No matter how many pleasant sedans and wagons Volvo can come up with, its amazing renewal is fueled by SUV sales. But while the XC60 and XC90 are both built on the larger SPA platform (just like the S90 and the V90), the XC40 is based on Volvo's new CMA. This is a smaller but equally scalable platform developed in Sweden to be used both by Volvo and parent company Geely. The XC40 is the first car to enjoy its benefits, having been on the drawing board since 2013. Four years later, former Volvo Chief of Design and current Polestar boss Thomas Ingenlath promised us an SUV that's "much more in your face."
Today, its safe to say that Ian Kettle, the British designer responsible for the XC40's exterior, understood the task. It has probably helped that he was just 26 when he started working on it. Now, he refers to the result as being a cousin instead of a brother or sister of the larger offerings, also calling it a "tough little robot."
While the wider rear track certainly helps its stance, further design features include a clamshell hood, a concave grille that's basically a flipped version of the XC90's convex front, and LED lighting with no visible hot or cold spots. From the side, a number of visual tricks were applied to break up the form and reduce the visual weight, including the contrasting roof.
The $35,700 (with the base T4 engine; the T5 is $2,000 extra) XC40 R-Design always comes with a black roof, while the $33,200 Momentum can be ordered with body color or a white one, accompanied by white-finish wheels and mirror caps.
Either trim you choose, Volvo claims the XC40 is "not a jacked up car," but the most adventurous compact luxury SUV out there, with the highest ground clearance in the segment.
The suspension is a MacPherson strut setup at the front, with a four-link system at the rear. The R-Design has stiffer springs and single tube dampers, while the Momentum uses softer duals. Later on, the XC40 will also be available with electronically variable active shocks, as well as with 3-cylinders, hybrid drivetrains, or as a full EV.
I would love to tell you more about the sportier R-Design's ride quality, but the ridiculously perfect roads around Barcelona did not help the evaluation.
Volvo uses a new kind of electro-mechanical rack-and-pinion steering system on this car, but the resulting feel is fairly similar of the bigger siblings.' Overall, it is fairly slow, but always predictable, providing just enough feedback to make you feel in control at all times. Admittedly, that is exactly what the Swedes were aiming for. In case you're curious, the turning circle is 37.4 ft.
The T4 is a two-liter turbo sending 185 horsepower to the front wheels, while the T5 is the same engine with a larger turbo, producing 248 horsepower and 258 ft.-lb. for an all-wheel drive system that, in theory, is capable of sending all of its power to the rear wheels. It won't shock you that in most cases, it won't split more than half of the torque, so if you want to go drifting, we recommend building a hot rod 164.
Having only driven the more powerful T5, I can say that 248 horses and the turbo engine's low-end torque is plenty to move a car that wasn't designed for speeding anyway. The eight-speed auto works as nicely as ever, and if you want to make your XC40 R-Design a bit more peppy, the dynamic or individual driving modes can help, putting more load on the steering while shortening the pedal travel, as well as remapping the entire drivetrain.
But the real magic of the XC4o starts in its interior and cargo area. Stepping out of this car certainly makes you wonder why it took the industry so long.
The XC40 comes with the same touchscreen and digital instrument cluster as Volvo's more expensive cars. That's nice, and so is the optional Orange Lava carpet you can order with your R-Design. I feel like you have to; a little bit of color goes a long way here. There's also the optional panoramic glass roof, and while the audio system is not the Bower and Wilkins with the Gothenburg Concert Hall experience, the premium 13-speaker Harman Kardon sounds fine. The standard system has eight speakers.
These features paired with the excellent visibility and Volvo's ergonomic seats already put the XC40 ahead of its German competition. But then comes the real clever part.
Volvo had a look at how people use their cars all over the world, only to create an interior truly tailored around humans.
The first thing you notice when you shut the door is that there is no speaker in there. That was relocated into the dash, so that the soft carpeted door bin can hold a laptop as well as two large bottles without breaking a sweat. And thanks to the carpet, your items don't move around that much either. Left of the steering wheel, there are card slots in for parking tickets, cash cards, whatever you need. Under the driver's seat, there's a storage shelf. The center tunnel hides a compartment large enough for a box of tissues, or, as it turns out, a Canon 70D with the 18-135 mm IS STM lens. Needless to say, that's one hell of a bulky prosumer SLR for a compact car's trans tunnel to swallow.
Just in front of that compartment, the XC40 also features a removable trash bin with an attached net and a lid that comes off in case you have jammed one too many plastic bottles in there. While at first, this plastic box may look small, it's robust and absolutely watertight, which means it can hold your kids' puke... in case of emergency.
There's an additional card slot by the charging points, and a hidden tunnel that will grab your phones's cable, keeping the area nice and tidy.
Once you open the glovebox, there's a hook inside for a bag that is designed to come off without breaking if your groceries include bars of lead. Open the trunk, and there's more. While the hat rack fits in a slot without taking up any space (even with the full-sized spare the US market is getting), the floor can also be folded up, thus creating a safe space for bags and fragile items.
The divider also includes additional hooks, because your shopping deserves all the security. Just like how your phone deserves the (optional) inductive charging.
The door carpet is made of recycled plastic bottles, which you can kind of tell. That's not a bad thing, and as you know, every little helps.
The XC40 comes with a digital key as standard, which you can share with "your circle of trust." More importantly, you don't even have to spend a minimum of $33,200 ( $995 destination charge) to get one. That's where Care by Volvo, the Swede's new subscription service comes in.
$600 a month for the Momentum, $700 a month for an R-Design. That's the offer. There's also a $500 refundable deposit for windshield damage and the sort, but there is no negotiation, and Volvo says the entire process takes ten minutes from logging on. It's a 24 month deal that can be changed after 12, with a 15,000 mile/year allowance, insurance by Liberty Mutual, full maintenance by Volvo, and you just pay for gas, and gas only.
Liberty Mutual can deny your application, if you happen to be a 16-year-old with 37 DUIs. But for the rest of you, the cars will be delivered in no more than a week and a half, all being stored at the port.
The cheaper Momentum T5 AWDs come with the panoramic roof, heated seats and steering wheel, the Premium and Vision packages 19 inch black diamond cut wheels, while the R-Designs add 20 inch wheels, the Advanced package and the Harman Kardon audio. This is a national, flat-rate, all inclusive deal, for $600 or $700 a month.
Wondering about safety? It's a Volvo. That means no matter how entry-level it is, the XC40 features all the goodies, including Pilot Assist in case of the subscription models, since those cars are highly specced.
It also means that when everything else fails, the steel won't.
Volvo believes its Belgian-built compact to be the ultimate urban warrior. Personally, I found the XC40 a touch too big to fulfill that promise in Europe, but that shouldn't be an issue in America. Nor should it be the question of whether the colors of the Swedish flag match your exterior.
Three years ago, the XC90's seat was tagged with a Swedish flag to make it absolutely clear that Volvo is more Scandinavian than it could ever be under Ford's rule. The following XC60 had its aluminum trim stamped with it in order for them to be able to use a single piece of metal without joints or cut points. This way, it can expand freely without cracking.
None of the XC40's press shots feature the flag, yet our test cars had them under their clamshells, sticking out like a T-shirt's label. Apparently, it was a late idea.