Volvo V50 T5 AWD

Volvo V50 T5 AWD Volvo V50 T5 AWD
Road Test

The Volvo V50 wagon pictured here replaces the V40 model that was launched in 1999 and is the wagon equivalent of the S40 sedan. Got that?

This latest iteration of Volvo's smallest wagon is now available in three trim levels. The naturally aspirated 168-hp front-drive V50 2.4i starts at $26,345, the turbocharged front-drive T5 model ups the base price to $27,945, and the top-of-the-line T5 AWD you see here adds the four-wheel factor to the same turbo motor and starts at $30,795.


The V50 keeps the same basic proportions as the V40. All the wagon's dimensions are within a few inches of that earlier model's, but by moving the wheels closer to the corners of the vehicle, Volvo designers have made incremental improvements in interior space, as well as improving the styling and handling.

Volvo hopes to sell at least 6500 V50s a year in the U.S. That may not sound like a lot, but it's more than four-and-a-half times the number of V40s that were sold in 2003. To put this number into perspective, during 2003 Audi sold slightly fewer than 3800 A4 Avants, and BMW sold just over 1800 3-series wagons.

Maybe the folks at Volvo subscribe to C/D, because they've corrected many of our complaints about the V40. The V50 is now available with more power, the Haldex electronically controlled all-wheel drive available on other Volvos, and a previously unavailable manual transmission-the six-speed borrowed from the S60R.

For our evaluation, Volvo supplied us with very nearly our favorite model, the turbocharged T5 with all-wheel drive. The only additional option we'd like is the six-speed manual transmission that won't be available until early December.

This $34,715 V50 T5 AWD came well loaded, but it did not have a sunroof ($1200) or navigation system ($2120). It was actually an early-production European version and had the optional "keyless drive" system that is becoming popular on many luxury brands. Although it was on the car tested here, keyless drive won't be available until model-year '06. Consequently, we didn't include the estimated cost of that option-about $500-in our specifications panel.

The 2.5-liter turbocharged engine makes 218 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque (48 and 59 more than the V40, respectively). Even with all this power, turbo lag is virtually nonexistent, noticeable only when lightly modulating the throttle from a standstill.


Mash the throttle, however, and the V50 blasts to 60 in 6.9 seconds and passes through the quarter-mile in 15.2 seconds at 93 mph. Our Euro-spec model continued up to an unrestricted 141 mph, although Volvo suggests that it will limit the straight-line fun to 130 mph on U.S.-spec cars.

Gaining nearly 500 pounds in the process of changing names, the V50's acceleration times are still a huge improvement over the V40's: 8.3 seconds to 60 and 16.4 seconds at 85 mph in the quarter-mile.

The V50's straight-line performance is also good enough to walk away from the Audi A4 Avant 3.0 Quattro and the BMW 325xi wagon but not quite enough to run with the new Subaru Impreza WRX-based Saab 9-2X Aero.

The Volvo's steering is nicely weighted and is combined with a properly chosen ratio that doesn't demand constant correction on the highway and also doesn't make the driver turn the wheel too far for cornering. Although the V50 sends 100 percent of its power to the front wheels until slip is detected, torque steer is surprisingly absent.