Volvo’s XC40 simply a cracker

Volvo XC40 R Design

What is it?

The XC40 is the latest addition to the Swedish company’s burgeoning range of SUVs and in the simplest terms possible, it’s a cracker.

Released in May of 2018 the XC40 R-Design is jam-packed full of great tech, and simplicity in design.

Motorvation is courtesy of a beautiful 2.0-litre turbo four, eight-speed auto, and all-wheel drive.

Final fuel economy in a mainly urban drive was 8.7L/100km from the 57-litre tank.

Volvo quotes 7.7L/100km for the combined cycle.

Peak twist is 350Nm across a broad 1800-4800 rev range while 5500 revs will see 185kW being made available.

Outside it’s a mix of “typical” XC design cues and a departure from others.

There’s Pirelli P-Zero rubber — 245/45/20 if you don’t mind.

A rear window line with a sharp slant draws the eye to similar yet different LED rear lights.

Volvo XC40 R Design 2

What’s it cost?

The XC40 range starts at $47,990 plus on roads.

The car as tested was $56,740, with the addition of premium paint at $1150 bringing the final cost to $57,890 plus on roads.

The test car was classic white on black and, being the Launch Edition, features a small rubber Swedish flag on the right side of the bonnet edge.

Six is the number thou shall count to for colour choices, including a brilliant Fusion Red Metallic and Bursting Blue Metallic.

Standard rolling stock is a set of diamond cut 20-inch diameter alloys, but you can option 19 inchers.

There are three colour trims for the inside. Then there’s trim options such as aluminium inlays for the doors and dash as fitted to the test vehicle.

Standard equipment is extensive.

Dual zone climate control and a cooled glove box. Two USB ports up front and one for the rear. DAB audio. Bespoke trim such as R-Design pedals. Powered front seats and memory for the driver’s pew. 12.3-inch full colour LCD dash display. Nine inch vertically aligned main screen with all major controls available at a tap.

Downside is that it attracts too many fingerprints.

Then there’s the options fitted. Harman Kardon audio. The full Intellisafe system which includes Adaptive Cruise and semi-autonomous driving (Pilot Assist). Blind Spot Information and Cross Traffic Alert. Front and Rear Collision Mitigation. High definition 360 degree camera — that’s just a sample.

The semi-autonomous drive system is quiet and unobtrusive keeping the XC40 R-Design between the lines.

Imagine your kindly grandma gently tugging you away from the lollies with a whispered “behave” and you’ll get the idea.

There’s some subtle things too. The inside door handles are slightly larger. Why? So it’s easier to get fingers in to open them.

Speakers have been relocated. Why? For a better sound-stage.

There’s carpet like material in the doors. How come? It helps grip the bottle or big cups put into the door receptacles. Oh, and adds extra sound insulation.

In simpler terms, everything is where it should be. There’s clearly been a helluva lot of thought been put into the layout — yet it’s not over-thought.

Seat comfort is so naturally good it’s as if they form a skin around you. Not once was there a noticeable feeling of being in the wrong seat position or needing to re-adjust in the seat.

Overall fit and finish is as high as you’d expect, with splashes of chrome to brighten the black plastic.

Need easy access to the boot? Make sure you have the key fob and a foot. Kick (not swipe) to the left of the centre line and voila! Tailgate up. Yes. It works. And it closes the tailgate too.

The rear window line makes it look like rear seat room is compromised. No sir, it’s not. There’s plenty of room for anyone maybe up to six and a half feet, headroom wise.

Chris 2019 Volvo XC40 R Design front seats

What’s it go like?

Hoo boy, it’s a wee ripper.

Volvo quotes a 0-100km/h time of just over six seconds. Just quietly that may be conservative.

Sink the hoofer and the all wheel drive system shakes hands with the Pirelli rubber, mutually agreeing to hook up, and how.

Acceleration is indecent and the available torque makes any driving situation simple to deal with. Cruise on the freeway, press go to overtake, done. Burble around town quietly and unobtrusively and see a freeway on ramp. Superman would struggle to keep up.

The turbo four is quiet but briskly efficient, the transmission bangs through the gears but without forward rocking. If anything it’s clinical, and not aurally engaging.

But there’s a hiccup with the automatic engine stop-start system. Come to a halt and the engine shuts off without problem.

Lift the foot slightly however and instead of a smooth re-engagement there a solid lurch forward. Every time.

Speaking of engagement, the gear selector is a rocker lever. From start, it’s a double tap forward or back to get drive or reverse.

Park is a button and the varying drive modes are button operated. There is an off-road drive mode but the likelihood of the XC40 seeing those kind of conditions is as high as Elvis making a comeback on vinyl.

Grip is prodigious, meaning you can fang through some turns at higher than recommended speeds. Steering is perhaps a little over assisted but never lacking communication.

Another surprise is just how well sorted the MacPherson strut/multilink suspension is. Consider, too, the 20-inch alloys. You’d be forgiven for thinking a short drive on that combination would result in a sore back and rattled teeth.

Nej. (Swedish for no.) It’s supple to a fault, compliant where it’s reasonable to expect it not to be. It brings to mind the word “waft” — normally associated with a luxury British brand.

Chris 2019 Volvo XC40 R Design bonnet flag

What we like?

  • Gorgeous Swedish looks
  • Overall handling and ride
  • Super smooth drivetrain

Chris 2019 Volvo XC40 R Design camera

What we don’t like?

  • Lack of driveline emotional engagement
  • Stop-start issue
  • Twitchy steering feel

Chris 2019 Volvo XC40 R Design rear seats

The bottom line?

Volvo’s own website uses the word “intuitive”.  I call it “intuition, personified”. The XC40 R-Design Launch Edition is gorgeous to look at, isn’t a half bad drive, and sensational value.

Volvo XC40 R Design cargo

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Volvo XC 40 R-Design Launch Edition, priced from $56,740
  • Looks - 8.5/10
  • Performance - 8.5/10
  • Safety - 9.0/10
  • Thirst - 9.0/10
  • Practicality - 8.0/10
  • Comfort - 8.5/10
  • Tech - 8.5/10
  • Value - 9.0/10

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