I am quite bored with SUVs. There are so many and all so similar. They differentiate themselves by the smallest of the margins. Some of them are better to drive on the road, others have better interiors, few have incredible entertainment systems and some are just better looking than the rest. However, they all always have to convince the public that a non-saloon, non-off-road, non-sports-car can be the best companion. They are pretty good at everything but they don’t excel in anything. They are compromises, which, in reality, can be as good and as bad as it can get. They are the half-full and the half-empty glass of the motoring industry. Don’t get me wrong, the sales mostly justify the always increasing offer of these vehicles; hence they surely have a good reason to exist. People are happy, people buy them.
In the beginning, there was one type of SUV size. It was the like of the VW Touareg, the Mercedes ML, the Volvo XC90 and the BMW X5 to show the market this new trend but then the smartest marketing genius of the manufacturers saw a niche for a smaller size, more suitable for smaller families. The medium size. The Volvo XC60 was made to fight the Germans army made of the BMW X3 and the Audi Q5. It was not over yet, because in recent years a new niche was made: the one of the small SUVs. That is where the new XC40 is positioning itself. This new Volvo creature has not arrived unnoticed. It landed after the successful launch of the bigger sisters, the marvelous XC90 and the XC60 and it made some noise when it won the “Car of the Year 2018” award, as announced in Geneva Palexpo on the eve of its International Motor Show. A jury consisting of 60 members from 23 European countries decided that this is the new benchmark in the automotive industry.There couldn’t be any better start to the career of this baby star.
“Winning this award with our new XC40 is perfect timing,” said Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Cars
We drove this car extensively in the recent weeks and we liked every moment in it. First of all we have been captured by its look. Like for the bigger sisters, the Volvo designers have surpassed themselves, creating very personal lines and forms that have given this machine a true independent personality. The old school flat square back has been replaced by more harmonious curves, the lights have been positioned again high up in the body but with more modern design and architecture. Even the front has gained character which has improved the balance and overall elegance of the shape. There is no price to look, we cant give it a monetary value. It’s emotional and it makes you choose one product over a similar one, because it hits your senses and affects your choice unconsciously. This is what we feel when staring at the lines of the new generations of Volvos, including this newborn star.
The interiors too have character. The typical Swedish sobriety and elegance become evident very quickly once you sit in it. There is attention to details in a world made of rationality and practicability. Materials, lines, shapes of commands, touch screen, all make you feel you are in a new world for Volvo, which, from our point of view is an actual example of smart modernity. I liked the design of the air vents and of the small gear lever. The seats are excellent concerning comfort, yet I found the lowest sitting position still too high for my taste. This didn’t make me feel sitting “in” the car, but “on” it. As a consequence of this, even the pedals are pushed more from the top rather than pushed forward. I reckon that only 5 centimeters lower would make a big difference in the driving feel.
The cabin is roomy and can comfortably host two adult passengers in the back seats. The leg room is plenty for the class and also the ceiling height is good enough for “Swedish” dimensions. As per Volvo tradition there are several compartments to store amenities during long trips. Between the two back seats you can find a fold-able arm rest which holds two water bottles. Also, connectivity is very generous. Several USB ports allow the charging of electronic devices and the linking with the “media center” of the vehicle. Furthermore, just below the center console, you can find a wireless, conduction mobile charger, useful gadget for the latest phones. The highlight though is the boot; underneath the main plain, there is an extra space, big enough to store tools, safety equipment, life jackets, emergency kits etc etc. (see below photo). This allows organized and capable storage.
The driving experience is remarkable. I have covered nearly 600 km in one day of testing and the feel was like being inside a much bigger and spacious vehicle. The seats are of a higher class. The leather is soft but the seats themselves are firm enough. Noise insulation works well. There is no aerodynamic disturbance entering the cabin and the engine works in peace (at 130 km/h the engine barely reaches 2,200 Rpm in 8th gear). All the commands are concentrated in the portrait shaped touchscreen in the center console. For once, technology is extremely intuitive to use and readability is crystal clear in all light conditions. The “Momentum” version I tested offered the Harman Kardon audio system, which alone made my trip quite pleasant.
Volvo is famous for its active and passive safety and the newest version confirms the effort the Swedes put to maintain the aura of the “safest car in the world”. The radar and cameras system are alert at all times. Lateral hazard approaching the car, close vehicles around me, blind spots and crossing pedestrians are all monitored with extreme attention and the internal systems always inform well in advance of the potential danger. The adaptive cruise control works very well and it is integrated with an “auto-pilot” function, which can also control the steering wheel in order to follow the lanes on the highway. At times, the system itself asks the driver to touch the steering wheel just as a confirmation of the driver focus. An efficient speed camera detector is also standard in the XC40.
I wasn’t expecting to drive a blisteringly fast and thrilling sports car, hence I wasn’t disappointed by the dynamics of the XC40. With nearly 1,700 Kg weight and a high center of gravity, you cannot do miracles. Its direct competitor, the Audi Q3 weighs nearly 150 Kg less. The small Swedish SUV rolls and pitches quite a lot, which affects the agility in the changes of direction. The steering wheel is very light, possibly a bit too much de-multiplied and a touch numb when you are searching for ultimate precision in twisty roads. It perfectly fits the character of a frugal, sober, easy family car, tackling every surface in great safety. The chassis itself feels strong and rigid so the suspensions can do their work but the geometry and the original set up make the car under-steering in its core. This means that stability and safety are assured at the price of a bit of fun. The four-wheel-drive system is extremely capable, as per Volvo tradition and the 3 differentials are so well honed that you can barely notice this architecture in the driving dynamics. We briefly tried a short sand track and we could feel how the electronic could transfer the power to the wheels with more traction in real time. Also, the central touchscreen (or a short cut button just below the climate commands) allows to enter a dedicated program for off-road, which enables changing gears at higher revolution.
The engine of the tested T5 is a 2 Litre Turbo, capable of 247 Bhp at 5,500 Rpm. Remarkably enough the torque of 350 Nm is constantly available from 1,800 to 4,800 Rpm, which help the promptness and smoothness of the engine itself. It tends to become a bit noisy at higher revs, so medium range revolutions and constant speed can give the best justice to this unit. The performance is good enough for the class of the car. I only found the fuel consumption above average but I am sure this is due to the considerable weight and aerodynamic efficiency. At a constant speed of 130 km/h, the XC40 T5 can reach nearly 12 km per liter of fuel.
We understood why this car has entered the market with a “boom”. Despite its “normal” dynamic performances, it shows a character of its own that makes it stand out from the crowd. The unique styling, the elegance of the exteriors and the excellence of the interiors, the passion for the details and the great safety make this XC40 a rising star in one of the most populated sectors of the industry. The Swedish manufacturer understood that look and practicability can add infinite value to any product, especially where all are fighting over the smallest of the details. The Momentum T5 price starts at 47,619.00 USD