Traditionally, we consider Finnish and Swedish manufacturers to be the main specialists in winter tires. Indeed, who cares if they don’t know what they need in the conditions of real winter, and not that misunderstanding which is considered as winter in central Europe! Surprisingly, however, Japanese brands have accumulated no less experience in this area, primarily in the development of studless friction tires. And what to do? – Winter in Hokkaido is quite serious, and the use of studs in Japan is prohibited by law. So those who choose their own tires for winter and believe that in Russia, in the conditions of large metropolitan areas, spikes, in general, are not needed, it is certainly worth looking at the products of Japanese companies. For example, the new model from Toyo Tires Observe GSI-6, which entered the market last year.
The Toyo Observe GSI-6 can be categorized as a mid-priced tire, but this latest development by the company in a variety of parameters, including the speed index, is a premium segment. Independent test results also place it firmly in the middle of the ranking table and successfully compete with recognized market leaders, showing balanced average results in each discipline (braking, acceleration and handling on dry and wet asphalt, ice and snow, and fuel economy). It is this balance, combined with the availability, that can be called the main advantage of this model.
Work on any new tire in any company goes in three directions. The first is the improvement of the tread design, the second is the improvement of the rubber compound, and the third is the work on the construction. Let us start with the tread design.
The Observe GSI-6 refers to tires with symmetrical directional tread patterns. However, there is a feature that makes this model stand out from the crowd at a glance: The tread has a central rib with many jagged booms. This solution has improved the tire’s traction properties, optimized the contact patch and increased stability under transverse loads encountered in corners. The rib cuts through numerous straight and serrated grooves, but none of them crosses the rib through – this should preserve high rib density, and in combination with all other solutions to improve both the vehicle’s steering response and acceleration and braking dynamics.
For soft friction tires, tread density is very important and the developers of Observe GSI-6 paid special attention to this issue. For example, the walls of 3D lamellas contain wave-shaped interpenetrating elements that limit their mutual mobility. In the grooves are the so-called “snow claws”, triangular elements that not only improve the adhesion of tires to the snow cover, but also work as buttresses of fortress walls and do not allow the blocks to move under load. For the same purpose, the central zone blocks are made twin.
As with all winter friction tires, the Observe GSI-6 tread cuts through many lamellas, whose sharp edges ensure that the tire travels with slippery surfaces. The drawing of these lamellas also has a unique feature: in addition to the usual zigzag grooves and straight grooves, the blocks of the central zone are spiral wound lamellas. They are responsible for keeping high grip at any load vector and at any wheel rotation level. Around these grooves there are First Edge grooves, the main purpose of which is to start working literally from the first meters of run-in of the newly installed tire. Well, for confident movement in deep snow the tread is equipped with developed protrusions-grunt hooks on the outer edge of the shoulder zone.
While driving in the snow the main role in the process of maintaining a decent grip is given to the tread pattern. However, in the conditions of the winter city, the driver is much more likely to meet with wet asphalt surface, perhaps – with a thin layer of snow slush, and here the first role comes the composition of rubber mixture. This composition is no less important on bare ice. The Japanese developers have included technologies proven by time and winter roads, such as the Microbit concept. This concept uses rather exotic solutions, for example, walnut shell particles are used as micro-abrasive coupling elements. It is not a matter of marketers’ desire to impress a potential customer with the unusual additives used: this material successfully combines environmental friendliness with the necessary physical properties. It is strong enough to cling to the ice, and if you look at the small shell particles under a microscope, you will notice the effective natural cut, which turns the shell pieces into tiny ice spikes. However, the hardness of these particles is still insufficient to cause any noticeable damage to the asphalt surface.
