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Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design: Not your usual boxy Swede

This crossover's smart design isn't just on the outside

The design is far from that of the Volvos of yore like the 240. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

Desirability is an adjective I’ve never associated with Volvos two or three decades ago. However, times have certainly changed with this Swedish marque. Even after Geely bought Volvo from Ford some years back, this Scandinavian automaker is still as Swedish as ABBA and toast Skagen. In fact, that move by the Chinese conglomerate turned out to be quite fruitful.

The signature Thor's Hammer headlights. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

The brand has now ascended to new heights with the XC40 T5 R-Design being a prime example of Volvo performance, innovation and uncompromising style. From its exterior architecture to interior layout, this subcompact crossover is a serious exercise in beauty-meets-functionality. The headlamps accented by Thor’s Hammer daytime running lights (a staple on almost every Volvo model today) separated by a geometric-patterned grille are the most striking features at first glance from the front. The attraction doesn’t end there though.

Laterally, your eyes gravitate immediately toward the handsome 20-inch wheels with diamond-cut windmill blade spokes, giving you instant aftermarket wheel amnesia. The smooth muscularity of the front flows toward the sides with rounded contours, sharp corners and concave accents stretching across the length of this crossover. A design touch that stands out from everything else in the Volvo stable is the sporty contrast of the roof (including A and B-pillars) from the lower body color.

The large touchscreen display is fun to play with. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

The interior is an inviting place with Volvo’s signature minimalism combined with modular architecture. With lots of usable tech and storage options, the XC40 lives up to being truly utilitarian without sacrificing style nor comfort. Ergonomics are on point and make you feel right at home the moment you take the saddle. One of the noticeable features that differ from the rest of the Volvo lineup is the absence of the twist engine start/stop knob (a uniquely cool feature) found by the gear lever and replaced by a typical push-start button. The XC40 also has laptop pockets found on the front door sides (a first for Volvo interior design) and a wireless charging dock for your smartphone. Thankfully, a panoramic sunroof brightens up the somewhat dark cabin due to the prominence of black leather and trim.

Compared to other segment offerings, Volvo’s played the right notes with intuitive operation. From the iPad-like infotainment touchscreen to the way it drives, much thought has been considered for user-friendly operation. The inclusion of Volvo’s Intellisafe technology and driver aids reassure peace of mind. However, I would’ve preferred a 360° camera incorporated into the parking assistance feature given the XC40’s price. In addition, passengers will equally enjoy onboard amenities such as a Harman Kardon audio system, ample legroom for five, and a sizable 460L of cargo space. A power tailgate that opens with a foot sensor adds more convenience when loading items into the back.

The XC40's T5 heart has 252hp. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

Moving onto the road, I selected Eco mode from five drive options (Comfort, Individual, Dynamic and Off-road). City driving was a breeze as proximity sensors and blind spot assist helped me navigate through Manila’s chaos with minimal irritation from warning beeps. It’s truly built as a small city runabout given its manageability on our congested streets. Thirst factor for moderate to occasional heavy traffic yielded 6.3km/L.

The XC40 was pleasingly lively in the open, similar to that of a refined sports car. Powered by a T5 engine (a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline motor) with an output of 252hp and 350 Nm of torque, it isn’t anywhere near sluggish. In fact, I managed to pull a zero-to-100km/h sprint in under 7 seconds. It’s quick when you need it to be and moves with silky fashion as you go through eight seamless shifts of the Geartronic automatic transmission.

Lots of buttons mean lots of toys including the panoramic sunroof. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

Cruising on toll roads, I relaxed a bit more with Pilot Assist activated. I honestly feel that Volvo is one of the best at integrating adaptive cruise control along with other nifty assist gadgetry that lean on semi-autonomous driving, including a Runoff Road Protection feature. You just have to trust the tech when you’re on a road with appropriate markings. I managed an admirable 17km/L on this leg.

Up the twists leading to Baguio, the all-wheel drive configuration kept handling tight and sharp. Body roll was minimal and my occupants remained cozy as I maneuvered through steep, sharp corners and took on ruts with firm grace. The XC40 indeed rewards you with commendable driving engagement.

An excellent alternative to German luxury crossovers. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

With the incorporation of its Circle Of Life design philosophy, Volvo creations embody what driving bliss is all about. If you’re in the market for a premium crossover that won’t give you the jitters, the XC40 comes highly recommended. Furthermore, Volvo Philippines takes pride in the ease of maintaining their current crop of vehicles.


Engine2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder gasoline
Transmission8-speed automatic
Power252hp @ 5,500rpm
Torque350Nm @ 1,800-4,800rpm
Dimensions4,425mm x 2,034mm x 1,652mm
Drive layoutAWD
UpsidePowerful engine, stunning design, and loaded with features.
DownsideThe price coupled with the limited dealer network.

Manskee Nascimento

Manskee is a music-loving petrolhead who specializes in car care. He finds peace in long drives to and from his home in La Union.