The Volvo V40 never proved compelling to Americans seeking a modicum of luxury and utility for just under $30,000, selling in low numbers to Volvo fans and safety-conscious consumers looking for a high-value alternative to wagons from Audi, BMW and Lexus. The new 2005 Volvo V50, quietly introduced at the Bologna Motor Show in Italy last December, should appeal to a wider demographic while retaining the traditional characteristics that the Volvo faithful find so irresistible. This new "active lifestyle sportswagon" will arrive in the U.S. near the end of the summer in 2004.
Constructed upon a platform shared with the redesigned European Ford Focus and the new Mazda 3, the 2005 Volvo V50 is endowed with class-leading safety systems, a powerful turbocharged engine option and the availability of all-wheel-drive, ensuring its stature as the premium model among its corporate cousins.
Exterior styling draws heavily from the handsome Volvo V70, with that model's strong shoulders, v-shaped hood and familiar Volvo face integrated nicely into the V50's smaller package. At the rear, Volvo's familiar D-pillar taillights are incorporated to provide a clear tie to Volvo wagons of years past. Turn signal indicators are located in both the side marker lights and the exterior mirrors to make it clear to other drivers the V50 driver's intentions. Bi-xenon headlights are optional.
SIPS and VIVA
The standard engine is a 168-horsepower inline five-cylinder displacing 2.4 liters. Sporty T5 models have a light-pressure turbocharged 2.5-liter inline five good for 218 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque. Both motors feature variable camshaft timing. An adaptive five-speed automatic transfers the power to either the front wheels or all four.
Unlike with the V40, all-wheel-drive is optional on the Volvo V50. The electronically controlled Haldex system reacts within a fraction of a slipping wheel's rotation to transfer power rearward for increased grip and traction. Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with panic-braking assistance and traction control are standard. Stability control is optional.
The Volvo V50 can be equipped with a keyless drive system designed to help prevent theft and accidental lockout, and also to provide programming options for the power door locks. With keyless drive, the car can be unlocked, started and driven without actually inserting a key as long as a specially coded fob is located near (for unlocking) and within (for starting and driving) the car. This feature will be optional at an undetermined time after the Volvo V50's initial launch. Also available is an impressive 445-watt Dolby Surround Pro Logic II sound system, and laminated glass to prevent smash-and-grab break-ins.
With rear seats that split fold, a front passenger seat that also folds flat, and available all-wheel-drive or sports suspension tuning, it's clear that the new V50 is designed to appeal to people looking for one entry-luxury vehicle that can do it all. At first glance, it seems that the 2005 Volvo V50 is on target.
-- Photos courtesy of Volvo Cars of North America