|Grand Prix - Volvo S40
Who would've thought a small company from
Sweden could become Ford Motor Company's star property?
Problem is, there aren't enough Volvos on sale to have a
significant effect on Ford's misfortune. Enter the S40,
a subcompact based on the same platform as the new Ford
Focus and Mazda 3 models. If the people that build your
next car eat a lot of salmon and drink a lot of aquivit
instead of beef and beer or sushi and sake, would you
We all really wanted to like this car.
Here, finally, was an entry-level Volvo that looked like
a Volvo--and not a re-badged Mitsubishi. Our test S40
even came clad in a trick-looking sport package, replete
with rear wing, a modified front spoiler with foglamps
and 17-in. wheels. The turbocharged 2.5-liter
five-cylinder engine produced an adequate 218 bhp and
235 lb-ft of torque, which, thanks to the turbo, was
available from 1500 to 4000 rpm. The interior had been
re-done in Swedish minimalism; it even had a three-spoke
sport steering with multi-control functions. And, yet,
we just couldn't do it--like it very much, that
Severe understeer and noticeable
torque steer were the top two complaints from all the
testers. One tight turn after another, the S40 T5 fought
against going where it was pointed. Accelerate hard on
any surface that wasn't perfectly smooth, and the
chassis tried to go any direction but straight. We here
at european car are used to Swedish turbocharged cars
with these...er...quirks, but we had hoped that the
all-new S40 would have eliminated them. Sadly, it
The price also got to us. With a base
sticker of $26,990, the three options we had on our test
S40 T5 (sport package: $750; audio package: $850; DSTC:
$695) raised the MSRP to $29,285. Throw in the
destination charge and the S40 T5 hit the $30k mark. For
$600 more you could get the VW R32, fully loaded. Which
would you chose?
In fairness to Volvo, our test car
was also pre-production--its very low VIN and missing
dome light were dead giveaways. We all have our fingers
crossed that the "quirks" that bothered us the most were
symptomatic of an early run car. Once we get our hands
on a "real" S40 T5, we'll let you know.
"The 218 bhp does okay,
though I'd stay out of the left lane in this
"A good everyday driver. Smooth
transmission, comfortable ride."
"Understeers something fierce. It
exposes its front drive especially in corners and when
"Dash layout is functional,
simplified, a welcome change from the usual complex
"The engine is a nice piece of
work, providing good low-end grunt...a good chore car
around the city."
"The gearbox /clutch action is
just average. And the shift knob is the most
un-ergonomic one I've ever grasped."
"I like the look of the aero
package, but it's not an accurate reflection of the
performance. The least fun of the lot."
"There's a performance car waiting
to be released...somewhere."