Safe cars are usually associated with boring looks and dull performance. Or is it? Volvo Cars, despite placing safety at the core of its vehicle strategy, is making them increasingly sporty, fun-to-drive and youthful. The case in point is Volvo’s newest SUV XC40 that offers a fresh and futuristic design along with a feature list that outshines competition. While all of these have been efficiently incorporated to make the XC40 stand out in a crowded marketplace, one cannot fail to notice the safety blanket that Volvo has wrapped around this new offering. We were invited by Volvo Cars India to experience the XC40 in and around the City of Nizams, Hyderabad, and here’s what we think.
Volvo Cars India’s agenda with the XC40 seems quite simple; it plans to enter the segment all guns blazing, and with an intent to decimate competition. For the first time in this segment, the newest offering from the Volvo stable will give the big three – Mercedes, BMW and Audi – a run for their money. Not just because the XC40 wears a saucy look, but also because the segment will witness the arrival of an offering that comes with radar-based active safety technology as standard fitment.
EXTERIOR DESIGN, BUILD & STYLING
The XC40 is Volvo’s first car out on the new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform that was especially created for the roll-out of smaller cars as an integral element of its on-going global operational and financial transformation. The CMA platform gives Volvo’s engineers and designers the freedom to explore more bold and radical concepts. The results of this are blatantly evident on the XC40, which boasts of a daring new design language that is distinctly Volvo and bears resemblance to the elder siblings from the XC family, but carries forward its own unique flavour.
The façade of this compact SUV features a flat front with a sunken grille design finished in glossy black. Volvo has carried forward its signature Thor’s Hammer shaped LED DRLs on the XC40. The sculpted hood and chiselled bumper with black cladding define a macho character in the front. The front features short overhangs as well, thus giving the SUV a decent approach angle of 21.7 degrees at curb weight.
Moving over to the side, the profile is unmistakably one of an SUV. Having said that there are a few elements that make the XC40 unique – the massive C-pillar, for instance. The shoulder line of the SUV runs along the bonnet line and dissolves into a blunt subtle form post the A-pillar and only re-emerges seamlessly little before the C-pillar. The belt line is straight but rises towards the end to form the C-pillar. Upper and lower character lines give the side profile a rather toned look. Flared wheel arches also contribute towards giving the SUV a muscular look.
The rear has been designed to look chic and curvy. While the front and side sport boxy looks, the rear gets more angular lines. The tail lights are reminiscent of the V40, but get a new cluster design. Volvo has enabled the XC40 with a 30.4 degree departure angle that provides immense off-road capability. A smart looking spoiler has been incorporated on the roof and a bumper with healthy doses of cladding round up this SUV’s design in the rear. Volvo has incorporated its R-Design badging on various sections of the SUV including the C-pillar, giving the SUV a unique look.
DIMENSIONS & SPACE
When it comes to size, this SUV may be compact but is the largest among its rivals in nearly all respects. The XC40 measures 4,425 mm in length, making it longer than the Mercedes Benz GLA and the Audi Q3 but not the BMW X1. Volvo has ensured the XC40 is the widest among the lot, measuring 1,863 mm. Even in terms of height, the XC40 is taller than all three German rivals.
The XC40 is also quite spacious on the inside. The cabin has a roomy feeling and large windows in the front along with a wide panoramic sunroof overhead aid in this regard. The visibility from the rear does feel a bit restricted because of the massive C-pillars, but a clear picture from the reverse parking camera helps. Seating space for cabin occupants is decent and the XC40 can easily fit four average sized adults. Headroom, shoulder room and knee room are all quite good. But if you are over 6 feet tall things may get a wee bit cramped.
INTERIOR DESIGN & FEATURES
The cabin of XC40 looks luxurious and boasts of some impressive design elements. Plush materials have been used generously all around the cabin and a chic lava orange colour carpeting is found on the door trims and floor panels. The dashboard and infotainment cluster have been designed to be driver-biased, also making it more ergonomic for the driver to operate. A subtle use of piano black and brushed aluminium adds a sophisticated feel to the interiors. All in all, Volvo has seamlessly blended a trendy look with sophisticated materials to give the XC40 a unique appeal.
