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Driven: All-new XC40 adds ‘wow factor’ to Volvo line-up

Wearing Prada: The XC40 cuts a unique figure among the prestige compact SUV set, and although late to the party, arrives with a competitively priced and tightly composed launch range.

Volvo shuns downsizing design trend for all-new XC40 small SUV now on sale


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2 May 2018

THE arrival of the XC40 small SUV marks a turning point for Volvo, unlocking its access to a flourishing new market segment and, as its global design chief has revealed, providing the means for the Swedish brand to introduce a “wow factor” that was missing before.

In Australia this week for the launch of the company’s first attempt at a compact crossover, Volvo Cars senior vice-president of design, Robin Page, said the design team deliberately chose to avoid creating a cut-down version of the XC60 or XC90 SUVs.

Whereas some rival brands have chosen to duplicate designs in smaller packages – something Mr Page likened to a pair of “nice, shiny black shoes” in sizes 12, 10 or eight – he said Volvo’s design team worked with the metaphor that formal black dress shoes were reserved for XC90, a more casual suede pair suited XC60 while the new XC40 was like a set of Prada sneakers – “something that was expensive, modern, but has got more the youthful, the playful character”.

“If you look at other brands, they actually start by just downsizing their recipe,” he said. “It’s the same formula, just downsized, but we’ve made a conscious decision not to do that.”

Mr Page told GoAuto that the company had been “building a journey” with XC60 following the successful XC90, and the move to XC40 allowed the design team to create “a more youthful, characterful statement” with more emotional elements than the larger models, which will be important in drawing new buyers to the brand.

“For me, it’s extremely important. It came at the right time because we’d been building a journey up to XC60, which has been super-successful … but then to do something else, without any duplication of it, is much better,” he said.

“It’s the first car that people have gone, ‘Wow! That is cool.’ And that impacts our next phase, it gives a really fresh look to the Volvo brand.

“We saw, really, with the customer base that the smaller you go, the more playful you can be with the design language.

“If you play around with an XC90, it all starts to go wrong. So the XC90 should be more formal. The XC60 is a little bit ‘younger’, but with XC40 we could be more adventurous.”

The XC40 lines up against the segment-leading BMW X1 (from $45,900 before on-roads) and the two other big German brands – Mercedes-Benz with GLA ($43,900) and Audi with Q2 ($41,800) and Q3 ($43,400) – as well as the Lexus NX ($54,800), Infiniti QX30 (from $48,900), Mini Countryman ($41,300) and the recently launched Jaguar E-Pace ($47,750).

The Swedish brand might be late to the party but has brought a competitively priced and tightly composed range to market priced between $47,990 and $57,990 plus on-road costs and spanning petrol and diesel power and two model grades (Momentum and R-Design) for each engine.

There was also a temporary ‘Launch Edition’ for each variant, adding $5000 to Momentum pricing and $1750 to R-Design, but Volvo Car Australia has advised that all 203 units have been sold.

This means the range is limited to four core model variants, which is in stark contrast to Jaguar’s E-Pace range that covers no fewer than 38 variants and extends as high as $84,370 at the top end – the latter figure pushing much further upstream than the XC40, which tops out at $59,740.

The powertrains in question are Volvo’s T5 petrol and D4 diesel 2.0-litre (1969cc) turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder units, both driving all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with fuel-saving automatic engine idle-stop.

The T5 produces 182kW of power at 5500rpm and 350Nm of torque, sending the XC40 (which tips the scales between 1684kg and 1733kg, depending on the variant) from 0-100km/h in a claimed 6.5 seconds, on its way to a 230km/h top speed.

The petrol variant returns fuel economy of 8.3-9.1 litres per 100km on the official combined cycle, and CO2 emissions of 189-205 grams per kilometre.

The diesel has less power but more grunt – 140kW at 4000rpm and 400Nm from 1750-2500rpm – and what it loses in terms of standing-start acceleration (7.9s from 0-100km/h) and maximum speed (210km/h) still makes a strong case with improved environmental performance of 6.4-7.1L/100km and 166-185g/km.

