December 17, 2007
Toronto, Ontario – The 2008 Volvo V50 T5 is one sexy little wagon. Call me superficial, but this is a car that can win me over on looks alone. Sure, it’s not in-your-face gorgeous in an Italian exotic sort of way, but the V50’s taut, well resolved lines look great from any angle, and its purposeful, planted stance gives it a sporting yet elegant demeanor. This tester’s optional exterior styling kit and 17-inch wheels gave it some extra visual zing.
Certainly a far cry from the "looks-like-the-box-it-came-in" Volvos of the not too distant past. Better yet, this tidy sport wagon is more than just a pretty face. My front-wheel-drive tester with standard six-speed manual transmission proved to be a zippy, stable and suitably refined mini-hauler during its week-long tenure at chez Bleakney.
For 2008, the T5’s light pressure turbo 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine gets a mild bump in power – up nine horses to 227 at 5000 r.p.m. Torque remains the same with 236 lb.-ft. available from 1500 to 5000 r.p.m. This is a smooth and flexible engine, with a torque plateau that resembles Saskatchewan. It doesn’t feel as sporting as VW/Audi’s 2.0L FSI turbo, as throttle response in more elastic and it’s not so much of a revver, but anywhere in the mid-range this five-pot provides a nice steady shove when called upon. The characteristic five-cylinder growl is present, but well muted.
Volvo claims a zero to 100 km/h dash of 7.2 seconds for this manual equipped wagon. And a sweet manual it is. Clutch effort is very light – some might find it too light – but take up is progressive and silky smooth. Similarly, the shifter action is light, but there’s no vagueness, and gears slot in with a feel of well-oiled precision. All in all, a satisfying and well integrated system. If you can’t drive this car smoothly, take the bus.
The electro-hydraulic steering is – you guessed it – low effort as well. It does, however, deliver decent feel and accurately guides the sport wagon as you explore its balanced handling. Start pushing and it defaults to understeer, but up to that point the V50 is a very nice handling car with excellent body control and a firm yet compliant ride.
Inside, you feel Volvo has fashioned this cabin for the driver. All the controls fall easily to hand, and the tilting/telescoping wheel and stubby shifter (both with aluminum inlay as part of the $2,750 Sport Styling Package) are a visual and tactile treat. Materials and tolerances are up with the best from Germany.
The literal centre-piece of this Nordic cabin is the stylish "floating" console – an arcing sweep of aluminum (or a clever imitation) where one finds the HVAC and audio controls. Four simple rotary knobs, a clutch of buttons in the middle and a stylized icon of a seated human for vent selection make for an elegant, artful and functional piece of interior design. It could have jumped right from the pages of a Bang and Olufsen catalogue. As my teenage son so eloquently put it, "It’s simple. It doesn’t have the usual crap all over it." There’s also a handy storage cubby behind, out of sight from prying eyes.
Volvo knows how to do seats, and this tester’s buckets, covered in Volvo’s slick new T-Tec fabric, were a paragon of comfort and support. They weren’t as arm-chair cosseting as some seats in other Volvo’s I tested, but nonetheless proved just right for extended motoring jaunts and spirited cornering.
A nifty option for procreators will be the $500 Integrated Child Booster Seats. The bottom cushions of the two outboard rear seats fold up on themselves, giving little tykes a raised perch and better seatbelt placement.
To fold the 60/40 rear seats flat, you must first flip up the cushions and then slide out the head rests, but the resulting load space is flat and comparable to other wagons in this class, I had no problem putting my mountain bike there.
My tester had the optional $1,000 12-speaker, 650-watt DynAudio Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound upgrade. If you like music, get it. The sound was sensational.
Volvo has built their reputation on safety, so it’s not surprising to find a plethora of electronic aids (ABS with electronic brake distribution and emergency brake assist, dynamic traction and stability control, active headrests, seatbelt pretensioners) and a full count of airbags. Volvo also touts the V50’s side impact protection system (SIPS) and its collision energy management body structure.
All-wheel drive is a $2,500 option on this car. While the extra traction would be a welcome addition, I traversed the GTA in the middle of a miserable winter storm, and this tester shod with 205/50×17-inch Gislaved Nord Frost winter tires felt all but unstoppable.
The V50 T5 carries a base price of $38,995, but this specimen swelled to $47,745 with the addition of the $3,850 Sport Package (17-inch wheels, dynamic chassis, heated/powered/memory seats, bi-xenon headlights, Homelink), the $2,750 Sport Styling Package, upgraded audio, booster seats and metallic paint. This puts it right in the thick of the Audi A4 Avant 2.0T FSI Quattro and BMW 328xi Touring territory.
The V50 T5 may not be as overtly sporting or engaging as some of its German counterparts, but it has its owns charms, not least of which being its refinement and sense of grown up solidity. If you’re in the market for a compact Euro sport wagon, this sexy Swede is worth a long look.
Pricing: 2008 Volvo V50 T5
Base price: $38,995
Options: $ 8,750
(Sport Package $3850 (17′ wheels, dynamic chassis, heated/powered/memory seats, bi-xenon headlights, Homelink), Sport Styling Package $2750 (exterior styling kit, rear spoiler, sport steering with aluminum inlay, shifter with aluminum inlay), DynAudio Package $1000, metallic paint $650, integrated child booster seats $500)
Freight: $ 995
A/C tax: $ 100
Price as tested: $48,840
Manufacturer’s web site