Jalopnik Reviews: 2006 Volvo S40 T5 AWD, Part 2

Exterior Design ***
The S40 could be the best-worst looking car on the road. On one hand, its design is a thrillingly modern (or postmodern, if you re French) comment on traditional Volvo blockiness; on the other it s an awkward, slabsided mess. And that s not just from different angles - that s the same angle on different days. Go figure.

Acceleration *****
Don t confuse quickness with satisfaction (just ask Dr. Ruth, if you can find her). The S40 T5 s 2.5-liter inline turbo five won t win the Golden Tuner award for Best Action Hero. It will, however, get the girl.

Braking ****
In a pinch, the robust four-wheel power-assisted discs with ABS could pull the buttons off your coat in less time than it takes to say who s your tailor, sailor?, even in the wet. The stop-pedal s closeness to the accelerator may confound the canoe-footed.

Ride ***
In proper sporting fashion, it ll spare the eggs to save your bacon. That s all that matters.

Handling *****
Compared to prior Volvos, whose adult-onset understeer was the stuff of Norse legend, the S40 has beautiful feet. Bias is to the front, especially at around-town speeds, but when the thrill-ride starts, steering with the right foot brings dramatic results. The Independent Council on Traction-Control Affairs meets regularly.

Gearbox ****
The S40 s dainty six-speed manual glides like a soup ladle in a bowl of chocolate mousse. The effortless throws are on the long side of perfect, though gear ratios are expertly matched to the car s soup-to-nuts torque curve. It s a pleasure doing business with.

Audio/Video ****
As stock decks go, Volvo s are better than average. Ours had premium sound - an $895 option - the benefits of which are six-disc capability, Surround Sound and some extra wattage. Don t expect bass-thumping demonstrativeness, though - it s strictly about midrange clarity. We detected a pro-rawk bias: Ted Leo hit the spot, as did the first Arcade Fire album, but Andre was downgraded to 2995.

Toys **
Get too aggressive with the options list and the final price on this Belgium-built Ford can broach Rose Bowl—float territory.

Trunk ****
Perfect for a weekend away with friends, not perfect for moving to Cleveland.

Overall: ****

[by Mike Spinelli]

Related:
Jalopnik Reviews: 2006 Volvo S40 T5 AWD, Part 1, Part 3 [internal]