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by Bill P. and Tony West
The 2020 Volvo XC40, at an affordable $35k is one of the coolest compact SUVs on the road these days. The new CUV represents a big change in Volvo’s small SUVs design language. Volvo uses a new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) to give the 2020 XC40 some of the best features from its cousins the XC60 and XC90, which are built on Scalable Product Architecture (SPA).
The 2020 Volvo XC40 is available in three unique trims, the base Momentum, the R-Design and the Inscription Model. The fun CUV turns heads and can rip the road with unbridled aggression due to revolutionary T4 and T5 turbocharged engines. We reviewed the 2020 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design and the 2020 XC40 T5 Inscription this past winter. Young professionals, older adults, adventure-seekers and artists are all attracted to the XC40.
Motorsports Correspondent enjoyed the R-Design’s striking interior and black/white contrast paint job, complete with 20-inch double-spoke matt black alloy wheels and black contrast roof. While Editor Sommer and her friends fell for the XC40 T5 Inscription’s plush interior and perfect blend of smooth torque delivery, efficiency and cushioned suspension.
With broad shoulders and deep body lines in the clamshell hood and a chiseled front end the XC40 has fresh swag over many of its peers. And with each XC40 model set off by bright color contrast and high-quality materials, the CUV is a stunner inside and out. Only a few drawbacks that can be easily tweaked stop the new Volvo XC40 from being a complete home run.
High-tech safety features are far above the pack but some are a little OCD, like the rear park assist. Yet fans and new owners are raving about how happy they are to own a new XC40 especially about their excellent buying experience and the Care Program. The Care Program is a dealer and concierge service where buyers can purchase, customize and upgrade their XC40 right from their phone.
Striking Design Distinctive Across Trims
The 2020 Volvo XC40’s amazing look inside and out is one of its best and most unique attributes. Many compact SUVs give a smooth performance, but don’t have nearly as much versatile swag as the new XC40. The XC40 R-Design offers fresh color combos with its black contrast roof, mirror covers, headliner and roof rails in gloss black.
LED headlights, Thors Hammer DRL’s and LED fog lights stretch back and push forward a little making the CUV over 14 feet long. There’s also a deep body line in the sides that runs to 18 inch or 19 inch alloy wheels. The sleek XC40 sits up high with an 8.3 inch ground clearance. And boomerang shaped taillights stretch the whip to make the trunk look bigger. A hands-free power tailgate is standard and tailpipes integrated in the bumper.
Surprisingly the unibody high strength steel cage isn’t as insulated as it looks. In fact, drivers will hear the wind hitting the sides on a gusty day, and when Editor Sommer took the XC40 through a car wash, the heat from the dryer filled the XC40 T5 Inscription with steam. On a 40 degree day, she had to quickly turn the a/c to 60 degrees. The big beautiful sunroof also makes the XC40 less insulated. And Daryl commented that the floor and doors under the surface seem to have cheap materials with less density.
Inside the new XC40 R-Design is a sportier design than the Inscription featuring R-Design Nappa leather and Nubuck upholstery, an R-Design perforated steering wheel, sport pedals and Driftwood inlays. Very cool is the available orange lava carpeting and accents ($100) and Orrefors Crystal shifter. Stainless steel cuff plates adds more luxury flair.
As drivers approach the XC40 LED welcome lighting illuminates daytime running lights and small areas around the whip. Keyless entry and push button start are also standard. LED illumination continues inside with soft LED ambient lighting in center console and foot wells.
Front driver and passenger have an 8-way heated power front seat with 4-way power lumbar. Rear seats are split folding with a load through hatch. Sommer loves the driver and passenger seat extension for taller drivers, though at 6’2” Daryl said that fully extended he was still cramped with 40.9 inches of front legroom. In fact, Daryl thinks that the XC40 R-Design is more ideal for young professional with no children because the suede seat accents aren’t easy to clean, and the whip is too small for a big guy.
Drivers are in a compact lap of luxury seated in the 2020 XC40 R-Design with super comfy suede-trimmed seats that Daryl says have a spring that helps cushion drivers over rough terrain. Drivers will love the heated steering wheel. A 12.3 inch TFT instrument cluster is all digital and can show important info like speed limit and school zones.
In the center stack is the dope 9 inch tablet that houses controls for everything from the 2-zone climate control, Sensus safety features, 360-degree surround view camera, navigation and convenience features like the heated seats and adjustments for the 8 speaker 250-watt audio system. The XC40 also can be a WiFi hotspot and offers HD radio, Bluetooth and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.
The center touchscreen of the Volvo XC40 is one of the largest in a CUV. And luckily many of the features are the same in the bigger Volvo SUVs. Daryl loved that the touchscreen controls still work with thick gloves on. The only drawback is that there’s still no button for bi-level and all temperature controls have to be adjusted with the touchscreen. Meaning drivers will be distracted flipping through the controls to adjust the temp, fan speed and fan direction. However the temp can be set as part of the driver’s profile, and thus will auto adjust when they start the vehicle.
Sommer loves the XC40 Inscription’s interior that’s sexy and sophisticated. The XC40 Inscription offers a more premium look to go with its specially designed Inscription front grille, with abundant technology for comfort and safety inside. A metallic paint job is optional with metal front tread plates and stainless steel scuff plates standard. Aside from a difference in materials and available add-ons the rest of the standard interior features are the same across all three XC40 models. It’s the look and feel of the cabin that’s unique for each model with an array of options.
