It’s no secret that we’re fans of what Volvo is doing these days. From the first in their new line, the XC90 SUV to the new XC60 we just tested to the V90 Cross Country to the S90 sedan; all of their new products have been exceptional. The move to a more luxurious/upmarket image and committing fully to energy efficiency and safety means the prices are higher than the last round of Volvos, but now there’s an affordable model – the all-new 2019 Volvo XC40.
First and foremost, you notice right away that this is a step down in luxury from the other models. And that’s okay. The way that Volvo trimmed the price is not by cutting corners or using ugly materials, they found funky/modern and artful materials that are less expensive. It doesn’t feel cheap, it feels fun and modern with the same attention to detail as its more luxurious cousins. Our test vehicle had bright orange carpets and door-cards, which we absolutely love to look at – but hate to live with. They get dirty very quickly, it would be hard to live with day-in-day-out, and I worry about its long-term looks. Other details include the same knurled HVAC knobs as the other models, and Volvo’s excellent infotainment system.
Instead of the upper-crust Bowers and Wilkins audio system available in other more expensive models, the XC40 opts for Harmon Kardon. We expected to be let down by this system, having sampled the peerless B&W, but it’s clear Volvo gave their new supplier some key parameters and performance targets. The sound is just as spacially grand, only lacking a bit in depth and clarity. It’s very good audio system.
In fairness to Volvo, we drove the more sporty ‘R-Line’ trim level, which starts at just $37k. There is also an Inscription model which pushes to near $40k to start, but we expect it to have more lavish interior finishes if that’s your sort of thing. We expect the XC40 buyer is going to be a bit younger, so chances are the more athletic and less stodgy R-Line will be the sweet spot. The base ‘Momentum’ trim starts at just $35k, remarkable for such an innovative and useful vehicle. While the whole idea of the small crossover vehicle is nothing new, there are some key things that set the new Volvo entry apart.
At the top of that list is the design. The attention to detail when sculpting the body shape is very apparent, in fact it’s so seamless you have to look at it for a while just to see what’s going on. The way the body lines all come together across the side of the vehicle, the upright Volvo grill, the vertical rear taillights and innovative D-pillar all lend a sophisticated look. It really fits the brand, but what’s even more impressive is how they have managed to create something very ‘new’ looking without making it look weird. Many attempts at modern design end up looking like someone very intentionally made them look modern by taking on random design elements. Nothing of the sort here, everything is functional from either a use or design standpoint.
Another innovation is in how you can own the XC40. This is the first Volvo to be available as a ‘subscription,’ meaning you pay one price for the vehicle, service and maintenance and insurance. One bill, nice and easy. And while they are two-year terms, you can change out for a new one after 12 months if you like. The base Momentum will set you back $600/month and the R-Design $700 a month. That’s pretty good when you consider everything is included.
For powertrain, the XC40 uses Volvo’s now ubiquitous 2.0-Liter 4-cylinder, Drive-E turbocharged engine. Putting out 248hp, it does a great job of making the small crossover feel light on its feet. There’s a definite punch, and it drives like it’s got more ponies. And with 23-city and 31-highway mileage, it’s pretty frugal on gas as well. The base T4 engines will soon also be available, and save even more money, starting at only $33k for the Momentum version. With 184hp, it’s mainly cost-saving as the MPG is similar. All models are available in both FWD and AWD versions.
The startling combination of technology (all available active safety features, killer interface and connectivity), design and efficiency make the XC40 a knockout punch in the Crossover class. There’s not much that comes close. But when really looking at what makes the whole thing work, we come back to the design every time. Chief exterior designer of the XC40, Ian Kettle, put it this way: “Car designers often design products in their own image. You can see that in the XC40. My personal taste in design is having large sweeping surfaces that convey both a sense of calm and confidence in the product. If you look at an Apple MacBook or an iPad, they don’t have lots of line work breaking up the surface. It’s about making the product seductive in a really intelligent way, with an uncomplicated design that suggests it will make your life easier – which is the whole point of the XC40.”
We suggest that he very much succeeded in his design mission. And as Volvo’s ascent in the automotive world continues, they’ve added yet another showstopper to the lineup. Bravo!
Special thanks to Volvo Cars of North America LLC for providing the 2019 Volvo XC40 for review.