Nothing can stop them now.
Beauty demands beauty, which is why resurgent Swedish luxury carmaker Volvo chose Milan, Italy as the most suitable place to reveal to the world one of the most hotly-anticipated new cars to arrive this year: the XC40 compact SUV. This is Volvo’s first crack at this highly-contested segment, and with the XC40, it’s clear that the executives from Gothenburg have current segment benchmarks like the Range Rover Evoque, BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA in their sights.
With the unveiling in Milan, Volvo has brought to the fore a lot more than a gorgeous new crossover. The company has also announced the arrival of a new service called ‘Care by Volvo,’ a service that essentially takes traditional car ownership and puts it on its head. Aside from buying a car the usual way (with downpayments and monthly instalments and insurance and the like), owning an XC40 can be as hassle-free as getting an internet subscription, throwing all the related costs and headaches that come with ownership into one easy monthly subscription.
The XC40 makes it three-for-three, completing the Swedish marques’ SUV offensive. Earlier comments by executives have confirmed that the XC40 is as small as Volvo will go with its high-riders, and the newcomer can now sit proudly besides the bigger XC60 (also launched this year) as well as the even-bigger XC90 (the car that kickstarted Volvo’s transformation). This underlines the swiftness of Volvo’s reactivity to market shifts, with the three XC cars now standing tall in the fastest growing segments worldwide.
Built on a new ‘Compact Modular Architecture,’ the XC40 is the very first Volvo product to utilise CMA, which itself was designed from the outset with electrification in mind. Developed jointly with parent-company Geely and sister company Lynk&Co., there’s little doubt that despite the engineering demands that CMA required leading up to this point, the Chinese conglomerate that owns the company will very quickly achieve the economy of scale it needs to ensure sustainability and profitability.
“The XC40 is our first entry in the small SUV segment, broadening the appeal of the Volvo brand and moving it in a new direction. It represents a fresh, creative and distinctive new member of the Volvo line-up. So it only feels natural to reveal the XC40 here in Milan, a buzzing European hotspot for fashion, art, design and lifestyle.” — Håkan Samuelsson, President & CEO, Volvo Cars
Despite the way premium carmakers tend to structure their products, it appears that Volvo is practically giving away some of its best technology at a steal, with the XC40 specced to the hilt as standard. For starters, all XC40’s will benefit from a fully-digital instrument display on all variants, which pairs beautifully with the also-standard 9” portrait-oriented Sensus infotainment display that takes prime placement at the centre of the dashboard. And like any Volvo, standard safety tech is well catered for too, with things like city-speed autonomous emergency braking also included in the kit list, though it can be improved further with an optional ‘Pro’ pack which will also tack on things like the lauded ‘PilotAssist’ semi-autonomous driver assistance systems.
To be honest, the range of engines being offered at launch for the XC40 are rather disappointing, and here’s why: At launch, the XC40 will come with two four-cylinder turbo engines, namely the 2.0-litre T5 petrol and the 2.0-litre D4 diesel. These engines are good, no doubt, with the T5 putting out a respectable 184kW/350Nm, while the D4 diesel manages 140kW and 400Nm. We’re disappointed because for months, speculation has been strife about the offering of a ‘T5 TwinEngine’ plug-in hybrid powertrain, pairing a 1.5-litre turbo-three with an electric motor. We’ve been assured that this powertrain is coming (though no timeline was offered), along with a fully-electric model. We just have to be patient.
The XC40 will, for now, send its power (on both variants) to all four wheels via a Haldex system, after having first gone though a standard eight-speed automatic. When the smaller engines debut, so will a manual transmission, likely to help push the XC40’s value proposition a little harder.
The design of the XC40 is, as predicted and spied, almost a carbon-copy of the Concept 40.1 that we’ve seen before. Penned by Brit Ian Kettle, he wanted the XC40 to appear something like a robot, which we guess it sort of does. There’s a bluff front end with very squared-off edges and a clamshell bonnet (there’s something we haven’t seen in a while), along with a clean fuss-free profile that ends with a pert, clean rear featuring ‘Volvo’ lettering prominently across the tailgate. The XC40 in our opinion looks best with the bigger wheels (don’t they all?) but the verdict is still out there as to whether or not this will affect the ride too much.
The XC40’s cabin design is exactly what we’d expect of Volvo: Two screens, lots of horizontal lines, and a distinct lack of buttons. Dual-zone climate control is expected here, and as befitting a car in this end of the market, interior trim ranges from high-quality fabric all the way up to the uber-soft Nappa leather that we’ve seen before from Volvo’s best. The seats are of a design that we haven’t seen before, but will expect to see as the rest of the 40-Series cars (just the V40 hatch now) get full-model changes in the future. The way the XC60 was described as an XC90 with 30 knocked off, the XC40 is very much an XC60 with 20 knocked off.
As it’s targeted at more youthful buyers, the XC40 promises an involving drive and plenty of personalisation options. For the former, the XC40’s compact size and low centre of gravity will likely make it a hoot to drive, particularly with the punchy four-cylinder engines and the eventual plug-in hybrid variant, though this is just speculation at this point. For the latter, Volvo’s offering of the XC40 at launch in Momentum and R-Design trims (not to be confused as variants, as Volvo reckons these are more of style choices rather than price ones) ensuring that almost-everyone is catered for, with only those in search of an ultra-luxe crossover left to twiddle their thumbs while Inscription trim cars take their time showing themselves.
We have little doubt that against competitors like the Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Jaguar E-Pace and Range Rover Evoque, the intelligently-designed Volvo XC40 will likely take its place among the segment best once deliveries commence in the UK come Q1 2018. Prices in the UK will start at £27,905 ($47,512) and top-off at £39,305 ($66,920) putting it bang-smack in the middle of the competition, with a hitherto-undetailed special launch edition likely going to command a small premium above that almost £40,000 price tag.
We are awaiting word from Volvo’s local arm regarding the availability and details of the XC40 should it make Australian landfall, so stay tuned to CarShowroom as we bring you more updates as they come.