Utility vehicles such as the XC90 and XC60 have led Volvo’s revival around the world.
Now Volvo is adding a new smallish – if you can call a vehicle that weighs two tons small – utility vehicle to its engaging product portfolio.
The XC40 is what the carmakers have started calling an “an urban crossover” and it offers a comfortable, luxurious experience in a modest way, with ample if not overwhelming power, the latest safety and connected technology as well as well-modulated ride and handling in a nicely designed package.
The exterior design of the XC40, while retaining the distinctive Volvo grille and trademark lighting cues in the front and rear departs from the overall styling of the XC90 and XC60.
It’s not a giant departure for XC90 or XC60. Strong lines connect the front and rear of the ute but sculptured sheet metal and under-wrap doors with scalloped light catcher as well as the hidden tailpipes help separate XC40 from the more formal appearance of the larger SUVs in the Volvo line.
The XC40 retains the upright stance and ground clearance of an SUV but Volvo softened it with generous curves, expressive wheel arches, broadening the color choices and offering an optional set of contrasting colors on the roof of its newest SUV, which is expected to match up other small premium utility vehicles such as the Audi Q5 and Infiniti QX30 or Range Rover Evoque.
(Volvo taps brakes on Drive Me autonomous vehicle program. Click Here for the story.)
Volvo made a big effort to make sure its interiors are functional and comfortable as well as nicely furnished with premium materials in a way that underscores the craftsmanship that is an integral part of the design. The touch points throughout the cabin and the steering wheel, the vehicle’s most prominent touch point, offers a solid feel that conveys and sense of security and stability that has long part of Volvo’s image.
The XC40’s roomy cabin also offers good visibility and incorporates an array of advanced technology including a new sound system that moved the speakers out of the door, allowing the designers to use the space for storage. The interior design is very conscious of the use of the space and has unique features such a bin that can handle a box for tissues and a “purse hook” on the front of the glove box. There is also a wireless charging feature, which will no doubt please the huge group of motorists who detest cords needed for recharging smart phones.
I know the gadgets and connectivity have become as important – if not more – than the items that have long served as the mechanical heart and soul of an automobile, such as the engine, steering, suspension and brakes. But Despite its very up-to-date presence, the XC40 also gets solid grades for its mechanical pieces.
The ride and handling, I thought, hit the Goldilocks mean of not being too stiff or too soft and easily mastered the broken pavement found in the farm roads through the Texas Hill Country outside of Austin. The XC40 also easily mastered the curves and the power from the turbocharged T5 four-cylinder engine produced 248 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque, which was matched up with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The combination is quiet, efficient and delivered power on demand, which gave the vehicle a confident feeling that made it fun to drive. In addition, even though the XC40 is designed purposely for city driving, all-wheel-drive is standard across the model line.
(Click Here for details about Volvo’s plans to go all-electric.)
One area where Volvo has made a serious effort to separate itself from its competition is in safety, an area in which the company traditionally been one of the industry’s leaders. A range of safety driver assist features such as lane departure warning, lane keeping aid, run-off road mitigation, oncoming traffic mitigation, driver alert warnings, road sign alerts, automatic braking, active high beams and collision mitigation braking that is active at intersections and near pedestrians and cyclists, as well as blind spot detection and cross-traffic alerts are all standard on the XC40.
The active safety features can be annoying but taken together they do help those inside and outside the vehicle safer.
Volvo is also moving to innovate in marketing the XC40 right from the start by offering its new “Care by Volvo” program to buyers right from the start
Care by Volvo, a new subscription service from Volvo Cars, will make having a car as easy as having a cell phone. Customers can choose a car online and enjoy a national, 24-month all-inclusive flat-rate monthly fee. Subscribers have the opportunity to upgrade to a new car as early as 12 months into the program without any negotiation.
Two XC40 models will be available through subscription — the XC40 T5 AWD Momentum with Premium Package, Vision Package, Heated Front Seats and Heated Steering wheel for $600 per month and XC40 T5 AWD R-Design with Premium Package, Vision Package, Advanced Package, Heated Front Seats and Heated Steering Wheel, Panoramic Roof, Harmon Kardon Premium Sound and 20-inch wheels for $700 per month. Overall, prices for the XC40 will begin at $33,200 plus the $995 destination charge.
(To see more about Volvo’s subscription plan for XC40 starting at $600 a month, Click Here.)
For Volvo, the XC40 represents something of a departure from its recent history where it has tended to emphasize big solid vehicles. However, it size, technology and overall drivability certainly make a vehicle that belongs on the shopping list of anyone planning to splurge on a small, stylish up-to-date crossover vehicle.