Volvo XC40: I Have Time For This One

Insert the old trope about there are too many crossovers, that they all blend together, so go buy something different. And yet, within a few minutes of sliding behind the wheel of the Volvo XC40 in Inscription trim, this one was different.  Let me walk you through the reasons why.

#1 Style

I see enough XC40s going down the road that in many colors they are nearly invisible. The test unit I had was not. It was striking in the Denim Blue Metallic with just the slightest bit of chrome accents to set it off. Simple and clean, yet sophisticated. That leads us to the interior in which you could say the same thing.

I’ve always loved Danish modern as a style, and the interior of the XC40 is a 21st-century version of it. Simple and clean, but with texture and contrast. It’s the antithesis to most modern car interiors, especially in regards to the instrument panel.

One of the nicest and subtlest touches is the fabric inserts in the doors that go down into the cupholders on the doors. Just that little touch brings up the luxury value of the cabin.   Slot a bottle into the area and you don’t have to hear it rattling around against hard plastic.

#2 Size

There is a little bit of personal perfection here. Larger than, say, an Audi Q3, yet smaller than a Q5. Large enough that four adults fit comfortably or fold down the rear seat and your five-month-old Irish Wolfhound puppy still has plenty of room. Small enough that it’s easy to get into and out of tight parking spots, move through traffic with ease, and not feel as if you are taking up the entire lane.   Swapping between the XC40 and my wife’s Ford Edge really drove home the point about the width of the vehicle.   The Edge feels as if it takes up the entire lane. Inside you can not rest your arm on the door sill as it’s quite a distance from the driver’s seat. The XC40 had plenty of width in the interior where you didn’t feel cramped or smooshed at all.

#3 Ride

It is a terribly overused idiom, but with the XC40 the ride is, well, European.   What does that really mean?   Funny aside, but here’s a perfect analogy: I was in a local audio store recently and talking to the owner about a new preamp for my new-to-me SOTA Sapphire turntable. The store owner was saying how he preferred one particular brand over another because it was “more musical” He joked, “what does that mean? It means that I like the sound of it better.”

That’s almost the best way to describe a “European” ride.   Firmer and more controlled than you are used to, but not so much as to be abrupt or harsh. The XC40 has the de rigueur ride modes that are a check mark item on every new car these days. There are some differences in the various modes, but sixty percent of it is psychosomatic. Mostly when you change drive modes it changes the throttle response and shift quality, and that, in turn, tells your brain the ride is more different than the actual adjustment.

Through the atrocities that is the road system in and around the Metro Detroit area, the XC40 “rode up on it like a cutter through ice” to steal a line from an old car movie.

#4 Charm

While I can not say that there is joy or happiness in driving the XC40, for me at least, it does have that magical “charm” where if I had to own a crossover, this would be one of a select few I could deal with. The overall packaging, style, and quality all come together to make it a very solid package that is easy to recommend to other people.

#5 The Other Side Of The Coin

That is not to say it’s all sunshine and boat drinks under the sun with the XC40; it did have a few things worth calling out. Some of these may be issues for you, others may not.

From a driving position, the wheel needed about another two to three inches of telescoping travel. In the way I normally sit, my arms stretched out more than I prefer.

While very pretty and functional with a reasonable UI/UX, the infotainment system can be a little slow and laggy. Most of this is upon initial startup and in the first few minutes of running. After a bit, it seems to be not as noticeable, but it has its moments even then.

Finally, reading the owner’s manual is a requirement if you want to be able to use all of the functions in the system, and even then, some are undiscoverable.   There were four times I had to go to the manual to sort out items, and I could still not reset the tripometer.

 

#6 The Wrap Up

The Volvo XC has a 2.0-liter turbo four with 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque backed by an eight-speed transmission. It is plenty quick and you will have no want for more power in your day-to-day driving. The XC40 returned close enough as to make no difference to the EPA book fuel economy figures of 23 city, 31 highway and 26 combined.

At $46,290 as tested, I consider the Volvo XC40 an outstanding value for money.   When I looked at the Monroney, I fully expected it to be north of $50,000, maybe close to $55,000. If you are one of those people who makes prejudgments and decisions based on figures, stats and spreadsheets, then you will miss out on this vehicle. It is a vehicle that needs to be experienced to be appreciated, and in the end, that is what makes it a stand-out vehicle. It is far more than the sum of its parts.

10 Comments

  1. I really like the XC40 primarily for its aesthetics. It’s interesting that you would praise this one for its understated looks because I find it rather bland. The wheels are rather small too. I just prefer the two tone look you see in many of the online photos.

    https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/Ss0uRO0rTZ7H7lh8QQt1fLfAqOE=/0x0:5100×3400/1820×1213/filters:focal(2915×2061:3731×2877):format(webp)/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/56792179/213087_New_Volvo_XC40_exterior.0.jpg

    The interior is fantastic, especially with the Lava carpets.

    https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/TSBo8uNt-b3f_cIUq9A6_PvRUPw=/0x0:5100×3400/1720×0/filters:focal(0x0:5100×3400):format(webp):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/9296339/213042_New_Volvo_XC40_interior.jpg

  2. I just noticed that this has a push-button start, unlike literally every single other modern Volvo (which have the twist to start knob), which is…weird.

