2008 Volvo S40 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 22, 2008

The 2008 Volvo S40 has the efficiency and compactness of a small car with the available safety features and poise of a larger sport sedan.

To bring you this review covering the 2008 Volvo S40, the experts at TheCarConnection.com have read what some of the most respected reviewers have to say, then TheCarConnection.com’s editors added their own firsthand driving experience with the new S40.

The compact 2008 Volvo S40 sedan, which is closely related to the V50 wagon, returns for the 2008 model year with some new features and a slightly revised appearance. The center console and door panels get more storage space and the audio system has been updated, while a new front-end appearance and taillamps impart the S40 with a more “grown-up” look, and turbocharged T5 models get a bump in power.

The base 2.4i model comes with a 2.4-liter inline five-cylinder engine making 168 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. It doesn’t have fast acceleration, but performance is perky with the standard five-speed manual and gutsy enough for city driving with the five-speed automatic transmission. Higher-powered 2008 Volvo S40 T5 models get the turbocharged, 2.5-liter inline-five, which functions well with the five-speed automatic; the engine picks up a power increase from 218 to 227 horsepower. A six-speed manual gearbox is no longer offered in the T5.

The top 2008 Volvo S40 T5 AWD model has the latest version of the Haldex all-wheel-drive system, which is electronically controlled. It relies on the instant of slippage from the front wheels before torque is sent to the rear, but responds well to the S40’s needs on wet or slippery roads.

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The 2008 Volvo S40 is remarkably compact, making it extremely easy to maneuver and park, yet it has the stability and poise of a larger sport sedan in high-speed cruising and curvy mountain roads, especially in sporty T5 form. Handling in the T5 feels markedly sportier than in Volvo’s larger sedans. Though the ride of the T5 can be somewhat pitchy at lower speeds, road noise is not at all the problem that it can be in other small sedans.

The S40’s instrument panel design is especially stylish and distinctive, with a thin, “floating” center control stack housing audio and climate control functions. In front, generous seats allow an upright, near-perfect position for most, with enough space for taller drivers, but the backseat area is limited in legroom. Where Volvo admits interior storage was an issue, a new center console and revised set of door panels add more bins and room for miscellaneous items—10 CDs, for example, even though the audio system now includes an iPod jack and MP3 capability. The clock in the 2008 Volvo S40 is newly positioned, and air vents are improved.

The base 2008 Volvo S40 model is decently equipped, with keyless entry, cruise control, and an 80-watt, six-speaker sound system included. But the sporty T5 model adds a lot more—including the turbocharged engine, a flashier alloy wheel design, fog lamps, electronic climate control, aluminum trim, an upgraded audio system, and six months of Sirius Satellite Radio—for a modest amount.

Active bi-xenon headlamps, which swivel in the direction the car is steered, are available on the T5 AWD, as is a navigation system and keyless drive. Safety features are by no means forgotten; Volvo’s Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), which warns the driver when a car is present in the blind spot with a light at the base of the side mirror, is an option on the 2008 Volvo S40, along with a new integrated child booster-seat system—a Volvo exclusive.

The 2008 Volvo S40 has not been crash tested, but standard safety features on the S40 include front side impact airbags, side curtain bags for front and rear outboard occupants, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control.

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