When did Volvo evolve to front-drive cars? And when did they get so goodlooking? Aren’t Volvos supposed to be safe, boxy and rear-wheel drive?

Yes — until the FWD 850 hit these shores in 1991. The S40 small sedan arrived in 1995 and the first V40 wagon the following year. Today’s expanded U.S. line-up begins with an all-new 2005 S40 and V50 wagon and extends through larger S60 a" />

Issue: Dec 2004


Cars Worth Noting: 2005 Volvo V50 T5



2005 Volvo V50 T5

by Gary Witzenburg

When did Volvo evolve to front-drive cars? And when did they get so goodlooking? Aren’t Volvos supposed to be safe, boxy and rear-wheel drive?

Yes — until the FWD 850 hit these shores in 1991. The S40 small sedan arrived in 1995 and the first V40 wagon the following year. Today’s expanded U.S. line-up begins with an all-new 2005 S40 and V50 wagon and extends through larger S60 and S80 sedans, a C70 convertible and V70 wagon to XC70 and XC90 crossover SUVs, all FWD or AWD.

This new one may be one of the handsomest small wagons ever, both svelte and broad-shouldered despite its diminutive size. Volvo Design Director Henrik Otto calls it “the result of a consistent design strategy in which the Volvo character has been developed for each new model [with] its own totally individual and distinct profile with characteristics from classics such as the Volvo 1800 ES, 480 and V40.”

And when did Volvo move from fours and sixes to 5-cylinder inline engines (Audi’s old trademark)? Our sporty spoilered test T5 was energetically motivated by a 218-hp “light-pressure” turbocharged 2.5L five, up 50 ponies from the standard 2.4L non-turbo version. Coupled to a slick-shifting 6-speed manual, it felt much stronger than that, propelled the V50 from 0-60 in roughly 7.5 sec. and delivered 26 mpg in the process. Handling and braking on the Mazda3- based Ford global chassis were also impressive.

Inside are terrific front buckets, high-quality controls and a new Volvo interior icon: a slim center “stack” curving downward from the dash to present a tidy and sensible array of climate and entertainment buttons. Behind it is empty space but for a small open tray — a fresh, attractive design, except that some of that space might be better used for storage. And where did they put the radio and HVAC hardware?



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