    Now, on one hand, a crossover doesn’t feel like as much of selling out coming from Volvo, and although I haven’t driven the 40, the XC60 and 80 are quite nice. On the other hand, I’d stretch the extra 10% to get the V60. I’m impressed though, that apparently the Belgian-built XC40 still qualifies for Swedish delivery.

  3. I love the car’s handsome styling, and the interior is fantastic. The engine makes good power but sounds coarse when pushed hard, and when we test-drove the larger XC60, I didn’t like the response of the infotainment system, either.

    I’m admittedly rather partial to Volvos old and new, but I strongly disagree with “at $46,290… [it is] an outstanding value”. Really? Because I’m thinking that’s a bit steep for a car that’s smaller, slower, and $10K pricier than a Mazda CX-5 GT Turbo. The XC40 is indeed an outstanding car, but the CX-5T outshines it in most metrics and is damn near as pretty. There’s no doubt that I’d avoid the snob tax of the Volvo and buy the proletarian Mazda instead.

    1. I drove the Mazda CX-5 with the turbo engine around the time I also drove the Volvo, review to come after I finish the X5 one. There is no comparison when it comes to the interior between the Volvo and the Mazda. The Volvo is tremendously better. As is always true, judgments and decisions cannot be made by looking at spreadsheets and numbers, you must drive and experience the vehicles. All that said, the Volvo is worth the price premium over the Mazda, and the Volvo felt underpriced for the level of content and driving experience.

      1. I drove the CX-5 Turbo the same day I drove the Volvo XC60. My wife was shopping the slightly larger crossover, but I insisted she try the CX-5, because she had already ruled out the CX-9 as too big, and we could potentially save a lot of $$. We looked at the XC40, but she ruled it out early and didn’t even consider a test drive.

        Describing the XC40 as “tremendously better” is either reflective of a serious subjective bias, or a gross exaggeration in lazy support of an argument. I admittedly prefer the interior design of the XC40, but I thought the Mazda’s– while not as stylish– felt on-par relative to materials and fit/finish, and the ergonomics I liked even better. That’s where the value part comes in. If you are someone who prefers the Volvo and are willing to pay for it, great! It’s a helluva nice car inside and out. However, paying “considerably more” money for “a bit more” perceived quality doesn’t equate to “value”. If that were the case, the Bentley Continental SuperSports would be the value of the century.

        Where Volvos fall completely flat, in my opinion, is in driving dynamics. Mazda absolutely trounces it in this category. Steering in every contemporary Volvo I’ve driven is ridiculously over-boosted and numb, providing almost zero feedback from the front wheels. Despite my appreciation for the brand (I absolutely love the look of the V60 and V90), this is a deal-breaker for me. The driver is simply too isolated from the driving experience for my liking. I like to drive, not ride, and I won’t give up that experience for the sake of a zen-like Swedish interior.

        Incidentally, my wife doesn’t give a damn about driving dynamics, and dismissed the CX-5 almost immediately. She said the Volvo was simply “nicer”. However, she ultimately preferred the Audi Q5 that she bought for about a grand more than the price of the blue XC40 Inscription above. It’s more than I wanted to pay for a commuter vehicle and it’s not what I would want to drive daily, but it was considerably nicer overall than its Volvo competitor.

          1. As you should! However, your conclusions only tell me that you liked the XC40… because you liked it. You pretty much summed it up with your preamp analogy. “I can’t say exactly why, but this is good.” Ok… thanks, that’s enlightening.
            Opinions aren’t right or wrong, and your perspective is no less valid than mine, but you really didn’t give readers many compelling reasons why they might like the car. That you find this Volvo to be “different”, “sophisticated”, and “magically charming” quite frankly doesn’t tell me anything on which to base my own opinions. How do you rank styling, fit/finish, ride, handling, NVH, etc. in your appraisal of a car, so that I may compare that to my own? I agree that one shouldn’t predispose a car based on stats and figures, but if it truly needs to be “experienced to be appreciated”, then your writeup could have been as simple as “I love this car, and you might, too. Give it a try and see.” Because really, you didn’t state much beyond that. So feel free to stand by your conclusions, and I will stand by my statement that your declaration of “outstanding value” is unsubstantiated.

  4. I have an electric blue volvo V40 which is a lovely car but I live in Edinburgh and it’s a diesel car so not practical for short distances. Had to have more work on it than is necessary 🙁 I have just ordered a Volvo XC40 inscription pro in blue Denim with blond interior, which should be with me by November. I am very excited 🙂

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