What's New for 2011
For 2011, the base Volvo V50 2.4i is replaced with a T5 trim that is similarly equipped, but offers a turbocharged engine. All-wheel drive and a manual transmission are no longer offered.
Last year's base-model Volvo V50 was powered by a 2.4-liter five-cylinder engine but it didn't deliver the premium experience you'd expect from a Volvo. Now the base V50 shares the powerful, turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-5 found in the pricier T5 R-Design trim. With this upgrade, it's now more affordable than ever to get your hands on a very nice V50, plus the price of speed is more reasonable than before.
Roominess is certainly one of the 2011 Volvo V50's strong points. A wagon version of Volvo's S40 sedan, the V50 boasts an impressive 63 cubic feet of cargo space with its rear seats folded, placing it ahead of crossovers like the Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLK and wagons like the Audi A4 Avant. Fuel economy is another strength, with the V50 being more frugal at the pump than many rivals in the premium wagon and crossover segments.
Not to be overlooked is the V50's unique Swedish styling. Reflected in both its sheet metal and its cabin is a minimalist Scandinavian aesthetic that sets the wagon apart from the rest. The thin "floating" center stack looks as chic and modern today as it did when the V50 debuted back in 2005. In true Volvo fashion, the V50 also offers supremely supportive and comfortable front seats, as well as the latest in safety technology.
Within the small-wagon segment, there are only a handful of rivals. The Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen isn't as quick as the V50, but costs less and delivers comparable interior quality and better fuel economy. Audi's A4 Avant and BMW's 328i wagon, meanwhile, cost more than the V50, but are sportier and more engaging to drive. The roomier Subaru Outback is another solid pick. Overall, the 2011 Volvo V50's mix of style and comfort make this wagon a respectable choice, but we recommend shopping around before making a final decision.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Volvo V50 is a five-passenger compact wagon that comes in T5 and T5 R-Design trim levels.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch wheels, heated side mirrors, cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an eight-way power driver seat with memory settings, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, neoprene-like T-Tec upholstery (also known as Dalaro), Bluetooth and an eight-speaker stereo with CD player, auxiliary audio jack and USB/iPod audio interface.
The T5 R-Design adds aluminum roof rails, a sunroof, sporty exterior trim, a sport-tuned suspension, partial leather upholstery, a power passenger seat and special R-Design floor mats, steering wheel, gauges and shift knob.
A Preferred package is offered for the base T5 and adds a sunroof, a power passenger seat and leather upholstery. The Climate package is available with both trims, and includes headlight washers, automatic wipers, automatic climate control and heated front seats. The Multimedia package adds a navigation system and a 12-speaker premium surround-sound system that includes satellite radio. Stand-alone options include a blind-spot warning system, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, integrated rear booster seats, keyless ignition/entry, satellite radio and rear park assist.
Powertrains and Performance
All 2011 Volvo V50s are powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-5 good for 227 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through a five-speed automatic with manual-shift capability. Volvo predicts a 0-60 sprint of 6.8 seconds, and estimated fuel economy is 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined.
The 2011 Volvo V50 comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and whiplash-reducing front head restraints. Optional features include integrated rear booster seats and a blind-spot warning system.
Interior Design and Special Features
If you like to shop at Ikea, or at least admire the company's modern designs, then the 2011 Volvo V50's interior should strike your fancy. The centerpiece is the slim center stack suspended between the console and the dash. Nearly everything about the S40's interior design is a direct challenge to the relatively austere interiors found in competing models. The R-Design in particular features cool two-tone seats and blue-faced gauges, although the overall effect is high-tech, not luxurious.
Most of the controls are straightforward to operate (the navigation system being the major exception) and the ergonomically designed seats are extraordinarily comfortable and supportive. The rear seat folds 60/40 to reveal a maximum cargo capacity of 63 cubic feet, just a shade less than the Jetta Sportwagen's rear cargo hold.
The turbocharged engine is a good performer, and it makes this car a kind of Mazdaspeed 3, only with a more refined chassis and powertrain. When the road is winding, the 2011 V50 is stable and confidence-inspiring, and it doesn't give up much to the more expensive Audi A4 Avant and BMW 3 Series. Sadly, the discontinued all-wheel-drive option makes this car less attractive for those who live where weather is a serious issue, but the added cost had limited its appeal. Altogether, the Volvo V50 Wagon is often overlooked, yet it delivers the experience of a European-tuned wagon in a very compelling way.