Progress is great, but it gives and takes away in equal measure. With turbocharging making a clean sweep across every sector of the automotive market, we get highly efficient engines with a wide spread of usable torque and power- but we are also no longer treated to the great soundtrack and near telepathic response of a well built naturally aspirated motor.
At times we forget to appreciate things for what they are; usually until they are at risk of being taken away. In this case, it is Volvo’s five-cylinder engine that is facing extinction- an engine that has spanned numerous generations of Volvo models in various iterations and forms. The last we see of it here is in the Volvo V40 T5, being replaced by an engine from the Drive-E family.
Fans of the Swedish brand will remember greats such as the 850 T5 and the more powerful 850 R- cars that propelled Volvo into the motorsports spotlight when they dominated in various touring car championships. These were powered by five-cylinder engines that evolved into the T5 that we see here- albeit in a de-stroked, more politically correct form.
This particular engine has a turbocharged 2.0-litre, spread across 5 cylinders. Power and torque outputs sit at 213hp and 300Nm respectively, good for a century sprint of 6.9 seconds; which leaves it about on par with its direct rivals.
Over the course of its life here the V40 T5 proved to be extremely popular; a left field alternative to the hot hatch establishment, with a larger emphasis on safety. In standard form the inherent character of the 5-cylinder engine aren’t immediately apparent, but slap on one of Volvo’s optional exhaust systems and the growl becomes more pronounced. It’s a unique engine and exhaust note that is unlike anything else on the market, and as attention catching as any highly strung supercar.
But of course, we digress. A car is more than just the engine it comes with, and the V40 has a lot to offer. Mated to the engine is a smooth shifting six-speed automatic- quicker than the older Geartronic transmissions by any measure. Power is sent solely to the front wheels, but the car doesn’t feel unruly or unmanageable when it comes to putting the power down.
For a car that doesn’t necessarily pride itself on performance, the V40 T5 is easily capable of shaming an unsuspecting GTI driver.
Handling dynamics with Volvo products have been a hit-and-miss situation in the past, but they have managed to nail it with the V40. The car’s weight is hidden well with balanced dampers and springs, offering excellent body control without compromising ride quality. Engaging the ESC Sport mode relaxes the stability systems to the point where you can rotate the car and have a little bit of fun; although it’s still not quite a ragged edged track machine, you won’t have any trouble on a twisty trunk road during a Sunday morning drive.
It’s a little unfortunate that the timing of the V40 and the architecture of the interior doesn’t allow the newer touch screen systems to be ported in, although that’s not to say that the interior is unpleasant or inadequate in any sense. The V40 was the pioneer among Volvo’s local model range to receive the LCD dash display, and it looks as stunning today as it did when it was first introduced.
Practicality is a little limited as the V40 is less wagon and more hatch. And despite what the elongated external dimensions may suggest, it isn’t the last word in legroom or boot space. That being said, it remains adequate for day to day duties, or even the long trip out of town for a family of three or four. But should you require more luggage room, Volvo’s V60 would be a much more practical choice.
While we bid farewell to the last in the lineage of 5-cylinders, we welcome the next generation of Volvo’s powertrains in the form of the V40 T5 Drive-E, V60 T6 Drive-E, and the XC90. The Drive-E engine family is based on their 4-cylinder engines in various forms of boost and assistance, with the more extreme forms packing hybrid motors and supercharging along with standard turbocharging. This not only represents a large step forward for the brand, but also an exciting one given what Volvo has put on display in foreign markets.
The V40 T5 may no longer be in production, but it ends the era of 5-cylinders on a high note. Or, at the very least, a unique one. And with the new V40 T5 Drive-E packing a wholesome 245hp and 350Nm, we can only imagine better days ahead.