Volvo used an uncommon launch site for its latest compact wagon. The new V50 made its first appearance at the 2003 Bologna Motor Show in Italy.
Scheduled to go on sale in the summer of 2004, several months after the comparably redesigned S40 sedan hits dealerships, the V50 “blends Scandinavian style with Volvo engineering expertise,” according to the Swedish automaker. Manufactured in Ghent, Belgium, the sport wagon targets younger buyers than its V40 predecessor. Both the V50 and S40 share technology with Ford and Mazda products. Volvo intends to make 6,500 V50 wagons available to U.S. dealerships each year.
A 168-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline-five-cylinder engine goes into the regular front-wheel-drive V50, while the high-performance T5 edition gets a turbocharged inline-five-cylinder engine that produces 218 hp. The prior V40 wagon had four-cylinder power. Front- and all-wheel-drive wagons will be offered.
As with other Volvo products, safety and crashworthiness are principal themes for the V50. Some safety features include a stiff body, a new frontal structure and Volvo’s Side Impact Protection System (SIPS). The Swedish company promotes the use of Volvo’s Intelligent Vehicle Architecture, inside and out.
Some V50 styling characteristics were borrowed from early Volvo wagon models, including the 1800 ES. On the whole, though, its styling hasn’t veered dramatically away from the prior generation — the V50 includes a protruding upright grille with an eggcrate design and diagonal cross-member.
Volvo says the V50 has a unique profile, with an extended cargo area and an “athletic stance.” High taillamps connect the V50 with Volvo’s other wagon offerings. Volvo press material notes that “from above, the body resembles the shape of a sleek speedboat, with a rounded prow, a broad mid-ship section and a narrowing stern.”
Designed with softly rounded lines overall, the V50 has a short hood and a cab-forward profile. Compared with the V40 it replaces, the V50 has a wider track and a longer wheelbase, which helps improve rear-seat access. The V50 wagon is 1.8 inches longer than the S40 sedan. The side mirrors contain turn-signal repeaters.
Built on a 103.9-inch wheelbase, the V50 is 177.7 inches long overall, 69.7 inches wide and 57.2 inches tall. Several aluminum wheels — up to 18 inches in diameter — are offered.
An optional sport accessory kit includes specially designed spoilers, side skirts, larger wheels and dual exhaust tips. A lowering kit reduces the ride height by 0.75 inch.
According to Volvo press material, the upholstery in the V50’s five-passenger interior was inspired by sportswear and the interior is “built of several visual layers.” The instrument panel’s texture is meant to signal “technical innovation” to the occupant. An Intelligent Driver Information System helps the driver focus on driving by selectively limiting nonessential vehicle information. Behind the ultraslim center stack is a storage compartment that can be accessed from either side. The center stack is available in three different styles.
The rear seat is a split-folding unit. The front passenger seatback can also be folded. Four upholstery types, including leather and Dala — a ribbed fabric — are available. Volvo says the inside of the V50 features special lighting that provides a “theaterlike effect.” A navigation system and a 445-watt stereo with Dolby Surround Pro Logic II are optional. Volvo will offer a Keyless Drive option later.
Under the Hood
A 2.4-liter inline-five-cylinder engine produces 168 hp in the base wagon. The high-performance T5 edition holds a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder that generates 218 hp and 236 pounds-feet of torque. Both models come with an adaptive five-speed-automatic transmission. Haldex all-wheel drive is optional.
All-disc antilock brakes, traction control, side-impact and side curtain-type airbags, and Volvo’s Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS) are standard. Dynamic Stability and Traction Control is optional.