- About Us
Words: Dipayan Dutta
Photography: Vikrant Date
As far as European luxury car manufacturers go in the subcontinent, we only make the efforts of acknowledging three. The lesser known fourth is often greeted by “Oh, don’t they make buses ?”. This is a sad reality considering that if there is any manufacturer that could take on the three German auto-titans, it is that Swedish car maker. Take this for example, the Volvo V40 R-Design. Before we even get into the details about how it drives or anything else take a moment to take a look at it. In this oh-so blue the Volvo V40 R-Design arrests attention. Then you begin to feel like you’ve seen it before, you probably have. The V40 is essentially the CrossCountry sans the cladding. Not like it’s a bad thing; the Cross country was quite the looker to begin with.
The V40 is just somewhat better. We walked around the car a few times and couldn’t really find an angle at which we didn’t like that edgy sculpted design. Even the bonnet has a nice low sporty profile courtesy the pedestrian airbag tricked into the hood. Underneath all of that is a Volvo-ised chassis derived from a Ford Focus hatch. Yep. You read it right. Once this sets in, things start to fall into place like the way the front-wheel drive handles, the way it keeps everything together at high speeds. Who needs a boot anyway? Now we know that Volvo have always prided themselves on how safe their vehicles are, somehow that got translated to boring. The V40 R-design is testament to the fact that Volvo’s are in no measure boring.
But before we rescue Volvo’s repertoire, here are a list of boring Volvo-y things that the V40 does get. Some of them are actually quite cool. For starters because the Swedes love the human race in particular, the V40 comes with Driver Support Pack and what that entails is a full-speed collision warning and crash avoidance system, as well as pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, road sign information and driver alertness monitoring systems. Seven airbags also feature.It All sounded very good on paper so we thought we’d give it a go. Our office minion a.k.a Aatish was summoned downstairs for the practical test. Alas, before we could really give it a go, our everloving Ed showed up and whisked the minion away muttering something about us being crazy and good interns being in short order. So much for hard hitting journalism. We then tried the auto parking system which worked flawlessly and parked itself leaving exactly one foot on either end. We realized later that in the subcontinent it was only good for showboating to your friends at the golf course, when we saw that the Volvo had made itself at home exactly 6 inches from someone’s gate. And that was that for office tomfoolery.
On the road the V40 is a very different animal, the D3 diesel motor – that will remain common to all the V40s – is wonderfully linear and there’s always a boot full of torque lurking under your right foot. The 1948cc diesel oil burner in the D3 (it’s an in-line five-cylinder motor) makes a 148bhp and a stonking 350Nm of twist force, all of which you get as low as 2750rpm. This makes it the most powerful engine in its class – A-Class and 1Series included.
Combine that with the way the steering communicates almost telepathically through your palm and it is as accurate and sharp as a double edged sword and what you get is a hatch that’s endlessly fun to drive. What’s more is that within the confines of the urban jungle the V40 is quite comfortable crawling along. Although what’s really strange is the fact that Volvo somehow omitted the dead pedal, which is not a fair oversight on a car with this kind of price tag.
In fact the R-Design, in particular, sits on a tweaked chassis developed in co-operation with Swedish racing driver Robert Dahlgren. In addition, the R-Design gets strut braces which keep everything tidy through the twisty bits. We love the way it’s setup. The only problem is that it might come across as slightly stiff to the average person buying the V40. Hopefully the V40, without the “R”-factor will be slightly friendlier.
In the cockpit things get even better, the quality of the interiors is impeccable. Brushed aluminium accented with blue inlays add a touch of class to everything. It’s all high-quality but the small five-inch screen does look small and no, it isn’t a touch screen. Also, the centre console could be considered quite cluttered and it’s not particularly intuitive to use and the rear seats aren’t the most spacious either but then again, neither are the competition’s. What you’ll love is the V40’s pièce de résistance panoramic sun roof which stretches almost entirely across the length of the roof.
In their own quirky Swedish way of doing things, I honestly believe that Volvo have hit the nail on the head as far as the V40 is concerned. It’s gorgeous to look at, even without the drama of the fluorescent blue paint. It’s a pleasure to drive. It’s as safe as it gets. Most of all since it is a diesel, it is actually quite economical and practical. Question is, is it good enough to bring Volvo into the big leagues.