Our Cars: 2006 Volvo V50 T5 6M

1 Finally. After a 14-month carless drought, I finally found a proper ride. Meet my new-to-me 2006 Volvo V50! After selling my Phaeton, I was looking for a totally different car to replace it. It could not be a gas guzzler. I was in the proverbial doghouse with my green wife when she discovered that I was getting 12 mpg running errands around town in the big VW. We also got a dog, so I wanted a wagon. A manual transmission was not an absolute requirement, but was definitely preferred. Finally, the car had to be rare. Make the jump to see how I came to find this low-mileage Volvo and my initial driving impressions. 2 My wagon list was short– Mercedes C320, Volvo V50, Jaguar X-Type, and Lexus IS300 SportCross. Only the V50 came with a manual transmission, and only during model years 2005, 2006, and 2010. Though Saab, VW, and Subaru all made very competent and fun-to-drive wagons, they were not unicorn-y enough for me. Fortunately, with a Zipcar car-sharing membership and above-average accessibility to public transportation, I could be patient with my search. Manual V50 wagons are really hard to find. I estimate less than 1,000 were sold here in the States. I barely lost a tidy example in Connecticut on eBay. I test drove another one in Sacramento, but it was a neglected basket case that needed thousands upon thousands of dollars of delayed maintenance and repairs. For all intents and purposes, I gave up. I almost made an offer on an automatic 2.4 liter normally aspirated wagon that was gently used by a nanny when my friend Chris sent me a Craigslist link to a manual 2.5 liter turbo-5 for sale in Mendocino County. 3 As clean examples were being bought sight unseen by the cognoscenti, I skipped the pre-purchase inspection on the Mendocino wagon (a personal cardinal sin) and handed over the cash after a quick test drive. The previous owners are genuinely nice people and the car came with a comprehensive stack of maintenance records. I had a good feeling.* *The license plate also happened to spell my name, backwards. 4 The previous owners are car enthusiasts who only drove manual BMWs and Volvos. They had to order this white wagon at their local dealership because only slushboxes were in stock. They have a small farm and used the wagon essentially as their F150 truck. They used it to haul wool to a processor in Taos, New Mexico. The roof rack and rear storage area saw a lot of use, hauling pipes, feed, etc. After I bought the wagon, I took it to a local independent Volvo shop for an inspection. Other than the rear brake pads being at 30% (the car has 68,000 miles), the car is flawless mechanically. I lucked out! 5 I chose the V50 primarily because I like the looks of it, inside and out. I knew this was not going to be an extraordinary driver’s car. But after owning it for a week, I have come to enjoy driving it. 6 The engine is a delight. It produces 218 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque at a low 1500 rpm. It’s a light car (barely 3,000 pounds) and has about the same footprint as my wife’s Civic sedan, so it’s very maneuverable. In mixed driving, I get around 24 mpg. Mine is front wheel drive. I really don’t need all-wheel drive, as I’ve gone skiing in Tahoe exactly once in my entire life. The AWD version is probably more fun to drive on curvy roads, but I think I’m okay with my decision. Torque steer is moderate, but I haven’t really pushed the car that hard yet. 7 What I still have not gotten used to is the clutch. I simply can’t tell how far down I’ve pushed the pedal. I have not stalled it yet, but I’m shifting like I’m just learning how to drive a stick. The shifter is nothing to write home about either. If I could use only one word to describe it, it would be “rubbery”. Supposedly, my wagon has the same transmission as that in the S60R. On the highway and on city streets, the longroof is quiet, composed, and smooth. But if there is even a hint of a pothole or uneven pavement, it becomes a handful and does a great impression of a Mexican jumping bean. 8 As I spend more time with the wagon, I will share more of my experiences. The plan is to get two more cars this year for the Yu household– one Italo-Mexican, one French. Stay tuned. Images source: Copyright 2014 Hooniverse/Jim Yu

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