Think Volvo and what comes to mind? Safety, isn’t it? If you’ve been reading our V&C piece on “How Cars Became Safer” – page 41 of the JanFeb 2020 issue, you’d know that engineer Nils Bohr of Volvo invented the seat belt way back in 1958, and the company chose not to monetise their potentially (at the time) revolutionary safety device, instead releasing it for free to be used by anyone in the market. The term “built like a tank”, whilst can also be applied to Eighties Mercedes-Benz cars, is synonymous with Volvos thanks to their square stance and acreage of bonnet in the Seventies right through the Nineties. These were as “safe as houses” and probably in a crash with one, the house would be worse off!
Sadly, Volvo was a dying brand in Sri Lanka due to a lackadaisical agent until IWS took over (Volvo Cars Sri Lanka) and revitalised the brand back into glory in 2016. In fact, they won a Sales Award in 2019 from Volvo HQ for sales performance! Pity they weren’t able to take it over ten years earlier as so many nice Volvo models were around, at a time when vehicular taxation in our paradise isle wasn’t as insane as it is now. This taxation is the reason why nearly two-thirds of the price of our test XC40 here goes straight into the Govt coffers…and we know where it finally ends up!
Being Deputy Editor, I get to pick and choose who gets what to test, and I aim to be as fair as possible, even going so far as to maintain a spreadsheet to ensure that each tester has gotten a mix of high end and low end, city car and luxury car, SUV and grandmothers parrot, etc… With the XC40 I was a bit selfish, I wanted to test it myself. I always enjoyed the fact that getting into a Volvo was like stepping into a living room furnished by my favourite furniture company…IKEA! So sit back and enjoy my verdict…and don’t worry, it’s not through rose-tinted glasses! Being objective and unbiased is part of the job, after all!
Visually, it’s a striking thing. Those “Thor’s Hammer” headlamp details greet you first with a bluff front end that proudly shows off the Volvo logo in the centre, plus the front camera if you look closely. Moving to the side, it’s got nicely sculpted lines that have pleasing continuity to them. The rear beltline curves upwards after the main rear window but don’t worry, the rear passenger can easily see out unlike in a Toyota CH-R. Moving to the rear, its typical Volvo stuff here in the shape of the tail-lamps and the tailgate is a curved piece of metal sans any cuts and edgy detailing (it’s a kick-to-open/close tailgate, by the way). Black plastic cladding surrounds the underside of our Thunder Grey test car, hinting at its urban SUV aspirations, although the 200mm of ground clearance means it can tackle a little more than climbing your average pavement.
Our test car rolls on 20-inch Diamond Cut alloys wrapped in Pirelli PZero 245-width 45-profile rubber, which is an option – 19s are standard. To my eyes, it looks a bit over-wheeled on the 20s being an urban SUV, unless it will be babied, driven only on smooth tarmac and have its rims detailed and tyres polished every few days. It also has active bending cornering lights as an option, and the panoramic sunroof of which the front can open to the elements. We kept it closed as the sun was in full force thus temperatures outside were sweltering!
Mech & Tech
Volvo have installed a 1.5L turbocharged engine here, which is all good until you hear that it’s a three cylinder. 1.5L is a bit on the large side for a triple, given that Mercedes-Benz for example have settled on a 1.3L turbo four, and Audi with a 1.4L turbo four for similar vehicles. BMW is the only other Euro manufacturer with a 1.5L triple turbo. Most of the time you can’t tell it’s a triple but there are times you can. The engine puts out 161bhp and 265Nm which is a pretty decent showing, given that some competitors put out less.
The triple is mated to a 7-speed DCT and drives the front wheels on our T3 model. T4 and above which use 2.0L turbo fours can be had with all-wheel-drive. Nevertheless it has an off-road mode that primes the systems to find some traction for you, as well as Comfort, Eco, Dynamic and Individual options.
Our test car had Active Damping Comfort Suspension as an option. It’s not an air suspension but adaptive dampers instead. Braking is via large 16-inch discs at the front with 15-inchers at the rear. The steering is an electric rack with variable assistance allowing it to firm up on engaging Dynamic, and ease up on Comfort.
