Gilds a Lily
By Max Farrow
Contributing Editor

(March 16, 2005)

2005 Volvo S40

The 2005 Volvo S40 is classified as a compact sedan, but offers plenty of room

Inside the 2005 Volvo S40

Sporty yet classy, the Volvo S40 delivers performance and good looks.

Visit the
Volvo S40
Photo Gallery

Official Web sites:
Volvo USA
Volvo, the Swedish brand known for putting occupant safety above all else, has done well in North America trading on its traditional strengths. Staid and solid - if a bit boxy and boring - over the past four decades, Volvo has had little trouble attracting enough of a slice of the safety-conscious American consumer market to stay fat and happy. But as ever, nothing is sure for very long. The wildfire spread of technology has brought copious standard safety features to even the chintziest of new cars, lessening the Scandinavians' superiority on that front.

Then, super-sized SUVs started to dominate sales, giving drivers a sense of invincibility by means of pure mass, rather than safety-dominated engineering. Their stranglehold on the security-blanket market thus loosened, Volvo fought back with modern products like the XC90 sport 'ute, a runaway success that married protective design and sturdy size, and gave buyers a feeling of womb-like security.

The S40 compact sedan is another example of Volvo's treading into the new millennium of auto design. Now in its second generation, the Volvo S40 is the brand's third-best selling vehicle, and is thus partly responsible for Volvo's standing as the one single profitable holding in Ford's 'Premiere Automotive Group' (PAG) basket of premium European nameplates. It shares more with the Ford conglomerate than just sales success, however; corporate cousins from Dearborn contribute much to the S40's underpinnings. Fortunately, the C1 chassis is an excellent piece of automotive architecture. Instead of having its performance hampered, the S40 is that rare bird that actually benefits from brand engineering. No sow's ears here; the well loved Mazda 3 and Ford Focus are worthy progenitors of the silk-purse S40. Thus, the sensation of substantial solidity you get in the S40 is due only partly to the famous Volvo heavy-duty engineering.

"This is a compact car?" Several passengers expressed that sentiment in our week with the diminutive Swede. Although its dimensions place it in league with a Subaru Impreza or Acura TSX, the S40 gives the impression of being a considerably larger sedan. That's good, especially in light of our tester's $30,245 price tag. Size-wise, that seems steep - but time behind the wheel left us feeling that it's worth every penny.

With five turbocharged cylinders displacing 2.5 liters, the 218-hp T5 motor scooted our S40 to 60 mph in under seven seconds. Turbo lag - that delayed reaction between throttle application and the power reward - is nearly absent with the T5, thanks to the displacement size. Economy, however, is good; we averaged nearly 27 mpg in mixed driving; almost a record given our lead-footed driving style (our motto: "we beat 'em up so you don't have to!"). The transmission choice was a 6-speed manual, with well-spaced gear ratios. We of course recommend the manual to get the most out of the engine, but the rubbery shifter was perhaps the biggest disappointment in this otherwise excellent auto. If you're used to short, tight throws, this transmission will require some adjustment. Other reviewers have praised the manual's linkage however, so although we've experienced the issue in both S40 and V50 testers, it may still have been a fluke.

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