As can be seen, with proper care Volvo may look better than Ford of comparable age. In addition, the details of S40 are more thoughtful and convenient than Focus: take at least a hood, where there is no key opening mechanism hated by Ford owners from the outside, but there is a gas stop. However, there is also a fee for originality, mainly expressed in the cost of some parts. Of course, the S40 is not exclusive like the Hummer H2 or Audi TT, and many “running” parts can be found unoriginal for a reasonable price. For example, the windshield can buy thousands for 8-10 instead of 18-25, the hood for 15 instead of 50, and the front fender for 7 instead of 15. But the blow from behind will be much more ruinous: the trunk lid alone is worth 70 thousand and without analogues will make you look for a solution to disassembly, and the doors of 40 thousand will not please. The frontal blow may be especially unpleasant for the owners of cars with bi-xenon headlights: the prices for them start from 20 thousand, while the halogen one can really buy for 8-10 thousand. In general, the cost of restoring the car after an accident can be tangible, and “overstocked in bulk” at the nearest disassembly will not work – not Focus. But still, even the prices for most original external parts cannot be called shocking, so you shouldn’t be afraid of S40 because of it.
Of course, Volvo’s suspensions are independent: McPherson is in front and the multilever is in the back. And here is the running gear – a reason to exhale: let there are also expensive exceptions, but the generality of the suspension with Ford and Mazda allows you to keep it for a penny, especially by the standards of prices for the original. In the original catalog there are hub bearings for 15 thousand, and stabilizer racks at 5 per piece, and other horrors. But even if there is no word “Ford” for some part, it does not mean that it is not unified with it, and in extreme cases you can refer to the Mazda catalog. In general, look for and ritualize – so you can buy and stabilizer stands from 300 rubles, and silent blocks for a few hundred, and cheap levers, and ball bearings … Except that the hub bearings are assembled with the hub here nominally own, although they can be picked up “in the image and likeness.
The only expensive exception we promised was the Nivomat system, which automatically aligns the height of the body during loading and includes the original rear shock for 25-30 thousand per piece. Needless to say, the procedure of simplifying the design to conventional shock absorbers, which can be purchased in thousands for 3-5, so the amount of repair costs can be chosen by yourself. But it is unambiguously important, firstly, not to get carried away by excessive economy when servicing the car with a claim to premium, and secondly, to choose the right components taking into account its suspension variation: the words Comfort, Sport, Dynamic and so on – not an empty sound, but a hint of fine tuning the chassis.
The braking system is almost identical to Ford’s one, except that from behind you can’t find the drums, which were used on base Focus without ESP. Well, the size of disks was not so strictly limited. Here, as well as on Ford, front disks with a diameter of 278, 300 or 320 mm are used, but if the Focus “senior” brakes are only ST versions, then at Volvo they can be seen on “civilian” versions. Accordingly, the price of spare parts is small, the choice is wide, and when inspecting the car, you only need to make sure that the calipers are not running and the highways are not rotten.
The Swede also shared the steering wheel with his brother. Machines with a 1.6 liter engine got the usual hydraulic booster, but all the rest is an electro-hydraulic mechanism with an electric pump. In general, both options are quite reliable, not counting the possible knocks, but in repair EGSD will still be more expensive. If the prices for the restored laths start from 17-20 thousand (the original – from 70 thousand), then in case of a serious failure of the electric pump will have to spend another 25-30 thousand even for the non-original unit. So listen to its work, check the condition and level of oil in the system, as well as the tightness of oil lines.
An important difference of the S40 in terms of transmission is the availability of all-wheel drive versions with a Haldex coupling. However, they exist in piece copies and are on sale almost never, so you can only one line to remind about their existence and choice. In general, the system is quite reliable, but requires regular oil change at least once in 40 thousand kilometers. When searching for a four-wheel drive machine, you should remember that in addition to the potential bulkhead of the coupling itself will have to think about the condition of the bevel gear, and the difficulty of repairing the whole cardan, and the rear gear – in general, the overpayment for all-wheel drive must be conscious.
The choice of gearbox on the Volvo was formally reduced to mechanics and automatic, although, if we go into details, there is a heap of units. Even the manual gearboxes have the widest range – from the liquid five-speed IB5 on cars with a 1.6 liter engine and the old, but strong MTX-75 for 5 steps to six-speed B6 from Ford and M666 from Getrag. The good news is that all of them are quite good and live normally with those motors that are combined with, until we are talking about tuning. That is, the S40 with mechanics can be taken without looking at the box, and in detail about many variants we told in the material about the Ford S-Max. Not very good news is the price of the two-mass flywheels, without which one cannot do without. If you can buy a set of clutch for 10-15 thousand, the clutch is at least 25-30 thousand for a detail from Luk. So when choosing a machine, listen to the work not only of bearings and synchronizers, but also clutch.
