Soon, two of Thor’s illuminated hammers will attempt to chip away at the popularity of entry-level premium SUVs from the German stable. Resting inside the front illumination pods of the all-new Volvo XC40, just like the tool these LED DRLs resemble, the rest of the car too follows a similar philosophy of delivering a sophisticated and clever blow while keeping things simple. Does the XC40 then pack enough Scandinavian force to hammer a dent in the popularity of all things German? Here’s what we think.
The Future is Here
The car doesn’t tell you if your nagging wife will leave you or if the pretty girlfriend will stay. However, if you fancy a car which drives itself and packs tomorrow’s technology which only seriously expensive things like the Mercedes S-Class boast of, the well read Volvo XC40 makes the competition in its segment look illiterate.
It gets semi-autonomous driving features like Radar based adaptive cruise control which allows you to set a speed and the XC40 then simply follows the car ahead while maintaining a safe distance. If the car ahead brakes, slows down, or speeds up, this Volvo figures all that out and adjusts its momentum on its own! If the car ahead moves in a different lane, the XC40 speeds up to the number you set and chugs along in its lane until it detects another vehicle in its way. Not impressed yet? The next one will certainly make you go, Wow!
With the help of a feature called Pilot Assist, the Volvo XC40’s steering can mind its own business as long as the white lines on the road are clearly marked. But it doesn’t tell you that it’s none of your business and will still ask you to keep your palms on the wheel at all times. It keeps the car within the marked territory, and coupled with the adaptive cruise control, allows you to take a break from being in constant control. However, contrary to popular belief, these are “Assist” systems, designed to allow some amount of relaxation for the driver during a journey. They are not to be relied on as features which are more clever than you.
Then there’s stuff like lane mitigation which detects a car in the oncoming lane if it’s in your blind spot and automatically steers the car to tuck it back behind the vehicle you wanted to overtake. If you are approaching a ‘T’ junction and the driver who wishes to join your lane is oblivious to your presence, the XC 40 will swerve on its own into the opposite lane to avoid stupidity. What if there’s an oncoming vehicle in that lane? This Volvo simply brakes to a halt before it can smear its smart face into dumb metal.
It’s not over yet. The XC40 gets ‘Park In’ and ‘Park Out’ features where the car can park itself into and out of a spot if you find it too cumbersome to do it on your own. And because it can read and write, this Volvo will also display road sign information on the instrument cluster and flash the actual speed limit if it finds you overshooting it! And it seems like a never ending tech fest if we tell you that the XC40 also gets a City Safety feature which identifies other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and large animals ahead, warning you if a collision is imminent. If you don’t react in time, the car brakes automatically to help avoid or mitigate a collision as long as the speed is under 40 kph!
With all the above features and some more which we’ll tell you about in a bit, these will come fitted as standard on the top-spec R Design trim, which will be the only option available at launch. Hill descent and ascent control, multiple airbags, ABS, ESP and all that jing bang comes standard too. Oh and if even after all this you manage to steer this Volvo into a ditch, the front seat’s backrest has a mechanism which does all it can to save your spine from a disastrous injury!
Please Tell Me It Runs On Water
We know fuel prices are on the rise and other things which normally should are struggling. But no, everything that’s under the Volvo XC40’s hood isn’t out of this world. It is powered by a 2.0-litre diesel powered heart which pumps out 190 HP, 400 Nm of torque (numbers identical to the X1) and comes paired with an 8-speed Geartronic Aisin sourced gearbox. Power goes to all four wheels via a 4th gen Haldex system which can distribute torque according to changes in surface conditions and the drive mode selected.
The engine doesn’t emanate typical diesel clatter, however, it is vocal about its presence under the hood and announces it inside the cabin if you mash the pedal. The meat of its power is dished out post the 2,000 rpm mark, under which, there is a fair amount of lag which exists, which the ECU tries to mask by squirting enough fuel to keep the revs high in ‘Dynamic’ mode. It does rev all the way till 4,500 rpm though and does it while feeling healthy.
Within town driveability feels good too and ‘Comfort’ and ‘Eco’ mode work best in such conditions where upshifts happen early and they are pretty seamless. Out on the open road, there is a tiny bit of delay until the gearbox kicks down and power starts building up when you need to make a quick move on. The Volvo still plays catch up to the X1 and Q3 in that regards. Having said that, the driving experience which the XC40 offers isn’t overwhelming if you’re someone who seeks thrills and enjoys the time spent behind the wheel. It is more oriented towards making the time you spend inside the car relaxing, comfortable and easy. If we have to sum it up in one word, Mature is the word which comes to our mind.
Our test car’s onboard system told us that it consumed 10.8 litres of diesel for every 100 kilometres so you do the math. However, these cars idle for a very long time during shoots, are driven mostly with a heavy right foot and had to navigate their way through heavy traffic in Hyderabad.
