It was bad news for Volvo fans when the company’s new marketing boss Alain Visser pulled the plug on racing in both the Swedish Touring Car Championship and Australian V8 Supercars. According to Mr Visser, Volvo’s brand is all about small, efficient engines and safety and thus touring car racing “does not conform with our brand.”
Strange that because it was pretty much unanimous the motorsport program had brought much-needed cachet to the Volvo brand, lowered the average age of Volvo buyers, made Volvo trendy again, and, we were told, sales were growing as a result. Maybe someone should remind Mr Visser of those old sayings: ‘Motorsport improves the breed’ and ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
Co-incidentally a perfect example was in the www.carshowroom.com.au garage this week – the Volvo V40 T5 R-Design. No doubt Mr Visser would prefer we all bought Volvo V40 D2 models with the 1.6-litre turbo-diesel but for us the 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder T5 with the Polestar-enhanced R-Design kit is a brilliant package – the equal of any similar European hatchback.
Volvo V40 T5 R-Design Overview
The Volvo V40 is a premium European hatchback with a range starting from just $36,990 which is reasonable value-for-money. But an extra $13,000 buys you the high-performance Volvo V40 T5 R-Design model we tested – and that $49,990 sticker makes it one of the best value Europeans in this league.
For that extra coin you get the turbocharged five-cylinder petrol engine and some excellent extra kit inside and out developed in conjunction with Polestar (Volvo’s competition division). That’s a ‘Whoa-Factor’ which only motorsport and high-performance vehicles can bring to an automotive brand.
Volvo V40 T5 R-Design Engine
Regular readers of www.carshowroom.com.au will know the 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol engine used by Volvo (and others) is one of our favourite powerplants. Technically interesting for sure and the hallmark five-cylinder exhaust note ‘rumble’ with some revs on board is brilliant.
For the V40 T5 R-Design, maximum power is 187kW at 5400 and peak torque of 360Nm (400Nm with overboost) is delivered between 1800 – 4200rpm.
Drive is to the front wheels via a conventional six-speed automatic transmission.
Combined-cycle fuel consumption is rated at 8.1l/100kms.
Volvo V40 T5 R-Design The Interior
We’ve always been keen on the current Volvo interior style as exhibited in the V40 and other models. It’s very Scandinavian in its simple yet stylish design – we like the look and layout of the centre stack, the trim materials are a cut above many in this league and there are plenty of soft-touch materials to imbue an up-market look/feel.
The dashboard is one of the slickest designs going around – a very stylish integrated look for the seven-inch navigation/audio/climate screen and instrumentation. And the LCD instruments themselves are very smartly presented with a large digital speedo centre and curved bar displays for other information either side – again simple and effective.
The R-Design extras include a nice R-Design leather-wrapped steering wheel and sports seats trimmed in black Nubuck leather. A combination of rake/reach adjustment for the wheel and plenty of electronic seat adjustment provides the typical European top-notch driving position.
Alloy-faced sports pedals and a black headliner are also part of the R-Design upgrades.
Rear seat passengers are well-catered in the Volvo V40 with nicely sculptured seats and leg-room which is on par with most in this league. The rear seat split-folds 60:40 for awkward loads. It must be said the 335-litres cargo capacity is just adequate.
Volvo V40 T5 R-Design Exterior & Styling
Also thanks to the Scandinavian design flair, the standard Volvo V40 certainly has tremendous on-road presence. Nicely styled with a sharply rising three-window glasshouse dominating the profile and a sharp-looking rear-end with muscular three-quarters and crisp look for the tailgate and high-mounted L-shaped tail-lights.
The R-Design package certainly enhances things – with a motorsport-derived sporty flair of course.
Up-front there is a unique bumper with a lower grille providing extra cool air and new fog-lights.
Side view sees very nice 5 thin-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels.
At the rear the motorsport styling continues with a diffuser wrapping around the twin exhaust tailpipes.
Volvo V40 T5 R-Design On The Road
The fact is the Volvo V40 T5 R-Design isn’t the excellent full-on Polestar package Volvo Australia offers in S60 and V60 (although Polestar is behind development of the R-Design goodies). Nevertheless the V40 T5 R-Design packs a punch with that 2.5-litre turbo five-cylinder singing its tune under the bonnet.
Standing start acceleration is impressive and – as we know from previous tests with this engine - there’s plenty of oomph mid-range too. Just a shame there are no steering wheel paddle-shifters…nothing wrong with the manual cog-swaps in sport mode using the gear lever but we’re just saying…
Underneath the Volvo V40 T5 runs MacPherson strut front/multi-link rear suspension. The R-Design pack is firmer and lowered by 10mm.
The whole package was impressively cohesive – a nice drivetrain blended with a nice chassis. And very European – crisp turn-in, little body roll and nice mid-turn balance.
Volvo V40 T5 R-Design Issues
Nice design has some costs and in the case of the Volvo V40 it’s rear vision. That rear window is tiny but acclimatization is rapid.
Volvo V40 T5 R-Design Verdict
We’ve always been keen on the Volvo V40. We like the looks, we like the Scandinavian interior (make no mistake it’s a standout) and we like the driving dynamics.
But call in the motorsport team and - Boom! - the T5 R-Design really shapes-up. Like the Germans wearing ‘RS’, ‘AMG’ and ‘M’ badges the styling isn’t over-the-top…but it’s effective enough.
And the engine and suspension changes transform the standard Volvo V40 into a true European prestige/sporty hatchback. Try one, you will be surprised how the motorsport team at ‘safe and efficient’ Volvo have transformed the V40, in T5 R-Design guise, into something special.
Volvo V40 T5 R-Design The Competition
You’ll need $49,900 for the Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport an undisputed Car Showroom Favourite. Not quite the astonishingly good A45 AMG ($74,900) but the A250 Sport packs a 155kW/350Nm punch from its turbocharged 2.0-litre engine and the chassis is sublime. Maybe not quite a match for the Volvo V40 for interior space but you’d need a micrometer to tell the difference.
Our other Car Showroom Favourite is the Audi A3 Sportback and for $45,800 you get the 1.8TFSI Quattro. There’s 132kW/280Nm of 1.8-litre turbocharged goodness under the bonnet and of course the excellence of the Quattro all-wheel-drive system. We can’t think of anyone who does sporty interiors better than the current offerings from Audi.
BMW’s 125i is priced at $47,500 and delivers plenty of grunt with its 160kW/310Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre engine. To match the other cars in this segment you will need to option some M-Sport goodies but the investment will be worth it as the 125i is a beauty.
Sure the Volkswagen Golf R ($51,990 and $54,490) is a cracker but for $48,490 the GTI Performance is a must-consider in this league. You get 169kW/350Nm from Volkswagen’s turbocharged 2.0-litre, the slick six-speed automatic transmission, the hallmark Volkswagen GTI interior and a chassis which is fantastic.