Are not we complete? Can we have the appetite for still another subcompact luxury crossover SUV? After all, human culture survived all the way to 2010 without at least one of these things. By our count, there are over 10 brands competing in a 160,000-vehicle section. Yet sales increase is forecast because, to a lot of buyers, the premium badge, design, and higher seating position of these small luxury crossovers are far more important considerations than their nonpremium transverse-engine, front-wheel-drive-based powertrains and their streamlined accommodations.
The new Volvo XC40, on sale in March, doesn’t overtly challenge the course norms. Volvo hasn’t disrupted the segment using a V-12, gullwing doors, or possibly a longitudinally mounted motor. It’s as standard as the rest of its ilk, however–and this is a significant differentiator–the XC40 is not dull. These little vehicles might be useful, inoffensive, and loved by clients, but to those of us who value driving dynamics they are nearly all terminally dull to pilot.
“Tough small robot” is the way Volvo characterizes the XC40’s exterior styling. Unlike the bigger XC60 and the XC90 that trade on smooth, clean, and aggressive types, the XC40 is a bit goofier, especially when fitted with all the white roof that is available. There’s a clamshell hood with a tiny plastic Swedish flag flapping out of under it, a punched-in grille, scalloped doorways, and a kicked-up beltline. The XC40’s design makes sure that the little Volvo is not simply a homunculus of its own larger kin. It’s possible to avoid the white roof–that the XC40 looks better with a body-colored or black roof–but there is no removing the elongated rectangular trim piece from the C-pillar that hides the seam between the roof and the remainder of the human body–or how the back door appears to have been pulled off a previous-generation Jeep Compass.
Underneath its aluminum hood is Volvo’s turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four with 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic does the shifting and all-wheel drive is standard. A few months after the T5 arrives it’ll be joined from the T4, which will have a bigger turbo, 184 horsepower, and front-wheel drive. Together with the 248-hp motor, the T5 cries hard and moves the estimated 3800-pound XC40 along briskly–the claimed, and believable, zero-to-60-mph period is 6.2 seconds. There is no word yet on fuel economy, but we would guess that the EPA’s ratings will arrive in at 24 mpg city and 31 highway.
For our drive, Volvo made available just the XC40 T5 using the R-Design bundle. The Momentum trim degree is regular, as with all the XC60 along with the XC90. Besides a black roof and mirrors, R-Design attributes include a different grille, metallic exhaust tips, slightly stiffer springs, distinct dampers, thicker anti-roll bars, and regular 19-inch wheels. With this setup, the XC40 drove like a raised Volkswagen GTI. Body motions are rapidly controlled, there is no slop from the chassis responses, the rapid steering is living, and the motor–although a bit gritty–brings challenging accelerating out of corners. Volvo will offer an adjustable suspension afterwards in 2018 for $1000, but the R-Design’s setup makes us very pleased.
Switch the driving mode from the standard Comfort to Dynamic (there’s also Eco and Off-Road manners, together with a customizable Individual mode) and the throttle response sharpens, the transmission holds gears longer and locks out eighth gear, and the brakes supposedly become more responsive–even though we couldn’t feel any difference. The throttle response alone changes the XC40’s attitude and cause you to want to hustle it, something which rarely occurs when driving anything in the XC40’s competitive set.
On those sticky Pirellis we even managed to keep an aggressively driven GTI at bay. In the United States, 18- and 19-inch wheels will be accessible with Michelin MXM4 all-season tires, and both Momentum and R-Design models will have the option of 20-inch wheels with Pirelli Scorpion all-season rubber. Traders will offer a 21-inch wheel with a summer scooter as an attachment option. It remains to be seen just how U.S. models will compare to the summer-tire-shod automobiles concerning managing, but we’re assured that the suspension pruning will probably be indistinguishable.
A lot of the interior design is shared together with Volvo’s bigger crossover SUVs. The XC40’s CMA platform is not a reference to Garth Brooks’s favorite awards show but rather is Volvo’s Compact Modular Architecture that also is going to be the foundation for the next S40 sedan and V40 wagon. (CMA also will underpin products for Volvo’s Chinese parent company, Geely, like the new Lynk & Co 01 crossover.) Its narrower width places the front-seat occupants nearer together than in the bigger Volvos, but much of the appearance and the vertically oriented 9.0-inch touchscreen are shared with the XC60 and the XC90. We did notice that the seats lacked the supple padding that we have begun to associate with larger and costlier Volvos, but the R-Design version does provide optional ($100) Lava Orange carpeting that brings the style of a 1970s fondue party to every drive.
Volvo made it a point to show us the massive door pockets made possible by relocating the audio speakers to the top of the dashboard. There is also a big cubbyhole below the armrest, drawers under the chairs, and a removable garbage bin behind the shifter. Two USB chargers sit beneath the touchscreen; one serves as a power supply while another connects to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Back-seat space is adult friendly, and the rear doors are large and open wide to create loading a child’s car seat simpler.
The hatch could be opened and closed with a fast kick under the back bumper, and there is a two-piece floor that may be folded up and incorporates grocery-bag holders. Rear seats fold 60/40 and possess a small pass-through for long, narrow objects. Removing the parcel shelf is simple, and it can be stored, upside down, under the floor.
Prices will begin at $34,195 for your 184-hp XC40 T4 with front-wheel drive. The more powerful T5 model opens at $36,195 for an all-wheel-drive XC40 Momentum. The top of the scope (and the one that we drove on the launch program), the T5 AWD R-Design, starts at $38,695. Loaded with options, the Volvo’s price can reach beyond $45,000. Both in style and dynamics, the XC40 is way more entertaining than we anticipate from such vehicles–here is hoping that bodes well for the bundles of this model as well as the segment at large.