Ready for the mouthful? It’s Tech time! OK, here goes. Adaptive Cruise Control, Park Assist (auto parking), and Pilot Assist which means the car will steer, accelerate and brake along the expressway on its own, among other stuff!
We’re testing the XC40 with four on board – myself as driver, Ranil from Volvo Cars Sri Lanka as front passenger and our photographer and videographer in the rear seat. The electric driver seat means you get comfy very fast and the visibility is great. Being a DCT gearbox, you don’t get motion once you release the brake – if you are on a hill, it holds there. Tap the accelerator gently and away she goes! It’s very easy to drive in Comfort mode. Damping is slightly firm but comfortable, steering weight is low but not scarily light and you drive without giving a second thought. The Blind Spot Information System lights up whenever a vehicle is too close to your sides, and everything is hunky dory.
Switch her to Dynamic, change gear selection to Manual, foot to the floor and even with the bluff front and relatively less aerodynamic design, the XC40 T3 lifts its skirts and scoots. Personally, I’d prefer more power – the 190bhp T4 and 240bhp T5 sound particularly tasty - but the average driver will be pleased. The paddles feel good to use but their shiny, polished finish can catch the sun and send it in your face at rare instances. The suspension firms up but marginally, and the steering weights up, but marginally. Regular Volvos aren’t meant to be all-out sport specials after all – that’s Polestar’s department. Even in Dynamic, the XC40 T3 gives you a feeling of re-assurance that it’s still safe, still controlled and still watching out for you! Corners are taken pretty flat in this mode, and on giving the brake pedal a proper stomping at an indicated 102km/h, she stopped straight and true with some tyre squeal but no drama or tail wagging.
Enter the highway, set the adaptive cruise control and the system maintains the speed set, slowing down as it closes on a vehicle ahead and accelerating as the distance opens up or when you switch lanes to overtake. You can set the radar distance to keep from the car in front, although being a Volvo, even the closest distance is more than what the average Sri Lankan driver would ever maintain. Easy-peasy. However, if you want to activate the ‘Boss Mode’, simply turn on Pilot Assist and watch the magic happen! Yes, the car will steer for you, following the lane markings while the adaptive cruise control handles the speed and safe distances! You can’t stay with your hands off the wheel for long, though, as the system prompts you to touch the steering wheel every 15 seconds, so don’t think that you can get naughty with your passenger on the highway!
On a full-bore charge down the highway where I was doing just a tad over the limit, a car decided to change into the right lane at about 60km/h. Although the distance was far and I could easily have slowed down, the XC40 applied the brakes for me! Although my foot was pasting the throttle pedal into the carpet the XC40 cut the power and braked strongly to 60km/h (that’s how I know the speed of the dimwit who was changing lanes), maintaining that speed behind him at a distance that a Leyland bus could easily fit into. So when your teenager decides to sneak your XC40 out at night and wants to ‘see what it can do’, the car will keep him in line and rein him in when he becomes too excited!
I also tried the auto parking and it works a charm! You get a little disconcerted at first as the steering whips around while you are required to only engage D and R and control the speed with the brake. Nevertheless, after your first few tries with it, you will love it, and if you are among the many parking offenders on the Sri Lanka Traffic Violations FB page, the XC40 will properly school you on how a car is meant to be parked between the lines!
Living with the XC40
The cabin is a pleasant place to be, although in keeping with the R-Design trim, the interior is very fifty-shades-of-grey (and black). If that’s not your thing, fret not for you can choose another trim package and colour choice. I like the dashboard detailing and how there is a refreshing absence of chrome trimmings, and the pedals are brushed metal rather than tacky chrome-look. Volvo are the leaders in ‘cool’ interior design in my opinion, and the XC40 continues this theme.
Everything (including climate control) is controlled via a portrait-oriented 12.3inch touchscreen which is quite intuitive to use and falls easily to hand. The main gauge cluster is also a colour screen. Screens everywhere! The climate control with the rear AC vents kept the cabin cool and we didn’t bother with it much after setting it at 19C. It’s a ‘Clean Zone’ system that controls humidity and has multiple filters to keep the air as clean as possible.