When it comes to the feature list, the Swedish manufacturer has gone all out and added the right amount of technology to this SUV. To start things off, the new XC40 gets a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment unit with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, wireless charging for Qi enabled mobile devices, Hill Start Assist & Descent Control, power operated tailgate, park pilot assist, smart storage spaces, active bending lights, a 13 speaker 660 W Harman Kardon set-up and radar-based active safety all as standard fitment. Some other features include auto LED headlamps, dual USB slots, voice commands, paddle shifters, power driver seat with a memory function, reverse parking sensors and reverse parking camera.
Radar-based safety tech that Volvo is offering on the XC40 is facilitated through a frontal camera and sensor set-up. The XC40 coming to India does not get a rear sensor set-up, thus missing out on features such as Blindspot Warning. But it does get features such as Pilot Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Run-off Road Protection, Driver Alerts, Lane Keeping Aid, Oncoming Lane Mitigation and City Safety with pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection.
The 9-inch infotainment unit on the XC40 is also worth a mention here. The unit is similar to those incorporated on the XC60 and the XC90. It features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity options and its operational functionality is comparatively much better than its rivals. It also gets a tab like home button. The instrument cluster is a virtual unit but with analogue display for the gauges. The interiors feature ample cubby holes and storage spaces, including one under the co-driver seat.
POWERTRAIN, PERFORMANCE & SAFETY
Powering the XC40 is a 1,996 cc, 4-cylinder, turbocharged diesel unit. The mill is capable of producing 190 hp and 400 Nm of torque. The XC40 is more powerful than the Audi Q3 and the Mercedes GLA and gets similar output figures as BMW X1. The XC40 is quick off the line and accelerates effortlessly. Peak power is delivered at 4,000 rpm and the climb up the band feels rather linear. Peak torque figures are whipped out from 1,750 rpm all the way up to 2,500 rpm. A wide band of torque also helps the driver to pick up speed quicker even on higher gears, thus catering to swift overtakes while driving on highways.
The engine has been mated to an 8-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. The marriage between the 2 l mill and the 8-speed unit is almost flawless. Gear shifts at city speeds are butter smooth making the transitions almost negligible. The transmission also responds quickly to driver inputs and the turnaround time for an overtaking manoeuvre seems lesser than that of competitors. The XC40 also features a Haldex AWD set-up. Volvo is also offering drive modes on the new XC40. While driving off-road, we felt that the XC40 performed decently and is well suited for mild off-road conditions. The steering on this SUV has also been weighted really well. It feels sporty at higher speeds and mildly heavy at city speeds. Speaking of steering, we were also able to experience the lane keeping aide and oncoming traffic mitigation functions, which work well but are not effective at all times.
The XC40 rides on 235/55 R18 Pirelli PZero tyres that have been specially designed for Volvo. The tyres grip the road surface well and are dutiful when off-road. The XC40 rides well over broken and bad roads. Unlike its elder and more expensive siblings, the XC40 misses out on air suspension and comes with metal springs. The suspension absorbs most undulations and bumps with grace and finesse. Braking on the SUV is facilitated by discs on all four wheels. Being a Volvo you can expect prime braking performance and the XC40 is no exception.
Volvo has been consistently upping the ante with a slew of fresh products and the XC40 is the promise of a bright future. As far as competition is concerned, the XC40 is undaunted by the big names and will stand out in the market. Volvo will initially launch the XC40 in the R-Design trim, which is the top spec model and will later bring in the other variants. What remains to be evaluated is the price and Volvo has a reputation of being competitive. We expect the XC40 R-Design to be priced around the ` 40-45 lakh mark. To know the exact price it will be launched at, you’ll need to wait until July 4, 2018, when the car will officially be rolled out to the Indian consumers.
TEXT & PHOTO: Joshua David Luther