SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 22,900 Price As Tested $ 28,897 Engine Type Turbocharged DOHC 16-valve 1.9 Liter I4 w/SMFI* Engine Size 119 cid/1948 cc Horsepower 160 @ 5100 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 170 @ 1800 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 100.4"/67.7"/176.4" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 3029 pounds Fuel Capacity 15.8 gallons Tires (F/R) 195/60R15 all-season Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content Two percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.32 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 21/28/24 0-60 MPH 8.5 seconds 1/4 Mile (E.T.) 16.5 seconds @ 85.0 mph Top speed 125 mph * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
(Matt Hagin says that the new Volvo S40 has modern styling that gets away from the boxiness of older Volvos. Bob Hagin says that it's about time since the old models were as aerodynamic as a shipping crate.)
BOB - I really like that Volvo is coming on strong with its line of sedans and station wagons. The company has been in this country since '56 when it began to import its PV444 two-door sedan, a car that looked like a miniature '40 Ford, beetle-back trunk and all. It was a step or two above the VW Beetle of that time and sold for around $2300.
MATT - The Volvo line has gotten very upscale in 45 years, Dad. It's now owned by Ford and is part of Ford's Premium Automotive Group of luxury cars. But Ford wants the Volvo line to attract up-and-coming Generation Xers and get them in the habit of staying with Volvo as they climb up the ladder of success. The S40 sedan and its companion station wagon, the V40, aren't really new models. They've been on the European market since '96 although they aren't quite as fancy as the ones sold here. They're made in Holland in a plant that's a joint venture with Mitsubishi and it's the only car sold here that's made in the Netherlands. The engine is made in Sweden, the transmission is made in Japan and rest of the parts come from all over.
BOB - Mechanically, the S40 is pretty interesting. It has a relatively small 1.9 liter, all-aluminum four-cylinder engine that packs what Volvo calls a low pressure "Twin Scroll" turbocharger. It develops 160 horsepower but the amazing thing about it is that it develops 170 pound/feet of torque at only 1800 RPM. This give the S40 amazing pulling power from an engine this size and for whatever reason, it doesn't produce much torque-steer, a front-drive phenomenon that makes it tricky to accelerate hard on wet or snow-covered streets.
MATT - Our S40 had an optional traction control system that helps prevent wheel slippage in those conditions. It also had a special control setting on the automatic four-speed transmission that allows the driver to take off in second gear to negate wet weather wheelspin even more. The brakes are discs front and rear and an antilock brake systen is standard equipment. I guess that being Swedish, Volvo engineers spend considerable time and effort in making their cars user-friendly when the road conditions are not. An example of this are the washers and wipers on the headlight covers, but we don't need them much here in California. The leather-covered front seats and the outside mirrors are heated and just to keep the driver up on what's happening outside, the digital clock doubles as an outside temperature gauge.
BOB - The S40 is listed with the EPA as a "compact" car, but using modern marketing jargon, Volvo calls it a "pre-family" sedan which means that it's for couples before children come on the scene. The back seat has three-point seat belts but an average-sized pair of adults has to engage in what appears to be a wrestling match to connect just two of them. The front suspension is made up of pretty conventional MacPherson struts, but the rear system is an independent five-link setup that has a small amount of built-in rear-wheel steering. Being front-wheel drive, there's a certain amount of understeer built into the system but not enough to scare the driver on fast corners.
MATT - Safety has always been a big deal to Volvo and the front bucket seats have a neat whiplash protection system built into them. If the car gets clobbered from the back, the headrests and the seatbacks tip back somewhat to absorb most of the impact. The driver's seat is adjustable for height and angle as well as fore-and-aft, so almost anyone of any size can find a comfortable position.
BOB - I had one of those early Volvo PV444 two-door sedans. They were really fast and handled well, but I had to get rid of it when your brother Andy, my fourth kid, was born. Even back then I was concerned about safety.
MATT - Being sixth in line, it's no wonder I don't remember us having one. In fact, there are probably a lot of cars you owned that I never got to see.