Which car brand comes to mind when I talk about safety? I’m quite sure for most of you the first thing that popped in your head was Volvo. The brand itself is so strongly associated with safety and quality that it is impossible to NOT think about them when you’re thinking of which car is more likely to save your life in case of an accident. Well, the Swedish do have high standards when it comes to safety. They have set the bar in safety quite high which means other car manufacturers have been forced to reconsider safety as a key feature while designing their cars.
Now, the car we are talking about today is one of the best mid-sized SUVs that are currently available in the overcrowded market – The Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design. And that is why I was very excited when I was loaned the car to review it. Volvo has had a turn of fortune with the XC40 and quite rightly so as it has been awarded the best compact SUV in 2018 in Europe and the most loved SUV too.
For the start, the XC40 looks completely different from its elder siblings the XC60 and XC90. It looks and feels more stylish, urban, utilitarian and youthful. Compact yet enough space to accommodate all that you need. How does it manage to do all of that?
To start, the exteriors have been designed completely from scratch. The model I had was the top of the line R-design version. R-design is an in house design studio from Volvo that focuses on the comfort and aesthetic features of the cars from the Volvo lineup. And so the XC40 comes with a specially designed front grill that makes it look more aggressive than the standard version. It comes with LED headlights (which bend during the turning) and tail lights. The fog lamps are LED too but I think they look too small and unnoticeable at times. The bonnet has a tricky lever placement to open it. So where the Volvo logo on the grill meets the top right side of the bonnet, that’s where the lever is to unlock the bonnet.
The XC40 comes in a two-tone colour combination with the black exterior roof as standard on all the models. The build quality is incredibly sturdy and it is built to last till your grandchildren are born and even they may be driving it too. Other standard features include the remote-operated boot door (or tailgate), keyless entry & panoramic sunroof.
18-inch alloy wheels adorn this black and silver design that enhances the look of this car. At the back, you get twin tailpipe with chrome tips; However, the gap between the tips and the actual pipe is quite noticeable.
In addition, you get the R-design black coloured plates mounted on both sides just above the rear doors to remind you that Volvo has put in a lot of effort to design this car. The rear doors have an angular design that tapers at the end of the door to meet the roofline, slightly reducing the view from the rear passenger windows.
Nothing brings me more joy than to share that the quality of material used for the interiors is top-notch and very Volvo-ish. Inside you get soft-touch plastic everywhere from the door cards to the dashboard. The XC40 comes with R-Designed front and rear sport seats with dual material (leather & nubuck), perforated with white stitching. The steering is also covered in the leather with white stitching and makes it feel rather premium. But, the seats are too sporty in the sense that they are hard and uncomfortable if you plan to go on longer journeys.
The front seats are electronically adjustable in every possible way and also come with lumbar support and a cushion extension feature to support your thighs during longer journeys. The rear seats are positioned quite well in a way that the shoulder of the door does not hamper your visibility and essentially would not make you feel claustrophobic. The rear seats are not collapsible but only the hand rest provided can be folded down to accommodate your golf bags or your skis. The rear seats can easily fit 3 people with the roofline high enough to not hit the head of even the tallest of the passengers.
For an SUV this small, you may presume that the boot space must surely be compromised. But it is not! It comes with enough boot space to put two big bags and two small bags. The floor of the boot space is foldable and has these cool bit of hooks to hang in your shopping bags so I am impressed by the clever thinking from Volvo to include the hooks. Plus after lifting the floor you still have enough space to stuff in some more luggage. Also, you get the scruff plating on the rear bumpers so you do not damage the paintwork while loading or unloading the luggage.
Surrounded between the very long, stylish but unconventional looking AC air vents is a huge portrait styled 9.0 inches iPad-like infotainment screen. As a result, the dashboard has a very classy minimalist design. But unfortunately, the infotainment system is not the easiest system to use.
First of all, the glass on the screen is glossy meaning it is a fingerprint magnet. But do not worry, Volvo has you covered on that front and it gives you a premium cloth to clean the screen. The infotainment screen lets you swipe between menus to change anything, pinch, tap, zoom on the user-friendly maps and also has a conventional home button so you can quickly come back to the main menu. The address can be either written in letters on the screen or entered using an on-screen keyboard.
Under the screen, you would find a single row of media controls as well. But what concerns me more is that the air-conditioner is controlled from the infotainment screen itself. If the screen stops working you may be left without air-conditioning. Let’s be honest, we can live without the music system but not without an AC. The XC40 comes with a healthy eight-speaker music system with a 250W output.
You also get a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display screen. You can see the details on that and also change the finer settings in the car from there. It displays your trip details, let’s you flick between conventional dials or a large map display for sat-nav and speed limit notifications using the 360 degrees five-camera system. You can also see the cameras on your infotainment screen as well.