Automatic boxes are mainly classic Aisin automatic rifle with index AW55-50/51SN. The unit is not ideal and is quite heavily dependent on the purity of oil and its temperature: with standard cooling and active driving, it will not last more than 150-200 thousand. Installation of an external radiator and oil change once in 40 thousand can prolong its life – if not twice, then in one and a half exactly. However, now, taking into account the age, one should not be interested in the residual resource, but in the history of repairs. And the additional radiator on the unrepaired box is sometimes an attempt to delay the repair of the dead ACS, not the wisdom of the owner. In general, lay the budget for diagnostics. In principle, it is no less important for the alternative option: a robotic PowerShift box with an index MPS6 (in the maiden name 6DCT450) from Getrag, which appeared in pair with a two-liter engine after restyling. Although it is more complex: the resource of clutches in an oil bath, mechatronics and hydroblock is not very predictable. Some people are disappointed and not the smoothest operation of the box. In general, when buying a machine with a robot, it is better to have an idea of what can happen and how to be at breakdowns.
With motors, everything is simpler: here the Ford gifts came to the place. Four-cylinder Ford engines of 1.6, 1.8 and 2 liters became the base for the S40, and the cherry on the cake were Swedish in-line “five” of 2.4 and 2.5 liters. Indirect defect Focus in the form of a weak IB5 box paired with a 1.8-liter engine for Volvo is not relevant – here it works MTX-75. Well, in itself all the motors are very successful and strong, and in addition, not the most difficult. Ford engines can be addressed to those who want the minimum investment: all of them have long been known and young, the resource is confident, and repair or replacement of the contract is always available. The smallest 1.6 liter engine has a belt timing system, while 1.8 and 2 liter units are chain-driven, which, however, does not mean infinite service life of the chain. If you pour decent oil, regulate valves in time, monitor cooling (motors are quite hot) and clean inlet, you can count on a lifetime of more than 300 thousand kilometers. However, it is not worth to believe in the declared by many mileage of 150-170 thousand nowadays, so to understand the residual life it is better to check the history of the machine – for example, with the help of AutoFlow, which records not only accidents, restrictions and work in a cab, but also mileage readings at different times.
Five-cylinder engines Volvo for 2.4 and 2.5 liters are also good, and in addition, give the car a good dynamic. However, they are not only more complicated, but the 2.5-liter is also equipped with a supercharging, so in addition to attention to the ignition system, ventilation and crankcase lubrication system here it is worth remembering the actual supercharging. The turbine integrated into the exhaust manifold will cost thousands of 40-60, so for many it will be preferable to repair it. Nevertheless, with a good budget, there are chances to find a live motor, and not everything breaks down here at once, so many people can maintain it. In addition, even in terms of power, the motors fit either 150 or 250 forces, so you can choose the optimal ratio of dynamics and transport tax.
The S40 also has a number of diesel engines, but our diesel cars are very rare, so there’s no point in thinking about the choice. However, we can say that diesel engines are quite good here and may become a good choice for a knowledgeable person. Except that the 1.6-liter DW10 of French origin is an unsuccessful option, but the rest can be happy for a long time, though with the correction for traditionally inexpensive repair of supercharging and fuel equipment.
And now, realizing that S40 in practice is almost nothing worse than Focus, you can make a portrait of a good copy to buy. Taking into account our budget it is worth looking for a restyling machine with mileage up to 200 thousand kilometers. The choice of motor here is a bit complicated: Ford’s 1.6 liter usually means a scarce set, and with a two-liter engine is combined with a capricious PowerShift. So it makes sense not to save on dynamics and look for a car in a decent configuration with a five-cylinder turbo engine – about this. And if not to buy a Volvo for the last money and not to save on service, the purchase of the S40 will be quite justified: here you can feel the “raid of premium”, which still separates it from the usual Focus.