Volvo XC40 T4 R-Design First Drive: The XC40 goes petrol
Goa’s roads are surprisingly good. They may be narrow, but they are often well paved and more important to this story, well marked. As you can see, I was behind the wheel of a Volvo — an XC40 to be precise — so you know exactly what I’m getting at. Driver assistance systems. So there I was, hustling this small SUV along through Goa’s otherwise lazy streets when I felt the steering wheel judder momentarily, before turning itself ever so slightly. I was staying out of my lane, and the car wasn’t going to let me.
When the XC40 launched in 2018, it was leagues ahead of the competition when it came to features. With radars mounted up front, it brought to the table a lot of Volvo’s active safety features, including the lane-keeping aid that had just given me a light rap on the knuckles. At the time of launch, Volvo brought in the XC40 only with a diesel engine and in the R-Design trim. Once the initial lot of 200 R-Designs sold out though, they sold it in the Momentum and more expensive Inscription trims. All with the same 2-litre diesel engine, of course.
All of that is history though, because no longer can you get the XC40 with diesel engine. In October last year, Volvo launched the XC40 T4 R-Design in India and stopped bringing in more diesel XC40s in to the country. The and just like the launch variant of the XC40 a year and a half ago, it can only be had in the R-Design trim.
The heart of the matter
Honestly, the only real update to this car is to the engine. Instead of the diesel, you get the 1969cc petrol that puts out 190hp and 300Nm. This puts it on par with the competition (Mercedes-Benz GLA 200, BMW X1). Another change isn’t apparent at first sight is the switch from AWD to a front-wheel drive layout, with an 8-speed automatic doing transmission duties.
Behind the wheel of the XC40, things are calm. When driven gently, the petrol engine is silent and doesn’t make itself too audible on the inside. It is a turbo motor, yes, and there is some amount of lag when you step on the gas but it isn’t too intrusive. The turbo doesn’t spool up very aggressively either, it builds up fairly linearly in to the strong mid-range. At higher revs, the motor can be heard inside but it isn’t an unpleasant sound, rather one that is quite fruity. That said, power tapers off here and there’s no real use revving it out to the 6000rpm redline. With 300Nm and FWD (compared to 400Nm and AWD on the diesel), the XC40 T4 loses out a bit compared to the D4.
Switching between driving modes (Comfort, Dynamic, Eco and Off-Road) changes the throttle responses slightly. In Comfort mode, I found the engine responding a little too lazily to my inputs and preferred it in the Dynamic setting. The engine responds quicker to your right foot, and it even holds gears longer allowing you to use more of the XC40’s performance. Overall, the engine doesn’t feel particularly sporty, instead plays to Volvos strengths of giving you a serene driving experience.
Staying the sameNot much else has changed on the XC40. The last one time I drove one, it was an R-Design too so it gets the same accenting and interiors — the glossy black roof, blacked out grille, blacked out wing mirrors with R-Design badges peppered all over the place. The interiors don’t get wood inlays, instead get a brushed metal finish to keep with the variant’s sporty intentions. The steering wheel gets a subtle R-Design badge at the bottom too, and you get seats that are upholstered in all-black interiors. Fit and finish is brilliant, and this is something we have come to expect from Volvo. And like I mentioned earlier, the features list is vast — safety features and driver assistance systems like adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation, electrically adjustable seats, a panoramic sunroof, — and it all feels like it is money well spent. If i had to criticise the interior of the XC40, it is that the rear seats aren’t the most comfortable. Under thigh support is lacking and the backrest is a fair bit upright.
The R-Designs get what Volvo calls a Dynamic Chassis (as opposed to a Comfort Chassis on the Momentum and Inscription). No, this doesn’t mean it gets dynamic dampers, instead the regular dampers with steel springs are tuned to be a bit more sporty. Or so they claim. I haven’t driven an Inscription XC40 so I can’t say. Objectively, ride quality is actually good — it is firm but not uncomfortably so. It is actually very composed at high speeds and even enjoys being thread through a few corners (just wish the steering felt a little more direct here). There’s a slight edge to the low speed ride though, but that doesn’t take away from how complete the XC40 feels.
The XC40 T4 R-Design, retains everything that made the diesel special and the change of heart hasn’t really changed its core. It still remains a comfortable SUV that is immensely stylish, is very refined and packs a huge features list. It isn’t a car you turn to if you want an adrenaline rush every time you step on it, but it is one that you will want to live with (and want to be seen in) every day of the week. The market is slowly shifting away from diesel and back to petrol, but I’m not sure if discontinuing the diesel entirely was a good idea. That said, it will be interesting to see how well this variant does going ahead. At Rs 39.9 lakh, it is on par with what the Momentum used to be priced at and actually offers you a fair bit for the money you will be paying for it.