2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design Test Drive And Review: Evolved Choice

Volvo has evolved. It’s been ten years since Gheely Holding of China bought Volvo Group from Ford, and the Swedish company has completely transformed itself under its new ownership. While it has retained its core DNA as a company devoted to safety, newly refined styling, luxury and technical innovation have elevated Volvo from popular to premium. Flexible production platforms have allowed the company to expand its lineup efficiently. The SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) platform now underlies the midsize and full-size 60 and 90 series of vehicles (XC60, XC90, S60, S90, V60 and V90), and now the CMA (Compact Modular Architecture) platform will be the basis for compact offerings, beginning with the XC40 compact crossover SUV which debuted as a 2019 model.

I recently spent a week with the 2020 Volvo XC40. XC40 comes in a pretty simple variety, with three trim levels (Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription), two available powertrain setups (T4 and T5), and front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. My test vehicle was a T5 R-Design with all-wheel drive, carrying a list price of $35,700 and an as-tested price of $46,995, including the $6,250 R-Design features, $1,400 Advanced Package, $750 heated front seats and steering wheel, $100 Lava floor carpet and door panels, $200 Park Assist Pilot, $800 20-inch Matte Black Alloy Wheels, $800 Harman Kardon Premium Audio, and a $995 destination charge. 

XC40 incorporates some of the signature elements from the Volvo design language, like the Thor’s Hammer LED daytime running lights, upright grille, long hood and squat greenhouse. While there’s no mistaking the family resemblance, XC40 has its own look – not just mini-XC90 or XC60. The inside matches the outside, with a clean, modern Scandinavian aesthetic. The optional Lava floor carpet and door panels won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I loved them – a bright orange/red background to liven up the interior. I also appreciated the abundant storage in the cabin, with big door pockets, center console and glove box. The second row is roomy, if a little stiff and spartan (especially for the unfortunate center seating position). 

Technology has become a Volvo hallmark, and XC40 gets a good helping from the 12.3-inch digital driver display and 9.0-inch Sensus infotainment screen with navigation, to the excellent (optional) Harman Kardon Premium Audio, blind-spot monitoring system with steer assist and cross-traffic alert with autobrake, to the Wi-Fi hotspot, keyless entry and push-button start/stop.

The T5 engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder direct gasoline injection unit that is tuned to produce 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque (T4 is a turbo three-cylinder). Hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the T5 is a lively performer. It makes the most of its four-wheel independent suspension (MacPherson struts front/multi-link rear) in concert with ABS, EBD and EBA – the familiar alphabet soup of electronic braking controls. If I could have wished for anything in my test XC40, it would be a dynamic suspension system, or at least 19-inch wheels instead of the optional 20-inch wheels, for a little more cushioning over the potholes of Southeastern Michigan, where I live and drive. Drive modes don’t change suspension settings in XC40, only transmission, throttle and steering response. Fuel economy is decent at 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway/25 mpg combined.

One of the most interesting aspects of XC40 is Care by Volvo, a subscription plan that replaces traditional ownership or leasing models. With Care by Volvo, you can subscribe to an XC40 T5 AWD R-Design for $700 per month (plus taxes and registration fees) with $0 due at signing for a 24-month term. This plan includes car insurance, factory scheduled maintenance, excess wear protection, tire and wheel protection, replacement wiper blades, replacement brakes, roadside assistance and 15,000 miles per year. After 12 months, you can upgrade to a new XC40 – or you can switch to another model in the Care by Volvo program, currently S60 ($700/month), XC60 ($750/month) or XC90 ($750/month). Only you and your accountant can tell if this is a smart option for you – it’s great to have another ownership/leasing option to consider. Even at 0% interest on a purchase (a current Volvo offer for well-qualified buyers), you’d have to stretch out your payments to 60 months to get a monthly payment close to $700/month, and that wouldn’t include insurance.

If you’re considering an XC40, you should definitely drive the premium competition like the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Cadillac XT4, Infiniti QX30, Lexus NX and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. Don’t overlook the Mazda CX-30 and Subaru Outback, either. 

Evolution has brought us the 2020 Volvo XC40, and it’s a natural selection for the right buyers.

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