Urban bruiser

Road test: Volvo V40 Cross Country D4

We liked the Volvo V40, reviewed here last year, so the cross-over version, labelled the Cross Country certainly started with good pedigree.  We picked the D4 engine for our review (a bit more poke than the 1.6 D2 in the V40).  However, the car which arrived didn’t really make us think of rolling hills, country pubs or muddy lanes: this steely-grey bruiser with its Larenta Grey wheels looks much more the urban warrior.

There is an additional 40mm in ride height, some silvered plastic finishers and a revised lower front panel but in reality there isn’t a huge difference over the V40 from whence the Cross Country came.  It’s mostly a styling choice.  However, the petrol T5 engine option also comes with a useful all-wheel-drive which does make a positive impact when powering through bends (I sampled this at the Millbrook test centre in May) – and will help on moderately challenging terrain.  The rest of the range, including our D4 here, puts its power to front wheels only.

So, city machine or yokel’s motor?

So, city machine or yokel’s motor?  There are some other differences over the V40 which do come into play on the V40 Cross Country.  First, the tyres have a 50% profile, i.e. a deeper side wall so offering additional suppleness over lower profile rubber found on ‘ordinary’ cars.  These mean added cushioning when encountering potholes and the vertiginous speed humps which are present on so many main arteries now.  There is a trade-off, of course – it doesn’t feel quite as planted as its cousin but even with a little extra roll in corners and a hint of bounciness, it does feel very suited to our current roads.

Purposeful

The V40 Cross Country doesn’t immediately jump out as being beautiful but its looks are growing on me and even with (or possibly because of) the dour colours, it seemed to attract a fair bit of attention. Like the V40, it carries a few hints of the earlier 1800ES/480ES but has a strong shape all of its own.  It appears purposeful from the front three quarter angle; I’d argue the rear plane is slightly fussy.  Overall, it remains handsome and muscular.

So what’s it like to drive?  It’s easy, it’s civilised and has one of my favourite engines, the charismatic five cylinder, two litre, 177 PS D4 diesel.  This engine is fairly highly-boosted so there is a little lag until the turbo is spinning but it will shift.  There is a slight torque steer tendency when hoofing at lower speeds (which is why the T5 with its all-wheel-drive is a good choice) but otherwise its manners are good.  Steering offers only moderate feedback but the chucky steering wheel is good to the touch.

Contrasting with the sombre exterior colouring, the inside of this car is all Scandinavian chic with the optional Guinness-coloured leather seats, the now trademark floating, central console and simple, clean-looking controls.  As with the V40, I find the single (configurable) instrument dial lacks elegance but it’s easy to read and shows all the key information without course to scan menus.

In terms of other gadgets, the collision detection system throws-up too many false positives, especially when passing parked cars.  Locking and unlocking can be done by holding the door handles but this didn’t always work – especially in the rain when quick entry and locking is desired most.  There is one feature I positively loathe: the auto-dimming high beam, which dips the headlights at the merest sight of a street or house lamp.  Having returned from a midnight rescue mission (due to our failed public transport network) through floods and lashing rain on winding lanes, this feature is positively dangerous.  It not only leaves negligible forward view at the computer’s whim, but will not re-enable high beam at all if there are even small lights on roadside properties yet the lane is dark.  Unfortunately, it was a day later when I’d figured-out how to override it.

Right for the roads

During the week, the XC40 has hauled luggage, people and made numerous urban, extra-urban and distinctly rural journeys.  In all situations, it has quite simply been right for the roads.  The photo shoot was a challenge – steely car, steely skies and spoiled for choice with lovely countryside – which didn’t suit the car’s colour at all.  So this slightly dilapidated mill seemed the right backdrop and emphasises the XC40′s urban credentials.  Choose a slightly gentler colour and it will feel a little better suited to the country.

Volvo V40 XC D4 diesel £26,220 (range starts at £22,870 for the D2; test car has additional £7,425 worth of options/packs).

Power: 177PS (@ 3,500 rpm), torque: 400 Nm (@ 1,750 – 2,750 rpm), emissions: 117 g/km CO2 (band C), 0-62 mph: 8.6 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●●○





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