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Hello Volvo-Forums,

I'm sure many of you will relate to what happened to me yesterday. In 1996, I purchased a dependable, utilitarian, no-frills Mazda 626 which served beautifully as the "knock-around", "get-me-from-Point-A-to-Point-B" transport. I bought this car with 4000 miles on it and was quite satisfied with its loyal service over the next 105,000 miles.

One week ago, a scraping sound started as I coasted, a clear indication on Mazdas (and many other cars, I assume) that the brake pads needed to be replaced. After a quick trip to my local brake shop, I was distressed to find that the struts and most of the bushings in the front end were on their last legs. To do the entire job would run about $2000. (This in a car with a Kelly's Blue Book of $1000).

I had planned to get a new car next year but the impending repairs on the faithful Mazda forced my hand. After all, that's money I would never get back.

A friend in Chicago just traded his Passat in for a 2005 Jetta with the 1.8 turbo. (Btw, he is quite disappointed with the car - - - very noisy, hard ride and not as quick as he had hoped). I was literally on my way to a VW dealer to look at Passats when I saw the big blue Volvo sign. I pulled into the lot knowing nothing about the newer models (after all, I was going to buy a new car next year). I fully expected there was nothing in the Volvo line which would be close to the price of a Passat.

Enter the S40. I was amazed to find the car to be so affordable, yet so beautifully crafted. I bought a Barrent Blue T5 AWD 6 speed with leather, the audio upgrade and a sunroof and can't believe the difference between this car and the Mazda I was driving.

My first car was actually a Volvo, a 1970 144S. I loved that car; what it lacked in horsepower it made up for in ruggedness, character and ride. To me (in the mere 24 hours I've had the car), the S40 has all of this plus 220 horses, gorgeous styling and amazing handling. I can't imagine a better car for less than $30K.

Tonight, I'm headed to Chicago to toast the New Year with my friend who is still grumbling about his Jetta. Imagine my grin (and his envy) as I pull in with a car which is clearly head and shoulders above anything else near this price range.

One question for those of you in the know. I am a fan of the "nose bra", especially when driving around Wisconsin during the months when roads are being graveled. My dealer didn't think that the S40 had this available from the factory as of yet. Will such a thing be offered sometime in the future? If not, are there any aftermarket products which may work to protect the front end of the car from chips and dings?

Thanks, in advance. I look forward to sharing my experiences with the new car and learning from the rest of you.

Best regards and Happy New Year.
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