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2004 Volvo V50

2004-08-02 10:59

John Oxley

In fact, unlike many station wagons, which are merely modifications on a sedan theme, the V50 has been designed from the wheels up as a combination people/load carrier.

But it doesn't have the compromises many of its opposition suffer from, such as hard springs and lack lustre handling when empty.

In fact, if you didn't know you'd be hard-pressed to even FEEL you're in a station wagon, both in terms of ride and handling, and in interior noise levels.

The V50 possesses all the crispness we raved about when we drove the S40. It's so absolutely neutral that I defy anyone to say it has "front-wheel drive" characteristics. It features a high degree of mechanical grip without having to resort to electronic aids to keep it on the island - in Volvo fashion, these can be regarded as more braces than belt.

Great ride

Ride qualities are extremely high, especially when lightly laden - as mentioned, usually a problem with a station wagon.

Styling is similar, too, with the same oblong lights which wrap around the side of the bodywork, but whereas the S40 features an "egg-crate" grille the V50 has chromed vertical slats.

At the back, of course, it's all different, with the V50 having a large liftup tailgate flanked by huge tail-lights which flow up the sides to give high level brake lights and double level reversing lights.

In profile there's a slight aerofoil section, with the tail not quite vertical for better air flow.

From above, the body resembles the shape of a boat, with a rounded prow, a broad midship and a narrowing stern.

Station wagons are all about load area, of course, and it starts with a large low and flat luggage compartment which can be made more versatile by folding forward and 40/60 split rear seats.


The V50 is 46 mm longer than the sedan, and the luggage area is long and free of interferences, and can be made even longer if you flip forward the front passenger seat, at which point a 3 metres long object can be carried.

Surf's up!

Two distinct models are available, as with the S40, the V50 2.4i powered by a normally-asirated 2.4-litre 125 kW, 230 Nm 2.4-litre 5-cylinder engine mated to either a 5-speed manual or 5-speed Geartronic auto/sequential manual gearbox, and the V50 T5 with a 162 kW/320 Nm low pressure turbo 5-cylinder with either a 6-speed manual or the 5-speed Geartronic automatic/sequential manual.

The range of engines will be continuously extended, with the 2-litre turbodiesel to be added early next year.

And the cars are quick. The normally aspirated (non-turbo) 2.4i manual accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in just 8.3 seconds while the auto does it in 9 seconds; both have a top speed of 220 km/h.

And the low pressure turbo-charged T5 knocks off the 0-100 km/h increment in a stunning 6.9 seconds in the manual, 7.3 seconds in the auto, and goes on to a top speed of 240 km/h.

And don't forget, because it's a turbo just about all this power is available at the Reef, where its competitors are gasping for breath in the rarified high altitude which gives 17% power loss to non-turbo cars.


The interiors, of course, benefit from the super design cues that typify the S40.

The 2.4i has combination cloth and leather interior trim, while the T5 gets full leather, as well as such items as the DSTC traction control package - necessary with all tnhat power opushing through the front wheels.

Talking of wheels, they're 16 alloys shod with 205/55 R16 tyres on the 2.4i, and 17 inch wheels on the T5 with 205/50 R17 tyres.

The most distinctive new feature of the interior, however, is the beautiful ultra-thin aluminium "free floating" centre stack that links the tunnel console with the instrument panel.

This is an entirely new solution in the car industry, specially developed for the S40 and V50.

The controls in the centre stack have an ergonomic and functional design. The top half of the control panel is used to operate the audio system and the integrated phone, while the lower half controls the climate system.

Behind the centre stack is a practical storage compartment for personal items, easily accessible from both sides, and out of sight of smash-and-grab thieves.


Another unique feature is IDIS - the Intelligent Driver Information System.

In effect a virtual secretary, the system helps the driver avoid being distracted while driving.

When the traffic situation requires the driver's full attention and concentration, for example when overtaking or braking, signals from the optional integrated GSM telephone and certain peripheral information are delayed until the situation is calmer.

IDIS is standard in all versions of the all-new Volvo S40, irrespective of whether or not the car is fitted with the optional integrated phone.

Both cars are fitted with high performance sound systems with audio controls in the steering wheel, the 2.4i getting a 4 x 20W system with four speakers and the T5 a 4 x 40W amp with eight speakers. Both have a front loader CD/radio.


The days of dozy Volvo station wagon drivers are over with the emergence of these new "sportswagons". They are designed for dynamic driving, they are comfortable, quick, and economical - and make one wonder why you'd ever want a sedan!


V50 2.4i (Manual) - R237 000; V50 2.4i (Auto) - R247 000; V50 T5 (Manual) - R275 000; V50 T5 (Auto) - R285 000.


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