When I began test driving cars, I really hadn't given Volvo any thought. In Portland, Volvo means the big boxy station wagons you see all over SE. The S40 came up on some comparable vehicles lists and on a whim I test drove the T5. After that everything else I drove seemed like a cheap garbage. The car is very smooth and quite, has a great interior, and I love the body style. You won't be racing Mustangs off the line but on the highway passing is great fun. I'm 6', 200lbs, which I don't consider that big, but the S40 was one of few cars I felt like I fit into. Only wish I could've afforded the AWD. :)
Intelligent design, quality interior materials, great ergonomics, comfortable seats, styling, powerful engine. Premium stereo is great too. I've had people ask me if we were listening to a live album because of the sound. Heated seats are nice too.
Trunk can be remotely locked, but doesn't pop open?! Cup holders are inconvenient with manual transmission. Stereo needs MP3 support. Rain sensor doesn't quite work right. Heat is slow to warm up on cold days. Better MPG would be a plus, but it's a relatively big engine.