In terms of storage, you can store a big bottle of water in the door bins on all the doors, cup holders are in the centre console, hand rest, glove box and one under the infotainment screen which also happens to be a wireless charging port. The XC40 comes with wireless charging, standard 12V socket in the front and back, USB and auxiliary port.
The gear stick on the XC40 is unconventional in every way. It is short and most of the times I managed to miss the gear stick. It takes a little getting used to before you know where the gear stick is and it also has a very minimum throw too. An issue with the gear stick itself is that if you want to go from the Parking mode to Drive, you will have tap the stick twice. The same goes when you are in Reverse mode and want to go into the Drive. It takes two taps to go into Drive. If you miss a tap and go into Neutral instead of the Drive or Reverse and you may end up rolling down if you are on a hill. To change the gear manually using the stick, you have to shift it sideways to change the gears up or down. All of this leads to a slightly annoying experience using the gear stick. Oh! And the parking mode is button operated after you are done understanding how the shifter works.
The steering wheel is adjustable, has adaptive cruise control and media control mounted on it and the paddle shifters which are plastic which ruins the feel of the steering wheel in some way.
No Volvo review is complete without discussing its safety system. The XC40 comes with its own ‘Intellisafe system’ which is used in lane assist, emergency brakes, adaptive cruise control and on-coming lane mitigation. It also comes with 7 Multistage Intelligent Airbags: driver, passenger, sides and curtains. The other safety systems include 360-degree cameras, Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System), EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution), EBA (Electronic Brake Assist), Hill Start Assist and Automatic Brake Hold system.
However, while these systems are remarkable, they tend to be frustrating as well. In particular, if you keep the lane assist feature on, the car is going to interfere on occasions even while you consciously try to change the lanes. It vibrates vigorously and corrects the steering wheel forcefully as if you were going to put the car in a ditch. Luckily you can reduce the interference from the system by going into the settings from your complicated infotainment system. Good luck figuring that out.
Overall it is a good system considering that the roads in UAE have faster average speeds of 100 km/hr and if you take into account the driving habits of some people here, this car is going to teach you how to drive safely again.
The Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-design comes with a T5 2.0L4 Cylinder Turbocharged engine which produces 247 bhp and 350 Nm of torque. This engine is coupled to an 8-speed automatic gearbox. The car weighs around 1700 kgs and comes with an AWD (All Wheel Drive) system. This is an SUV that does not try to over-deliver on anything, perfectly balanced on all points.
The power delivery from the engine is quite smooth and the short throttle response times make it feel very sporty. Although there is a certain amount of turbo lag till 2500rpm. Also, the engine becomes a little noisy once you cross 3500rpm. But the NVH levels are well maintained all the time. The gear shifts are crisp and if you use the paddle shifts, the lag from the system is minimal while changing gears.
The steering wheel feels pretty light to drive, pointy and the XC40 manages to disguise its weight quite well. Although, the weight distribution on the XC40 is pretty even. It also comes with the Pirelli continental tyres and that’s probably another reason for the smooth handling and comfortable ride. The suspensions are stiff due to which the XC40 has a bare minimum body roll.
The XC40 comes with four different driving modes: Comfort, Dynamic, Eco and Off-Road. Put it in dynamic and the setup becomes stiff, sporty and the throttle response becomes sharp. However, even though its an SUV, it will not handle any and all off-roading that you throw at it EVEN when you put it in the Off-Road mode. I tried to take the XC40 onto the beach but it did struggle with the traction once the sandy surface started to become lose and dense. It was a sign not to push it more.
The XC40 comes with four disc brakes and the most enjoyable part about it is the brake pedal. Usually, manufacturers give you a very sensitive brake pedal meaning as soon as you step on it, the car suddenly comes to a halt. But in the XC40 things are different. The pedal has a heaviness and longer travel, hence it takes more than the usual force to hit the brakes.
While the XC40 T5 AWD is in direct competition with the Range Rover Evoque and the Audi Q3, it still is a very good match compared to the competition. The flaws in this car are so minimal, you should not even consider it. The XC40 surprised me in many areas with its upgrade and improvement in the build quality, infotainment system, ride quality, lavish interiors and its ability to perform like an SUV ticks all the boxes. Priced at AED 150,000 ($41,000) this car is a bargain compared to its rivals. You get the safest car you can possibly imagine with a robust design. My advice is you should check out the T5 rather than the T4 version as it offers an AWD option.
It is no doubt one of the best SUVs in the market and rightly deserves all the accolades. It is sporty, youthful, stylish, urban and utilitarian. But, most importantly it’s a complete package which is a delightful surprise.
You can watch a full video review of the Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design from below.
You can also read a detailed review of Honda CR-V from this link.