dates : 3rd October 2004
7th October 2004
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
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.
passenger room is excellent, both in the headroom and
But it’s behind the wheel where the S40 T5 REALLY
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
In fact the Volvo’s front-wheel-drive layout provides
excellent overall chassis balance and fine steering
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
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.
Car Torque is