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2019 Volvo XC40 Youthful Compact Crossover

By Arv Voss, August 25th, 2018

Volvo has produced interesting vehicles with a multitude of designs, ranging from a dull and boring boxy form through the stylishly innovative P1800, from sexy convertibles to the new, exceptionally appealing design of the 2019 Volvo XC40 compact crossover.

This latest crossover tosses conventional Volvo styling out the window. It still features a few recognizable cues reflective of Volvo's DNA, but the XC40 delivers a bold expressive persona with a youthful flair.

The Volvo XC40 is essentially a new crossover on a new platform for Volvo that is likely to find its way into other Volvos to come in the future. The XC40 provides 8.3 inches of ground clearance and the Borg-Warner all-wheel-drive system transfers up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels. While it's doubtful that the XC40 driver will venture into a serious off-road scenario, it is capable of towing up to 3,500 pounds when properly equipped.

There are three trim levels from which to choose: the basic Momentum, starting at $35,200; the sporty R-Design with a base sticker of $37,700; and the ultimate Inscription trim beginning at $39,750. All trim levels are well equipped and base versions come with 18-inch wheels, advanced safety features, and LED headlights and taillights.

Volvo offers a subscription model for the XC40 with a unique take on a lease program: by paying $600 or $700 per month, subscribers can get a T5 AWD and a variety of features, insurance, maintenance, as well as normal wear-and-tear items. Subscribers may turn in the keys after one year and get a new car, or they can keep their car for two years and buy it outright or they can walk away. It's an interesting approach to car buying that may prove to be popular.

My test vehicle was the Volvo XC40 T5 AWD in R-Design trim. The exterior was finished in Black Stone metallic, while the cabin was executed in a funky combination of orange and black with metallic checked effect trim accents and contrasting white stitching. The base price was set at $35,200.

The source of power was a transversely mounted 2.0-liter inline turbocharged Drive-E four-cylinder engine that cranked out 248 horses at 5,500 rpm while developing 258 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,800 rpm. Motive force was geared to the AWD system via an eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission with Start/Stop and manual shift capability with paddle shifters and overdrive.

The R-Design trim level additionally supplies bigger wheels, stouter springs, and heftier anti-roll bars, without impacting the ride quality.

Ian Kettle, a 31-year-old who first submitted the basic design five years ago when he was just out of art school in London, penned the XC40 design. His design includes some of Volvo's familiar cues, but with a new spin. Instead of the XC60 and XC90 convex grille, the XC40's grille is concave with a lip.

The signature "Thor's hammer" LED headlights flank the grill, reaching up to the stamped clamshell hood. The roof line features a window line that kicks up from the rear door, creating a prominent rear roof pillar that joins one of three roof colors with a cutline and trim piece that smoothly blends the seams.

R-Design models sport a stamped "R-Design" logo. Just above the rocker panel is a contained trapezoidal stamping that balances the vertical weight of the doors tying the front to the back well, with a protective polymer cladding surround.

Entering the cabin, which is rated for five but best suited to four adults for maximum comfort, the XC40 combines a horizontal dash with a vertical touchscreen mounted near the middle. The "Lava Orange" carpet doesn't seem practical as it's prone to easily soiling, but it does brighten the otherwise dark interior.

The XC40 showcases a younger attitude than the XC60 and XC90, and that's a good thing. It boasts lots of useful interior storage nooks and foldable shelves -- even a center armrest trash bin is offered. Standard fare includes leather upholstery, a power adjustable driver's seat, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 9.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

In the realm of safety features, all models come standard with front, side, and curtain airbags for all occupants, including a driver's knee airbag. Active lane control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, a rearview camera, and emergency responder notifications are included on every trim.

Other advanced safety features are available, such as Volvo's Pilot Assist semi self-driving system, combines active lane control and adaptive cruise control. The system can follow cars in stop-and-go traffic and travel short distances within well-defined lanes without driver input. Volvo refers to Pilot Assist as a "driver support" system since it shuts off without driver intervention after a short period.

The 2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design crossover is a breath of fresh air in terms of both its visual appeal and its performance attributes. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-banger delivers more than satisfactory acceleration without hesitation and the eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission shifts with silky smoothness up and down either automatically or with the paddle shifters.

Steering is precise and predictable in each of the drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, and Off-Road. The XC40 is athletic, with a 6.2-second, 0-to-60-mph run. Bottom line, the XC40 is surely destined to influence the company's direction.

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