Storage is abundant in the 2020 Volvo XC40 with big door pockets, a pocket at the driver’s feet, small storage trays on the sides of the rear seats, a removable folding load floor, a nice storage drawer in the center stack, 20 inches of cargo space with the rear seat up, a big center console with a shelf and hidden storage compartment under the driver’s seat in the XC40 Inscription. Other cool features include heated wiper blades with integrated wipers, auto dimming interior and exterior mirrors, Homelink and compass.
XC40 Performance Smooth and Athletic and But R-Design Underwhelming
The pristine performance of the XC40 is arguably one of its best attributes. Passengers relax in a leather-clad lux cabin as they glide down the road. The XC40 R-Design features a 2.0 liter turbocharged T5 engine with 246 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque while the XC40 Inscription has a similar engine with 248 horsepower. A twin-engine plug-in hybrid T5 engine is also available.
Daryl thinks that despite the Sport chassis, the XC40 R-Design isn’t that sporty. Acceleration is smooth and rapt but lacks the aggression expected from the R-Design. Daryl commented that the XC40 drives more like a front-wheel drive whip because of the pull from the front at launch. Turbo power kicks in instantly. Paddle shifters give versatility to the 6-speed Geartronic automatic transmission in the XC40 R-Design.
Steering is fluid and responsive with the electric power assisted steering. Daryl says the XC40 R-Design felt like driving a BMW sedan with awesome handling. Thanks to low-weight MacPherson strut front suspension and multilink rear suspension, XC40 is cushioned over rough terrain, railroad tracks and speed bumps. The suspension’s low unsprung weight, with all-wheel drive and instant traction helps the XC40 R-Design maintain agility at high speeds, and all-season tires grip the road in pouring rain. Turning and cornering is tight and precise in the XC40. And braking is apt and cushioned.
Start/Stop tech is still jarring in the Volvo XC40, much like the other Volvo whips. Start/Stop tech saves gas by powering down the engine when the CUV stops. The problem is the whip rumbles harshly when it powers down, and it’s almost immediately. It’s also weird that the ignition cuts off when drivers open their door. There are many scenarios where drivers may need to open their door and leave the car on. Daryl pointed out that a robber could pull open the driver door and the driver would be unable to pull off.
While the XC40 R-Design boast sporty design elements that talk a good game, its performance is very similar to the XC40 T5 Inscription with most of the same powertrain components.
The XC40 Inscription has the perfect blend of fun, sophistication and stamina. The XC40 T5 Inscription boasts 248 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm from its 2.0 liter T5 direct injection engine. Its seamless 8-speed geartronic automatic transmission helps the XC40 T5 get up and stay up, with a cushioned glide at high speeds.
A drive mode selector offers Comfort, Eco and Sport modes. Eco mode keeps rpms low to save fuel, actuating Start/Stop and using regenerative braking to add power when stopped and cruising. Sport mode offers added torque at high and low rpms and the transmission is more responsive. With three drive modes and advanced suspension and steering the XC40 T5 Inscription is smooth accelerating, steering, cornering and parking. The XC40 has an excellent turn ratio making tight turns at higher speeds fluid and precise.
Even with all the latest tech under the hood, the XC40 is very efficient thanks to lightweight AWD, engine and suspension components. The XC40 T5 AWD Inscription boasts a 30 mpg highway EPA and 25 mpg combined. While the XC40 T5 AWD R-Design boasts even higher fuel economy – 26 mpg combined (23 mpg city / 31 mpg highway.)
Advanced Safety Technology Leads the Pack
The 2020 XC40 is replete with high-tech safety features, many standard. The XC40 AWD R-Design and Inscription boasts standard Collison Avoidance with City Safety that uses sensors around the vehicle to detect cars, pedestrians, cyclist and animals that could cause an imminent collision. It then gives an audible warning to drivers, and if drivers don’t react it will utilize Auto Brake to slow or stop the XC40. The XC40 R-Design offers standard Run-off Road Protection and Run-off Road Mitigation, Lane Keeping Aid and Oncoming Lane Mitigation. Road Sign info shows the speed limit and other warning signs on the 9-inch touchscreen and in the driver’s dash, even speed zone cameras.
Drivers of the XC40 R-Design will have to pay $1,000 for the Blind Spot Information System with the Vision Package that includes, Cross Traffic Alert, Park Assist Pilot and Front and Rear Park Assist. The Blind Spot Info System is great but a little OCD. It activates for cars two lanes over that are not in the XC40’s immediate blind spot. A Heads Up Display is also available.
The Lane Keeping Aid is supposed to gently push the whip back in its lane but it instead activates the XC40 if it even gets close to the divider line, and overcorrects by pushing the whip back to the center of the lane. It actually makes the steering wheel feel slippery.
Front and Rear Park Assist are still OCD and jarring. It beeps loudly as drivers approach a drive thru window or if stopped and a person walks near the vehicle. It’s especially scary and jarring because it brakes the XC40 violently if a person or vehicle moves anywhere near the vehicle while it’s reversing. Once while backing up, the XC40 Inscription abruptly stopped as a car was pulling out of a nearby parking lot about 100 yards in front of the vehicle.
The 2020 XC40 T5 AWD Inscription boasts more safety features with the Blind Spot Information System standard with Steer Assist. Both XC40 models have standard Hill Descent Control and Advanced Electronic Stability Control.
Pilot Assist, available as an add-on to both the XC40 Inscription and R-Design is the semi-autonomous driving technology that assists with steering, acceleration and braking at highway speeds up to 80 mph.
Fully-loaded the 2020 Volvo XC40 Inscription costs over $47,000 and the XC40 R-Design $45,000 with tons of add-on packaging. The base XC40 is still cheaper than its competitors like Audi’s Q3, BMW X1 and the Infiniti QX30, and more stylish.