There is no two-wheel-drive variant available at launch, but the entry point to the XC40 range will lower late next year with the first application of the Swedish brand’s inaugural three-cylinder engine – a 115kW/265Nm 1.5-litre turbo-petrol ‘T3’ unit.

A T5 plug-in hybrid – given its first public airing at the Beijing motor show last week – and full-electric variants are also expected early next decade.

The XC40 is underpinned by the new compact modular architecture (CMA) that was co-developed with Volvo’s Chinese parent company Geely and will form the basis for other 40-series models – an all-new S/V40 small car, among them – and compact models from affiliate brands such as Lynk & Co’s new 01 and 02 SUVs.

It uses a MacPherson strut suspension up front and a four-link configuration at the rear (tuned for sportier driving in the R-Design), electro-mechanical rack-and-pinion steering (turning circle is 11.4m) and four-wheel disc brakes with 322mm/345mm front rotors (depending on the variant) and 302mm at the rear.

Braking distance from 100-0km/h is listed at 36m.

The standard wheels are 18-inch five-spoke silver alloys on Momentum and 20-inch five-double-spoke matt-black diamond-cut rims on R-Design.

Dimensionally, the XC40 measures 4425mm long, 2034mm wide (including mirrors) and 1652mm high and rests on a 2702mm wheelbase.

Cargo volume is 460 litres with the rear seats up (a figure which includes underfloor storage), extending to 1336L with the second-row seatbacks folded.

As well as all-wheel drive, off-road excursions are aided by electronic hill-descent control, 211mm ground clearance, 450mm wading depth and approach/breakover/departure angles of 21.7/21.9/30.4 degrees respectively.

The XC40 has arrived with a high level of equipment in keeping with Volvo’s usual emphasis on safety and technology.

Key standard safety equipment on Momentum includes a full suite of airbags (dual front, side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee) and driver-assist systems such as blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and LED headlights with automatic high beam.

Front and rear parking sensors, and a reversing camera are provided, along with auto-dimming mirrors, keyless start, dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, a 12.3-inch driver information display, 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, high-grade eight-speaker stereo, digital radio, smartphone integration (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), wireless phone charging and electric adjustment (including lumbar) for the driver’s seat only.

The seats are trimmed in a combination of cloth and vinyl.

R-Design has a host of sportier highlights including high-gloss black grille, double integrated black tailpipes, black roof and the bigger 20-inch wheels, along with a higher-grade cabin fit-out: Nubuck textile/Nappa perforated leather upholstery, black headlining, R-Design steering wheel (including gearshift paddles), LED interior illumination and electric adjustment for the front passenger seat.

Keyless entry, electric tailgate operation and an active bending function on the headlights are also included.

The Launch Editions basically carried the major optional items available on both Momentum and R-Design grades.

For Momentum, this included 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights (with active bending lights), LED interior lighting, adaptive cruise control (with Pilot Assist), Park Assist Pilot, 360-degree camera, keyless entry, electric tailgate, a sunroof, tinted windows, alarm, 13-speaker Harmon Kardon premium sound system, leather upholstery, electric front passenger seat, seat heating for both front seats, mechanical cushion extension and power-folding rear headrests.

Volvo says the combined total of all these options was $10,120, more than double the price of the extra outlay required for the special-edition variant, while the R-Design’s extras – said to be worth $6670 – were less extensive, hence the more modest $1750 increment.

These included the sunroof, tinted glass, alarm, seat heating, premium sound, power-fold headrests and some key safety tech such as adaptive cruise (with Pilot Assist), Park Assist Pilot and the 360-degree camera as well.

Other accessories include a contrasting white roof on Momentum, various alloy wheel designs (up to 21”), roof racks, towbar, mudflaps, load compartment maps and a steel cargo barrier.

2018 Volvo XC40 pricing*
T5 Momentum (a)$47,990
T5 R-Design (a)$54,990
D4 Momentum (a)$50,990
D4 R-Design (a)$57,990
*Excludes on-road costs

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