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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 (continued)

2005 Volvo S40

Our Volvo S40 came equipped with 17" wheels

Projector bulbs light up the night sky

We loved the 2005 Volvo S40 - it offers great value and performance

Visit the
Volvo S40
Photo Gallery

Official Web sites:
Volvo USA
Outside, the S40 manages to blend traditional Volvo styling cues with contemporary lines, giving an overall modern feel that nevertheless won't be mistaken for the product of any other brand. The overall look is reminiscent of the bigger Volvos - the S40 could be an S60 on Atkins. Particularly distinctive are the blacked-out cat's eye headlamps and aggressive lower air intake scoops. The optional 17" spiderweb rims on our tester bespeak velocity and rapidity; a slight hint at this otherwise demure car's capabilities.

V50 is the moniker attached to the S40's wagon sibling. Drivetrains, interiors, and safety features are common across the lines, so the major difference is the cargo space - the sedan's trunk is listed at 15.5 cubic feet, while the wagon boasts 27.4 with the seats up. Seats down, there's room for 62.9 cubic feet of your gear in the V50. Unfortunately, the typical wagon weight penalty does apply here - the extra 150 pounds the V50 carries is actually about 5% of the total poundage, and the difference is palpable.

That comforting sense of security and protection for driver and passengers is Volvo's strong suit. Volvo Intelligent Vehicle Architecture, or VIVA for short, is the latest in the list of acronyms denoting the brand's holistic approach to safety. Various panels and chassis members are constructed from one of four different grades of steel, chosen specifically for the strength and crush characteristics necessary for that particular piece. Cross members in each door make for top-notch side-impact protection. Further keeping you out of harm's way, airbags lurk in all the right places - up front, in the seats, and in the curtain areas. Seatbelt pretensioners are included, and even the headrests are specifically designed to reduce whiplash. Traction and stability control also is, of course, available. In NHTSA tests, the S40 rated five stars for frontal and side crashes in all tests, save one four-star score.

As a premium compact, the S40 faces some very stiff competition. There's the ubiquitous BMW 3-series, the avant-garde Audi A4, the surgically precise Acura TSX, and many more fighting fish swimming around in that pool. The Volvo stakes out its territory by offering unmatched safety with ample performance. While it doesn't top the charts as far as acceleration and handling goes, not everyone needs the utmost high-speed capability and, in fact, many prefer what the Volvo offers. As far as premium compact sports sedans go, the S40 is possibly the safest choice on the market - yet it gives up little in the performance and comfort arenas.

Corporate parts-sharing adds profitability for a manufacturer, which is especially imperative in this case as Ford and the PAG suffer through some seriously painful years. But that extra coin sometimes comes at the expense of the actual product, which can be embarrassingly poor as a result - witness the Cadillac Cimarron; the product of similar thinking at GM a couple decades ago. Badge-engineering is the derisive term; think Ford's own Jaguar X-Type 2.5 which, based on the discontinued Mondeo platform, doesn't have enough verve and vigor to wear the leaping cat badge. Those in the know often denigrate such automotive sacrilege as disgusting profiteering, and the buyers uninformed enough to purchase such reskinned dogs are lucky if the enthusiasts confine their laughing to behind the suckers' backs. Here, though, Ford got it right - much in the same way that the Five Hundred benefits from using Volvo's S80 platform, the S40/V50 are only better for their European Focus-derived architecture. After a week of enthusiastic driving, we can wholeheartedly recommend them.

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