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Volvo S40 T5

Broadcast dates : 3rd October  2004
7th October 2004


Henrik Otto, the chief designer of the new Volvo S40 series, says that anyone looking at this new car from the sides gets the impression of a comet on the move.

That may be a littler fanciful from someone so intimately involved in the project, but the fact remains that the new S40, especially in T5 form, has far more street-cred than the first S40 rendition.

Introduced here a few months ago, the new S40 is in fact shorter in overall length than its predecessor, but it has a much longer wheelbase, a wider track and overall width, and minimal front and rear body overhangs.

The car has a squat purposeful appearance and the new looks add appreciably to the dynamics of the car.

The first generation of S40 was a little bland in some respects, although it sold well and established itself as a very strong B-division player in the premium light sedan market segment.

Now this T5 version, the S40 range-topper using a turbocharged five-cylinder motor culled from the larger S-60 range, is staking a claim at the territory populated by the likes of the BMW 330i, Audi’s A4 3,0 and the upper Mercedes-Benz C-Class models.

Overall, the Volvo still falls short of offering the type of luxurious ambience of the BMW, Audi and Mercedes. The interior is a little austere, but it’s striking in a Bauhaus architectural manner. Hendrik (that’s Car Torque’s Hendrik Verwoerd, not Volvo’s Henrik Otto) was impressed by the strong design signatures.

The controls are very accessible on the centre control panel, which is finished in brushed aluminum veneer.

Both the major important interior functions – audio and ventilation controls – are simplicity themselves to use, refreshing in an age where complexity is often seen as a case of the smarts by some manufacturers.

The placing of the ignition key on the left of the steering wheel seems awkward, however.

The seats are covered in leather and feature eight-way electric adjustment for the driver and passenger.
And rear passenger room is excellent, both in the headroom and leg-room departments.

But it’s behind the wheel where the S40 T5 REALLY IMPRESSES.

Gone is the somewhat mushy steering response of the previous S40. And the motor too, with its five-cylinder, low-pressure turbo configuration, provides excellent, effortless response and very good acceleration.

In fact at Reef altitude this T5 is one of the performance class leaders, being up against larger-capacity naturally-aspirated motors where there is a power drop of up to 17 per cent.

Zero to 100 comes up in a claimed 6,8 seconds at the coast – there’s still a 5 per cent power drop at the Reef – and a 240 km/h top speed is listed by Volvo.

Much has been made recently about the merits and drawbacks of front-wheel-drive, with many of the traditional driver-orientated car-makers staking a claim on rear-wheel-drive.

In fact the Volvo’s front-wheel-drive layout provides excellent overall chassis balance and fine steering feel.

However pulling away on a gravel-strewn intersection, care should be taken not to feed in too much power, the Volvo tending to exhibit a bit of torque steer in these conditions.

One criticism is the narrow boot opening, although the capacity of the boot itself, at 440 litres, is adequate.

The Volvo S40 may still lack the ultimate levels of luxury feel that its rivals enjoy. But at a price of R265 000 it’s up to R50 000 less expensive than cars with similar performance at this level.

It’s a looker with a real sense of purpose and at the price, quite frankly, hard to beat.

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