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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
“the 2.4i felt like a tortoise on Xanax”
Car and Driver
“frugal yet peppy five-cylinder engine”
Kelley Blue Book
“T5…loses its choice of transmissions”
“at 3,126 pounds…a relative lightweight.”
“Don't confuse quickness with satisfaction”
The 2008 Volvo S40’s mechanical bits are all over the map, from sedate to ferocious, comforting to kidney-jarring, according to reviews from around the Web.
Comments on the S40’s standard 2.4-liter inline-five, which registers 168 horsepower and 170 pound-feet, range from “perfectly adequate” (Edmunds) to “unimpressive, especially up long grades” (ConsumerGuide). The optional 2.5-liter turbo in the T5 brings 227 horses to the table, but perhaps even more significantly, its 236 pound-feet of torque is available from 1,500 to 4,800 rpm, allowing, says Car and Driver, “launches off the line” and great highway passing, all with “no noticeable turbo lag.” Kelley Blue Book feels the “turbocharged engine brings the little S40 to life.”
Some bemoan the cancellation of the T5’s manual transmission option, with a five-speed automatic the lone choice for the turbo engine in 2008: “the Geartronic manual shift mode is not as quick nor as fun to drive as the discontinued six-speed manual,” finds Edmunds. The base engine still has a choice of five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. “Go easy on it and the stick can be slid from gear to gear with barely two fingers,” remarks Kelley Blue Book, reflecting general praise for the manual transmission. Of the automatic, they feel it “seemed to work quite well.”
Car and Driver hails the base suspension’s “firm ride that manages to be both comfortable and compliant.” Cars.com agrees: “curves produce only modest body lean, and the sedan corners crisply.” The stiffly sprung sports suspension, standard with AWD models and included with the Sports Package, “makes for an uncomfortably stiff ride,” observes ConsumerGuide. Edmunds concludes, “most drivers would be more content with the standard setup as it offers a more livable compromise between performance and comfort.” Of note is the electro-hydraulically assisted power steering standard across the board. It's a willing ally with the S40’s responsive chassis, one that exhibits “high-speed confidence and low-speed ease,” according to Edmunds. “Just the right amount of effort,” agrees Road & Track.
Remarkably, both base and turbo engines achieve identical city/highway fuel-economy ratings of 20/28 mpg with the five-speed automatic. All-wheel drive drops both figures by 2 mpg.
The best choice among the different versions of the 2008 Volvo S40 seems to be a T5 minus the sport package and all-wheel drive.