Volvo's winning streak continues. There seems to be stopping them now!
After the latest XC90 compiled enough awards and kudos to fill up a trophy room – including #VOTY16 – the new XC60 began to receive its share of accolades. Not just the North American Utility of the Year, the latest version of the popular compact SUV just received the World Car of The Year at the New York International Auto Show.
With every award has a reason behind it. The current XC90, the XC60, and #VOTY17, the V90 wagon, are examples of how far Volvo Cars have come in the past few years. This is all thanks to their Chinese patron Geely's fiscal commitment towards giving Volvo Cars autonomy in developing a new line of superb automobiles that uphold the brand’s tenets of leadership in safety engineering and technology. In addition, Volvo Cars are creating automobiles that are now desirable for their intended audiences.
While they are at it, Volvo Cars wanted to create a vehicle for a segment they find needs cultivating – the premium subcompact SUV. These small vehicles combine the ride height and versatility of an SUV in a size that right for urban markets. Their size is great for tight on-street parking spaces and urban garages (called "ramps" in Minnesota, don't ya know), the quick run to the corner store, and the occasional run to suburbia or the countryside for an enjoyable drive.
To compete in this segment, you must hit all of the marks that customers in this segment are looking for. This is where Volvo's winning streak continues – the new 2019 XC40.
A brief preview drive at a local dealership yielded a lot of confirmation that the XC40 fits this segment perfectly. Yet, our suburban locale only serves as one proving ground for the XC40's potential in being a leader in this segment…and to possibly score more awards for Volvo.
What will attract customers to the XC40 is a combination of continuity in design across the Volvo lineup and how they made it right for its intended audiences. "Thor's Hammer" has been given a different treatment, but you know it’s a Volvo by starting right it. The rest of the exterior is loaded with some new ideas. Aside from its small stature – 174.2 inches long – it has a raised ride height for people to step up into the XC40.
Rearward, the side glass profile has an uptick angled towards a floating roof section. This is prominent with XC40s with contrasting roof colors. The rear has a different version of Volvo’s pillar taillamps, with the sweep over flipping around the side flanks instead of the on the tailgate. In all, the XC40 is handsome and distinctive without being flashy and overdone.
The R Design tester/demo is a study of another combination in style. Anyone who had a recent Volvo will be familiar with the TFT instrumentation screen and the large tablet-sized Sensus infotainment screen. However, the R Design offers up a bolstered seat that has both leather and Nubuck surfaces. While black is the dominant color inside of this white/black tester, there is white contrast stitching and red/orange carpeting and door trim pieces. In all, this car exuded loads of cool inside.
Passenger space is superb up front. Rear seat room is fine. Cargo space is also just fine, which is expandable to 57.5 cubic feet. It should be fine with smaller flat-packed items from a certain store that is somewhat associated with Volvo…
There are a couple of twists to the XC40 package. One, most new Volvos use a console-located twist ignition switch. The XC40 has a button below the instrument panel's beltline behind the steering wheel. The gear lever for the R Design is similar to the ones seen on T8 plug-in hybrid versions of its larger cousins – a shift-by-wire-type nub with a Park button nearby. You have to toggle it back twice to get it to Drive, toggle it forward twice to get to Reverse. If you have never experienced this gear lever before, it will take some getting used to.
The only driveline available in the USA is the T5 with all-wheel drive. The 248-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes the XC40 sing. The XC40 has no qualms about accelerating and keeping speed in the city and on the highway. The aforementioned "nub" is connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The shifts are smooth and quick, and there is nominal lag from the turbocharger.
Ride quality is superb. I keep on going back to the XC60 and XC90 for a comparison but find that even the shorter XC40 yields an absorbent suspension system that keeps its equilibrium on terrible road surfaces. The handling is fine for an SUV, but it corners exceptionally well. The steering response is exact and well-weighted. The brakes are also good – yielding stops that are exact and solid.
The 2019 Volvo XC40 comes in three trims: Momentum, R Design, and Inscription. Pricing starts at $35,200. According to the dealer I did the drive with, their allotment will mostly be made of Momentums and Inscriptions. For those looking for the R Design, they are the most desirable models and availability will be tight for the trim level initially.
In all, the XC40 is a hot vehicle right now, with order books overflowing as we speak. Sold and ordered models are trickling into Volvo dealers slowly, but surely. Partly, this is due to the new Care by Volvo program that enables customers to subscribe for their own XC40, including insurance, maintenance, and wear coverage for a flat monthly fee. The XC40 is the first Volvo to be featured in this program.
The 2019 Volvo XC40 looks like it might just grab a few trophies in the next 12 months. It’s really that good of a vehicle and offers a new kind of vehicle for the upmarket urban consumer. It also opens up new opportunities for Volvo cars to expand their footprint with these new customers.
So, yes, there's no stopping Volvo's winning streak now!
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Kline Volvo, Maplewood, MN
All photos by Randy Stern