On our test XC40, the audio system is the “High Performance Pro” option by Harman/Kardon. It’s got more speakers than you or I have fingers, and the subwoofer is, get this, in the dash! This makes for a somewhat bass-heavy listening experience at default settings which isn’t ideal for the 60s through 90s music that Ranil and I share a liking for. Thankfully you can dial down the bass in the settings, as well as adjust the sound space and even optimise it for driver-only listening if you travel solo.
There’s Android Auto and Apple Carplay integration, together with internet radio, USB and Bluetooth options for your tunes. There are also South Asia maps installed on the system if you don’t integrate your phone, so you can still navigate around. The front door pockets are large enough to stow a laptop – Ranil tells me that this design was possible since the Harman/Kardon dash subwoofer negates the need for large speakers in the bottoms of the doors. The glove box, although a little small is a cooled one and you can stow some drink cans if you desire. There are large cup holders, and our test car has an ashtray and wireless phone charger too. There’s plenty of storage around the cabin, and the boot is a decent 460L. It has a pass-through hatch for long objects – used for skis in Sweden but you could use it to transport a broomstick if you so desire! Beneath the boot floor is a second level for additional storage, and below that, the spare wheel – a welcome extra in the era of filler cans!
Rear seat space is more than enough for a tall person and I was comfortable behind my own driving position. You get an armrest and charging ports, as well as cup holders. However there are no overhead grab handles – an interesting omission!
The XC40 has got a five-star rating in EuroNCAP, as anything less would be a disgrace to the Volvo family! It’s no surprise that it scores high even in pedestrian protection, an area which many other vehicles lag. It’s got nine airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners, the adaptive cruise control and driving aids mentioned previously as well as lane keeping aid, park assist at the front and rear, rear cross traffic alert, collision mitigation support, hill start assist, hill descent control, whiplash protection and more. So no worries there!
Fuel Economy & Price
Let’s get this out of the way first. The XC40 retails for Rs. 15.5 million. Of that, nearly two-thirds are pure tax! Imagine that, such a safe vehicle is taxed so heavily, while relative tin cans get through for much less. You still get a lot of car for the money which I’m sure you will agree having read the preceding sections. Volvo Cars offer a 3 year / 100,000km warranty including free servicing (excluding consumables). At this price range there is a lot of competition, both cars as well as SUVs so it all boils down to personal choice taking preference over bean counting.
Fuel Economy is around 8km/l or thereabouts in the city, and you could expect 14-15km/l on the highway and outstation. It’s not a hybrid nor is it an eco-car, but it has an eco-mode and the 54L tank should give you a decent range.
The XC40 is indeed a fine vehicle that offers a lot of kit. It seems to be gaining a niche market, as since testing the vehicle I’ve seen two more on the roads! Volvo in Sri Lanka is still a niche market – the previous handling of the brand has left many still feeling iffy about considering one. I’ve talked to people who still retain the aftertaste in their mouth, and know that Volvo is still alive in Sri Lanka but little else. When I inform them that it’s under new stewardship and doing much better, they are surprised and sometimes intrigued. The awareness is building, but slowly. Being a Marketer by background, I know full well that it is a lot easier to introduce a new product or brand to a market than it is to revitalise a one that has not performed well. Volvo Cars Sri Lanka are doing just that, slowly revitalising it and building back the brand following. So head down to their showroom in Kelaniya and have a test drive of the XC40 if this review has interested you. They plan to bring down the plug-in hybrid variant in the future.
Direct Injection, Turbo
161bhp @ 5,000rpm
265Nm @ 1,850-3,850rpm
Four wheel drive
Front Double Wishbone
Front Vent. Disc
Wheels & Tyres
245/45R20 all round
0-100km/h in 9.0s
Top Speed 210km/h
Kerb Weight 1,500kg
Fuel Tank 54L
Boot Volume 460L