2019 Volvo XC40 first drive review: fountains of hope, and crossover SUV potential Page 2


The XC40 does Barcelona better than I could, anyhow.

The first available powertrain in the U.S. will be a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque paired to an 8-speed automatic. Volvo calls this the T5 model, and all-wheel drive is standard at the outset. A 2.0-liter turbo-4 with less boost (and therefore less power) and front-wheel drive will arrive later in the summer.

Volvo has confirmed a battery electric version of the XC40 later on as well. Other powertrains and permutations on the small platform are in the mail, too—perhaps even a plug-in hybrid—although Volvo is incredibly tight-lipped about those versions. Volvo won’t play its hand with the XC40 early in a bid to keep subscribers interested in upgrading their models each year, renewing their two-year commitments.

2019 Volvo XC40 First Drive

2019 Volvo XC40 First Drive

2019 Volvo XC40 First Drive

2019 Volvo XC40 First Drive

2019 Volvo XC40 First Drive

2019 Volvo XC40 First Drive

Overlooking the XC40 T5 AWD is a mistake anyway. The competent turbo-4 under the clean clamshell hood pleasantly powers the XC40 up to 60 mph in a surprising 6.2 seconds, and the 8-speed happily doesn't upshift too quickly for fuel efficiency's sake during rapid acceleration. That's a plus on cobbled Spanish streets or in hometown, America.

Plant the throttle and the XC40 T5 cuts forward with immediacy with only a slight rumble from the turbo-4 permeating the cabin. It handles its power well and stays sharp at low speeds. The XC40’s 37.4 foot turning circle is identical to those of the I-Pace and X1, which flick around narrow streets.

Customizable drive modes toggle among Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, and Off-Road settings, with throttle response, shift points, and steering heft settings tweaked among them. We spent most of our time in Comfort, with small turns at Eco and Dynamic when the road was less or more interesting.

Dynamic adds a predictable weight to the steering wheel that builds nicely, but still prefers to keep communication between the front tires and driver at a bare minimum. Comfort keeps throttle responses in a less frantic mood in Barcelona traffic—something the myriad bicyclists along the route appreciated. A comfortable mix of all of the above can be chosen using the XC40’s Individual mode—like Build-a-Bear, but not nearly as cute.

2019 Volvo XC40 First Drive

2019 Volvo XC40 First Drive

The XC40 I drove on a brisk Barcelona afternoon was Euro-spec: a baby-seat hook in the front passenger footwell, no window tint, and no spare tire were confirmation. But the first clue was the summer Pirelli P-Zeroes that wrapped around 20-inch wheels. U.S. buyers will get standard all-season Pirelli or Michelin tires, depending on wheel size, which could result in a less confident ride on dry pavement.

It’s likely that some of my XC40’s athleticism can be attributed to the stickier tires, although the XC40’s suspension guru Stefan Karlsson also should take a bow for his performance. When Karlsson’s not tuning the XC40’s ride and response to impressive levels, he jockeys his NA Miata around a track, he told me. That’s the guy we want setting up our crossovers.

The XC40 will be available in Momentum and R-Design trim levels that have identical ride heights, but the R-Design boasts springs that are 10 percent stiffer, 0.5-millimeter larger anti-roll bars, and monotube Mando shocks. An optional, upgraded suspension will be available later next year with adjustable Tenneco shocks and Ohlins tuning—the same setup from the XC90—but that version wasn't available for testing. My guess? The slight jitters with tall wheels and a stiffer suspension will be settled into a creamy compact crossover that's flush with tech.

2019 Volvo XC40 First Drive

2019 Volvo XC40 First Drive

All trim levels of the XC40 sport the same 9.0-inch Sensus infotainment touchscreen found in the XC90 and XC60 that set the table for Volvo’s suite of tech-first ideas. In addition to virtually handing keys to other drivers with a smartphone and tracking the car’s location, Sensus relays navigation and audio information to the XC40’s standard 12.3-inch instrument cluster and will play well with Apple or Android smartphones.

More than 21 inches of screens as standard—more than the X1 and I-Pace—in the Volvo isn’t a surprise considering its target audience. Youth must be served, after all.

Volvo provided travel and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand drive report.


 
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