From our experience on the smooth and arrow straight stretches of the Outer Ring Road that circumnavigates Hyderabad, there’s not much to tell you about the car’s dynamics. But the new CMA platform which the XC40 is based upon stays planted and feels confident at high speeds in a straight line. There’s a touch of of body roll which creeps in while attacking flowing, high speed corners. There is no air suspension wizardry here and the alterations those driving modes (Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, Off Road & Individual) make are only relegated to the steering and the power delivery.
The steering feels light and makes driving around town a cake walk. However, for being nannied by so many electronics, lacks any amount of feels whatsoever. Even the weight it picks up in the Dynamic mode feels binary. It relays all your inputs to the front wheel quite nicely though. The ride quality is typically European. Which means, there’s a tinge of firmness to it at city speeds and sharp undulations at low speeds are felt inside the cabin.
However, the chunky tyre profile does a great job at absorbing as much as it can and a short off tarmac trip revealed just that. Braking is nice and progressive, but during a couple occasions, ABS chatter was very prominently felt through the pedal when we tried to brake hard on purpose.
The Inside Story
The Volvo XC40’s cabin is a lovely, lovely place to be in. It has been thoughtfully carved, has been draped in high quality bits ‘almost’ everywhere, and get this, it even comes fitted with a tiny trash compartment which sits next to the central armrest!
Note: You may either choose between all-black or the Faux wool lava red carpeting and door pads as in this picture
Standard features include a huge, panoramic sunroof and a 13-speaker, 660w Harman Kardon audio system. None of the speakers exist in the door pads to offer great levels of audio quality and free up space for other things. Volvo’s intuitive, seamless and easy to use ‘Sense’ system can be operated through a tablet like touchscreen which is the same unit as the one you get on an XC60 or an XC90! Communicating with the interface is so easy, there’s only a single ‘Home’ button like your smartphone which brings you back to the main screen. We never felt the need for a touchpad or buttons near the gear lever to operate it. And so that space remains clutter free for a good reason.
The instrument cluster is a brilliant electronic display which provides all the information you will ever need and even the switches on the wheel are laid out in a clutter-free and simple to use manner for even a first-timer to get used to things in an instant. The front chairs provide great levels of support all-around, are aggressively bolstered to keep you in place and both seats get electronic adjustment for movement as well as lumbar support.
Storage places are plenty, there’s a Qi certified wireless charger for your smartphone, illumination inside is LED, and some bits, like the dials to control air flow on those lovely vertical AC vents, or even the one which adjusts volume levels makes you feel like you’re getting more than your money’s worth.
We could not spend time in the backseat while the car was moving. But one there, you get the same lovely vertical ac vents, the volume of airflow for which can be controlled. Then you have a thoughtfully placed USB charger for your devices and a central armrest with two cupholders. However, with the front driver’s seat adjusted for a six footer, legroom felt only adequate, the backrest angle was a little too upright for our liking and the cushioning pretty firm. The dark theme of the cabin and the swooping quarter window panel don’t really help to make that space feel airy and well-lit, but there’s always that panoramic sunroof you can open for the sky to brighten up things inside.
The 460-litre boot is thoughtfully carved out. It can be partitioned through an adjustable panel which also has hooks for any bags you might wish to hang and the rear seat backrest can be tumbled down in a 60-40 split to release more space. Oh and there’s a space saver spare tyre and the tailgate is electronically operated, where, as long as the key is in your pockets, you may simply swipe your feet under the boot to open it.
The Way It Looks
With an upright and bold stance, the Volvo XC40 cuts the most SUV-ish picture when compared to its German rivals with their soft curves and smooth lines. The front, with its flat bonnet and that minimalist, yet, striking face, looks the part and so does the rear with those boomerang shaped taillights and a shoulder line which flares out. To be available in Red, Blue and White, all colour options get a contrast shade for the roof. For those who think size matters, the XC40 is taller, wider and extends just as much or a little more than all its rivals.
As a matter of fact, Ian Kettle, lead exterior designer of the XC40 says that the design was influenced by sci-fi movies and consumer electronics, and from day one, he referred to it as the ‘Tough Little Robot’. If you ask us for our opinion, apart from all the bells & whistles, we love how the XC40 brings something fresh and unique to this segment, even in terms of looks.
Have the Germans Been Hammered?
The answer would be in affirmative if you’re someone who seeks a premium, ultra modern, distinct and luxurious experience. However, if one of your foot is still stuck in an era where cars must evoke a sense of attachment and not come across as a smartphone on wheels, you might have to wind your head around this Volvo for a bit before it can impress you.
But if you have set course in the direction of modern and have learnt to appreciate the winds of change, the Volvo XC40 will sweep you off your feet. Set for launch in July, it will only be introduced in this top-spec R Design trim first, which will retail for 40 Lakh+ Ex-showroom. You can even go book one at a Volvo retailer near you right now.