Volvo hopes to attract a new audience with its completely redesigned and fun-to-drive small sedan.
The interior of the 2004.5 Volvo S40 has a distinctively Swedish look; note the open space behind the center console.
The S40 will be available with full-time all-wheel drive in summer 2004.
The shorter length combined with the longer wheelbase and taller body give the new S40 a sporty stance.
With prices starting around $24,000, Volvo is hoping the second-generation S40 will attract new buyers to the Swedish marque.
The optional Sport Package greatly improvesthe S40's driving and handling characteristics.
In 2000, Volvo came to market with its first entry-level small sedan and wagon in the forms of the S40 and V40. The new models did not have the impact the Swedish marque had hoped, and sales never surpassed the peak of 30,000 units during the debut year.
As the saying goes, if at first you don't succeed . . . and Volvo is doing just that with the introduction of the second-generation S40 Sedan and V50 Wagon.
The S40 has been completely redesigned, featuring new styling, chassis and powertrains. The new model is shorter than its predecessor, but larger in every other dimension. A longer wheelbase and wider track mean the wheels get pushed out toward the corners of the car, giving the sedan an improved ride as well as a sportier appearance. Taller and wider, S40's interior space has grown and doors are larger for easier ingress and egress.
The Swedish automaker hopes the new styling and enjoyable driving dynamics will attract a younger buyer who may not have previously considered purchasing a Volvo.
Styling inside the S40 relates to and focuses on a unique center console. Clearly of Swedish design—it looks like it could come from IKEA—the console is extremely thin and freestanding, with a wide open space behind it. The rigid structure of the chassis allows this configuration. Controls for the audio system, ventilation, and system menu are all located in a vertical format reminiscent of a TV remote control.
Available in brushed aluminum or simulated wood, the center console has an overriding influence on the car's interior. Volvo designers continue to experiment with a few other configurations, including one that lights up in neon.
New Interior Material
Striving to make the car more attractive to younger buyers, Volvo created an interior material for the seats called T-Tec, which has an interesting tactility. Volvo officials are convinced this unique material, inspired by sportswear and modern travel accessories, will be a popular option. Leather will also be available.
The S40 handles very well with the standard suspension; however, there is a Sport Package available for those preferring a more spirited driving experience. An extra $750 affords independent MacPherson strut front suspension and independent multi-link rear suspension with coil springs and hydraulic shocks. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are also part of the package.
Drivers will appreciate the spirited experience the Sport Package provides. When combined with the S40's wider track and a body that is 68 percent stiffer than the previous generation, this new Volvo is great fun to drive on twisty roads.
VIVA La Difference
The design of the new S40 is based on Volvo's Intelligent Vehicle Architecture (VIVA). VIVA is a unique approach to building a car that integrates everything from crashworthiness to dynamic styling and exciting driving characteristics.
Not only does the new S40 look and drive great, it's a Volvo—therefore it's designed to be one of the safest cars on the road.
The frontal body structure of the S40 is divided into several zones—each given a different task in a crash. Four different grades of steel are employed to absorb collision forces and protect passengers.
Engines in the S40/V50 are slimmer than those found in the S60, which means in a collision the engine can be pushed up to 5.9 inches rearward before the crankshaft comes into contact with the crossmember near the bulkhead.
To determine this, Volvo engineers put the S40 through a series of computer-simulated frontal crash tests without the engine installed. The engines were then designed to fit within the empty space that remained after the simulated crash test.
In addition, the new models feature collapsible pedals, dual-stage airbags, Volvo's Side-Impact Protection System (SIPS), Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), anti-lock brakes and Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD).
Two Trims Available
The S40 is available in two trims: 2.4i and T5. While both trims come very well equipped, the T5 adds fog lights, automatic climate control, trip computer, power front seats, and special alloy wheels.
Of course, the T5 also features the turbocharged 2.5-liter 5-cylinder engine that produces 218 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque at a low 1500 rpm. The 2.4i gets a normally aspirated 5-cylinder engine producing 168 horsepower.
Both engines are teamed with a 5-speed automatic transmission; however, the T5 will be available later this summer with the same 6-speed manual transmission found in the high-performance S60R.
During our test drive the engine in the 2.4i felt like it was working rather hard, although the T5 provided effortless performance, especially when equipped with the optional 6-speed manual transmission.
Both sedan and wagon will also be available with full-time all-wheel drive, but only on the T5 trim.
On-Sale Dates and Details
The S40 goes on sale this spring as a 2004.5 model, at a starting MSRP of $24,190 for the 2.4i and $26,990 for the T5 (not including destination). This is actually 2 percent less than the previous-generation S40.
"As with our entire lineup, the all-new S40 continues Volvo's commitment to offering great value, while enhancing safety, performance, style and comfort," commented Volvo Cars North America president and CEO Vic Doolan. "Pricing the all-new S40 at around $24,000 opens up our product line to a whole new customer base that has, until now, never considered a Volvo."
This summer will be the official launch of the 2005 S40, which at that time will be available with full-time all-wheel drive. In addition to the new drivetrain, the S40 will be joined by its wagon sibling, the V50.
Volvo expects one-third of S40 purchasers to be men or women without children, with the average age to be around 30-35 years. Sales are forecasted to reach around 70,000 units worldwide, with about 28,000 of those in the U.S., Volvo's largest single market.