So when our latest long term test car, the Volvo V50 T5, turned up at Fleet News, I was first in the queue to give it a blast. This car has been in my hands now for just four weeks but has already piled on about 3,000 miles.
My partner lives near Stroud and I live in Peterborough, so I have been spending a fair amount of time going backwards and forwards across the motorways of Britain to see her.
Despite the fact that the journey takes about three hours each way, I have yet to experience any back pains. And the superb quality CD autochanger has ensured that I don’t get too stressed out during the inevitable hold-ups that keep me from my loved one for too long.
The car was sent to us as a replacement for the S40 saloon we had been running for the past six months and it was interesting to compare the differences between the two models. Apart from the fact that the old car was a saloon and this one is an estate, the S40 was equipped with a fine 2.0-litre common rail diesel engine pumping out 136bhp and 240lb-ft of torque while the new car has a stonking 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine offering 220bhp and 326lb-ft of torque.
There is a world of difference between the two engines. The diesel has bags of useful grunt at low revs while the twitchier petrol motor has lashings of power in the higher rev range. Thus if you pootle along in our V50 without putting your foot down too hard on the accelerator, you could well imagine that it was rather lacking in power.
But once the 4,000rpm mark is passed, things liven up considerably and you could soon find yourself on the wrong side of the law with a 0-60mph time of 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 149mph.
Our S40 diesel achieved an average miles per gallon figure of 39.8 while it was with us. The T5, on the other hand, is struggling to achieve 28 miles per gallon so far – although I’d have to admit there is a certain thrill to whacking one’s right foot down to the metal occasionally and watching the speedo rise in a blur.
Inside, the V50 is a sheer pleasure. The seats are fantastically comfortable compared to many other cars I’ve driven recently and the heating and stereo controls are arranged in a neat and uncluttered way in the centre console. I just love the way the radio works. Press the ‘on’ button and an LCD display shows up on the screen which looks like an old-fashioned car radio. There’s a knob on the left for tuning and a knob on the right for volume, just like in the good old days. What more do you want?
My only groan comes regarding the parcel shelf. What on earth has happened to these items in the past few years? They used to be light and easily removed once upon a time, but the one in our Volvo weighs a ton and takes the strength of a silverback gorilla to get out. I finally managed to remove it the other day to take a load of household detritus to the local tip and I’m blowed if I can get it back in again properly.
WHAT WE EXPECT
BLISTERING performance, a stylish exterior, super comfortable seats – quite a few of the Fleet News testers are looking forward to getting their mitts on this understated rocketship. It’s also a car which mixes speed with practicality as the estate rear end will swallow a surprising amount of luggage with the rear seats folded down. Fuel consumption, however, may prove less than satisfactory.
THE MANUFACTURER’S VIEW
‘THE V50 sportswagon is Volvo’s latest stylish, design – particularly in the new Sport trim – with a modern, yet practical interior. Competitive BIK tax levels make the V50 attractive to company car drivers, and especially now it is also available to fleet customers with free servicing for three years/60,000 miles. We expect V50 sales to total about 8,500 this year, of which up to 60% are expected to go to fleet customers,’
John Wallace, leasing and rental manager, Volvo
Model: Volvo V50 T5 SE
Price (OTR): £25,163
CO2 emissions (g/km): 209
Company car tax bill (2004/5) 40% tax-payer: £224 per month
Insurance group: 15
Combined mpg: 31.2
Test mpg: 27.9
CAP Monitor residual value: £8,325/33%
HSBC contract hire rate: £547
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles