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Avg. Price Paid:$9,837 - $12,793
Original MSRP: $26,815 - $31,565
MPG: 20 City / 28 Hwy
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2008 Volvo V50 Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Volvo V50 was new.

The 2008 V50's performance should help drive Volvo's stodgy old image from most buyers' minds, but its performance ranking is topped by the Volkswagen Passat and Saab 9-3 wagons. Still, the Chicago Sun-Times says, "The turbocharged, all-wheel-drive V50 T5 AWD model I tested had nearly sports car moves." Others are just as positive, though some note that the available sport suspension makes for an uncomfortable ride.

"Smooth, precise steering, excellent brakes and quick cornering make the V50 a station wagon that is sporty as well as practical," says the Arizona Republic. Edmunds says the V50's "driving dynamics are unlike any other wagon in the Volvo lineup: It's not just about getting to your destination safely; it's about having a little fun along the way."

Power

The V50 comes with two engine options. The base engine is a 2.4 liter inline five-cylinder engine that makes 168 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. This engine comes with the 2.4i trim. The T5 trim comes with a 2.5 liter turbo-charged in-line five that makes 227 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. That 227 horsepower is an upgrade of nine horsepower over last year's model. "This hardly makes the V50 a rocket," says Edmunds, "but we'll always welcome more power -- especially when it comes with an engine that gets 30 mpg on the highway."

Few tested the 2.4i trim, making it tough to draw conclusions about its engine. Edmunds says the base 2.4i model's performance was uninspiring, and Kelley Blue Book says the "2.4-liter in-line five-cylinder engine provides solid, if unspectacular performance."

The 2.4i is mated to a five-speed Geartronic automatic transmission that has an "Auto-Stick" mode that allows the driver to shift the engine without using a clutch. No manual transmission is available. The 2.4i gets an Environmental Protection Agency estimated 20 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway.

More tested the V50 T5's turbocharged engine, and were pleased with its performance. Automobile Magazine reports "the T5's 236 pound-feet of torque gives the little wagon strong midrange performance, and a stab at the throttle summons the trademark Volvo five-cylinder chortle from the twin pipes out back." With the T5, Edmunds says the "old, boring wagon stigmas are stricken from your mind." The EPA estimates that a front-wheel drive T5 with an automatic transmission gets 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. "Despite the power increase and the EPA's revised testing for 2008," says Edmunds, "the V50's fuel economy remains very good."

The T5 comes standard with a five speed Geartronic automatic transmission that allows the driver to shift the transmission without using a clutch. Upgrading to the all-wheel drive (AWD) T5 nets drivers a standard manual transmission. The Detroit News says the front-wheel drive T5 with its automatic "performed beautifully," and most reviewers agree that the automatic is a fine transmission. Though AutoWeek finds the manual's "shifter is rubbery, made worse by its tight gates," The Auto Channel sums up the majority view: "The 6-speed manual gearbox was a pleasure to use. It was smooth and I never messed up a shift."

Handling and Braking

The V50's handling is pleasing and sharper "than you'd expect from a Volvo," according  to Edmunds. The Los Angeles Times adds the V50 "corners flatly, with a nice, easy balance."

"The compact Volvo wagon, which has a 103.9-inch wheelbase, easily slides into tight parking spaces and is a snap to handle," reports the Detroit News. The Sacramento Bee adds the wagon's "relatively compact size makes it easy to maneuver," and with the optional all-wheel-drive, "you feel like you're gliding on a quick-moving cloud." That good handling, notes Edmunds, is due in part to the fact that the V50 "shares a platform with another member of the extended Ford family, the Mazda 3, and like the 3, the T5 is an admirable handler thanks to its sport-tuned suspension."

Very few test drivers used the base 2.4i model, with its standard suspension. Those who did say it balances ride and handling well. Edmunds reports the standard suspension "offers a solid balance of ride comfort and handling precision," and Consumer Guide notes that it is "reasonably compliant on most surfaces."

Of the sport suspension, standard on the T5 and optional on the 2.4i, almost all test drivers agreed that though it delivered improved handling, it came at the expense of a comfortable ride. Consumer Guide reports that the "sport suspension, included with AWD models and optional Sport Package, reacts sharply to bumps, makes for uncomfortably stiff ride." USA Today says the suspension "felt coarse and uncomfortably stiff over rough pavement and sharp bumps, more than necessary for snappy turning and flat cornering."

The V50 has responsive steering that makes it a nimble about-towner. Kelley Blue Book, reflecting the view of most, says the V50 is "nimble in urban settings and stable on the road." The Chicago Sun-Times adds "the quick steering is accurate and doesn't call for much turning of the wheel for cornering." Not everyone thought the steering was perfect, however. MSN speaks for that camp, saying the V50 "has quick power steering, although some may feel it's overassisted and thus a little too light."

Most were pleased with the V50's braking performance, even if the brake pedal was a little soft. The Chicago Sun-Times says, "The linear-action brake pedal feels a little soft, but stopping distances are impressively short." Consumer Guide adds, "Brakes ease speed quickly with fine stability, moderate nosedive."

All-Wheel Drive

The T5 models of the V50 are available with all-wheel drive (AWD), a system that reviewers almost unanimously praised. Under normal driving conditions, the majority of the engine's power is directed to the V50's front wheels. When the AWD system detects wheel slippage, it sends power to the wheels with the most grip. Motor Trend reports they "were impressed with the system's ability to keep the car heading where we pointed it" on their test drive. Kelley Blue Book says, "On snow-packed and icy surfaces the all-wheel-drive V50 clings with confidence," but notes that in contrast to some competitors, "the V50's all-wheel-drive option can be ordered only with the pricey, top-of-the-line trim."

Despite that, most who tested the system loved it. About.com reports they "actually drove around looking for steep hills with deep snow and ice in order to stop on the steepest section and then floor the gas pedal. The V50 would take off like it was on dry gravel -- it was a great feeling of control!"

Review Last Updated: 2/17/09

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