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Volvo XC40 Review: T5 R-Design Geartronic AWD – The Swedest Thing

  Calvin Fisher

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 3 Feb, 2020



Frantic school traffic returned, errand runs were at their maximum, stress levels rose – so I did a selfish thing. I asked for one of my favourite cars to numb the pain.

Carshop Likes:
The aesthetics, the drive, the shunt and grunt
And then there’s the sumptuous living quarters

Carshop Dislikes:
The magic wand gear lever drives me nuts
Our test model carries a hefty price tag

I've called the Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design by many descriptors, but 'Tom Hanks' seems to be the most apt. No, not because it's as white as Scandinavian snow, but because literally, everybody likes this car. Everyone. If it could throw a punch, or fire off a salvo of dead-accurate 9mm rounds I'd have called it Keanu. But that would make the XC40 offensive (albeit still likeable) and in truth, it just can't be.

Because what you have here is a handsome compact SUV that favours subtlety in its brand of luxury, nuanced and self-confident. Traits sure to carry over to its pilot – which I’d argue is the point of a well-mannered car. The Volvo XC40 then is the quintessential representation of the humblebrag, and that’s okay.

Because it’s good

Ours is the T5, that’s the one with the blown two-litre inline four-cylinder heart good for 185kW and 350Nm. This is mated to a slippery automatic transmission which is certainly up to the task of swapping cogs on your behalf but let me just add that “loved by all” does not mean perfect.

Nit-picking incoming...

And this is me nit-picking somewhat but the lever instead of living in a conventional P, N, R, D ‘gate’, favours the magic wand approach seen in BMWs and other premium rides. That’s the up for Reverse, down for Forward scenario with the middle zone reserved for Neutral. Or Purgatory as I prefer to call it, a static state that must be visited during the process of, for example; reversing out of a parking spot, (hold the brake, return to centre, then push down to engage Drive) before you can drive off. Couple that with me bumping some dope tunes and that meant every second trip to the mall I was unwittingly revving up the engine each time instead of just politely leaving the parking bay. Nit-picky, I know – but I did warn you.

Beyond this, you are blessed with all-wheel drive and a zero to hundred sprint time of 6.4 seconds which is hot hatch territory. For context, that’s in a compact SUV with a 211mm ground clearance. I think we’ve covered the exterior (bluff, gorgeous, clever) which leaves us with the cabin and I’m happy to report it’s more of the same.

This is the R-Design model which is Volvo’s best attempt at a shouty performance trim but again it’s understated, favouring a modest badge and some Nubuck velvety material. The dashboard is dominated by Volvo’s portrait-oriented touchscreen – the multimedia brain as it were, from where the pilot and passengers have access to the gubbins of the car itself such as driving characteristics, safety items and well as climate control.

Perhaps the best interiors in the business (we might be biased)

Then there’s every conceivable connection to one’s smartphone and music libraries, now also incorporating Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Um yes, what else is new? How about Volvo on Call or VOC? There is a button on the right side of the rear-view mirror for accessing the new service as well as a mobile app, allowing you to control your Volvo remotely – and if you’re a geek like me then you’ll find that very exciting. You can lock your car, peruse its many instruments and even heat or cool it down before you get to it. It’s 40 degrees Celsius in Cape Town right now, can you tell which is my favourite feature? But what is the button on the left side of the mirror, you ask? That’s for Volvo’s SOS services, so you’re welcome.

The drive

Our test Volvo rode on the optional 20-inch alloys, with its firm suspension translating into a dynamic ride. Even under hard driving, the AWD grip felt unchallenged, not bothered – and that meant that despite its tallish demeanour, I enjoyed the hell out of the XC40 on the twisty tarmac of Bainskloof Pass.

Steering feel is spot on and the helm is not short on feedback while that turbo-two engine more than eager to deliver another armful of torque when summoned with the right pedal. That eight-speed self-shifter could be quicker to swap under hard provocation, but I’d be lying if I said it held me back. A great drive then, even on the gravel thanks to Volvo’s off-road mode where the four-wheel drive mode really comes into its own. But it isn’t a 4x4, so no bundus were bashed on this occasion.

Okay, let’s wrap this up

This was Europe’s Car of the Year last here, you know? So it doesn’t exactly take a lot of courage for me to declare that its brilliant with that kind of backing. But it is. And again, while by no means perfect, literally every person who experienced it begins doing the same calculations. How much do I need to earn? What can I sell? How much more attractive would I be?

The prospect of owning an XC40 is an exciting one. It also a pricey one – if you wanted this particular model, you’d need to fork out R704,950. Add to that options like the 20-inch wheels, metallic paint, leather seats, a safety and technology pack or panoramic sunroof and you’ll creep closer and closer to R800,000 for what is essentially a raised C Segment hatchback.

And while that’s a lot of money for a car, it’s a bargain for Tom Hanks. Which is exactly what the XC40 is.

Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design Geartronic AWD Spec:

Price R698,000.00 (excluding options)
Engine 2.0l, 4-cylinder, turbopetrol
Power 185kW
Torque 350Nm
Gearbox 8-speed auto
Driven Wheels All
0-100kph 6.4 seconds
Top Speed 230kph
Average Fuel Consumption 7.7l/100km
CO2 Emissions 164g/km



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