2006 Volvo V50

Hot, Hunky Swede – Ready for Fun

By Scott Corlett

No, unfortunately, that is not the header of our personals ad. The line simply sums up the Volvo V50. The fine folks at Volvo did right when they scrapped the company’s former compact wagon, the boring bubble known as the V40. The designers in Sweden started fresh and crafted a sleek, solid replacement while the marketing people upped the name to the V50. In its second year on the market, the V50 runs with the hotties, the Mercedes-Benz C-class and the BMW 3-series wagons. Not too shabby for a car from an automaker best known for its boxy, bland, and super safe vehicles.   

Recently, we spent a week in the 2006 Volvo V50 T5 AWD wagon. We grabbed a couple of towels and tennis balls and threw our favorite bitch in the V50’s spacious rear cargo area. The V50’s standard stereo pumped out tunes from Energy 92.7, the gayest radio station in all the land, as we hightailed to No Name Beach near the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. In warmer weather, No Name is dotted with nude boys; today, we found only fog and empty sand. Lacking those key visual stimuli, we soon tired of tossing the ball to the dog. The climb back up the cliff in December’s wet chill was eased by the knowledge that comfortable (optional) heated front seats awaited and that hot coffee was only a short sprint away in the V50.

The three little pigs would happily wallow in this wagon. Not too big, not too small, the V50 is just right. The Volvo V50 and its sedan version, the S40, are based on the same platform as the Mazda 3 and the European version of the Ford Focus. The V50 is short enough to park easily and roomy enough haul a couple of muddy golden retrievers, a slew of grocery bags, or gear for four on a long weekend ski trip. In fact, we wish we had the V50 later in the season – we’d round up our favorite ski/hot tub buddies and make the three-hour run to Lake Tahoe. The V50’s available AWD and traction control plus its abundant airbags would keep our worries on snow—rather than road—conditions.

Have a rubber or leather fetish?  The V50 accommodates either. The optional leather seating is the usual luxury hide while the standard T-Tec seat fabric is lifted from NASA’s stylebook. The focal point of the wagon’s interior is the sweeping center console control panel, which is faced with brushed metal. When you sit in the V50 for the first time, you look twice. Is that really storage space behind the mod control panel? Sure is – and it’s a good spot for that Prada purse or for that bag of après-ski Krispy Kremes.

We don’t like to hear either our men or our turbos whine. The V50 obliges with only a faint hum when its peppy 218-hp, 2.5-liter, turbocharged five-cylinder engine shoots the wagon off the line. If you want to save on the sticker—and the speeding tickets—opt for the 168-hp, 2.4-liter, naturally aspirated five-cylinder engine. The choice of transmissions is between a five-speed automatic and a six-speed manual. The Swedes must have hit the glögg pretty hard before they chose to couple the lackluster smaller engine, which begs for a manual tranny, with only the automatic transmission. Equally annoying, AWD is available only on V50s equipped with automatic transmission and the larger engine. Note to the engineers at Volvo:  Please give us a six-speed manual across the V50 lineup.

We always applauded the safety and the practicality of Volvo’s cars. However, we never were fans of the cars’ steering – in technical terms, we thought Volvo’s steering systems were just too loosey-goosey. The V50 wagon sports a vastly improved steering system compared to past Volvo models (and some of its contemporary brethren, see our review of the Volvo XC90). The V50 is still no BMW; however, its tight steering communicates road conditions well. We did not just feel safe in this Volvo – we enjoyed driving it.

The 2006 Volvo V50 T5 AWD, with a base price just under $30k, is a good alternative to the German compact wagons – it competes on style, appointments, and performance. Beach or slopes, naked or clothed, the V50 is one hot little wagon.

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