Ever since China’s Gheely Holding bought Sweden’s Volvo Group from Ford in 2010, the Swedes have been working from a clean sheet of design and engineering. The 2019 Volvo XC40 is the latest all-new vehicle to result from this effort, riding on an all-new platform that’s exclusively Volvo. In conjunction with this all-new compact SUV, Volvo is also launching an all-new way to own one of their vehicles, called "Care by Volvo." Both the vehicle and the ownership model are exciting. Let’s start with the vehicle.
Platforms make greater efficiency and flexibility possible and make building a lineup of diverse vehicles less expensive than building a series of one-offs. A platform, in general terms, consists of a shared chassis, suspension, powertrain and other engineering and design elements. Volvo has designed their lineups around several modular platforms. The SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) platform underlies the current 60 and 90 series of vehicles (XC60, XC90, S90, V90). With the XC40, Volvo unveils the CMA (Compact Modular Architecture) platform, which we’ll see as the underpinnings of many of Volvo’s future compact vehicles.
The CMA is extremely flexible, with just one fixed dimensional point: The dash-to-front-axle distance. That means that future vehicles on the same platform can have a longer wheelbase and/or a wider track than the XC40, but still take advantage of the same efficiencies and engineering.
Platform, Sure: But How Does It Look?
Even though it rides on a different platform, the XC40 still comes from the same family as its bigger brothers, the XC60 and XC90. It’s not just a miniaturized version of the big boys — it has its own look, incorporating signature elements from the Volvo design language. The XC40 has an upright grille, a long hood and a squat greenhouse that looks like it’s upswept, thanks to a chrome line that kicks up at the last second at the base of the daylight opening. The tailgate is shaded by an integrated spoiler. The back glass is just big enough for outward visibility — but it’s a good thing a rearview camera is standard equipment.
Lighting is the star on this new SUV. From a sinewy take on the signature LED taillights to standard LED headlamps and Thor’s Hammer LED daytime running lights, the XC40 cuts a sharp figure day and night.
The XC40’s interior thrives on contrast and repeated shape motifs borrowed from the exterior design. Real metal accents and patterned metal trim panels really stand out on the dash and doors. The dashboard’s horizontal emphasis makes the cabin feel wider, and the lower, more distant placement makes the front cabin feel airy and spacious. A scaled-down (9-inch diagonal) Sensus color touchscreen at the top of the center stack is in exactly the right place. Storage has been maximized, with big door pockets, a big center-console compartment, a spacious glovebox and even an available underseat drawer for the driver. Materials are top-notch, and the Volvo production line must be commended for outstanding fit and finish. The second row of seating is pleasantly roomy, with a fairly flat 40/20/40-split bench seat. The center seating position gets the short stick, as usual, with a fold-down armrest and raised seat cushion, but that’s kind of the price of entry in this class, so we can’t ding the XC40 for that.
Part of the CMA platform is a new set of engines. The first, which will be featured in the T5 trim level, is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder that’s tuned to produce 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque using premium gasoline. Later in the model year, we’re led to expect a smaller turbocharged 3-cylinder engine that will peak at 187 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque in the T4 trim level. A hybrid gasoline-electric is also planned. An 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive is the only choice in the T5. Fuel economy figures have not yet been revealed. Zero to 60 mph for the T5 is a claimed 6.2 seconds, with a reported top speed of 140 mph.
Suspension, Steering and Braking
The CMA doesn’t break new ground in suspension, relying on the tried-and-true MacPherson strut setup in front and an independent multilink setup in the rear. Coil springs, hydraulic shock absorbers and stabilizer bars are fitted both front and rear. Steering is handled by an electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion system, and all four wheels get disc brakes (13.6 inches front/11.9 inches rear) with ABS (antilock braking system), EBD (electronic brake distribution) and EBA (electronic brake assistance).
The XC40 benefits from many of the same optional advanced driving aids that the SPA vehicles get, including Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive with adaptive cruise control, a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, Park Assist Pilot with front and rear sensors, and more. A 12.3-in digital driver display is standard, along with a 9-in Sensus Connect touchscreen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and there’s a mobile app with remote start. A Wi-Fi hotspot is standard, with a 6-month complimentary trial subscription. A 250-watt sound system is also standard, and a fantastic 600-watt Harman Kardon system is available ($1,375). Navigation is standard on the R-Design and part of a package on the Momentum.
Care by Volvo
Along with the all-new XC40, Volvo is also launching a new concept in vehicle ownership. Care by Volvo is a subscription service. Traditional vehicle ownership has two models: buying (either with cash or through financing) and leasing. With both financing and leasing, you are responsible for obtaining and paying for a specified level of car insurance, along with taxes and licensing fees.
Care by Volvo is a twist on these formulas. There’s no down payment and no negotiation. The buyer commits to a 24-month all-inclusive flat monthly fee: $600 per month for an XC40 T5 AWD Momentum, or $700 per month for an XC40 T5 AWD R-Design. The monthly fee includes 15,000 miles of operation per year, all factory-scheduled maintenance, tire-and-wheel damage replacement, wear-and-tear (including wiper blades and brake pads), and … insurance. That’s right. The program includes premium personal auto insurance from Liberty Mutual, with $250,000 of injury protection per person, $500,000 of injury coverage per accident and a $500 deductible. Tax and license fees are still to be determined on a state-by-state basis — some states may require tax on the full purchase price up front, while some may tax the monthly fee. The title for the vehicle will be in the subscriber’s name (with a lien, of course).
Additionally, subscribers will have the option of upgrading to a new Volvo once they’ve completed their first 12 months of subscription. Upgrades may include other vehicles in the Volvo portfolio.
Immediately, the math is exciting. An XC40 T5 AWD Momentum starts at $35,200. With a 20 percent down payment and 6 percent interest, you’d have to pay about $1,250 a month to buy the vehicle over 24 months, or $650 per month over 48 months. Plus tax. Plus insurance. Plus maintenance and wear and tear. Don’t rush to your Volvo dealership just yet — as a matter of fact, you don’t need to go to the dealership to transact Care by Volvo at all. It’s all handled online, and Volvo’s working on delivery and service options that won’t involve a dealer visit, either.
We drove XC40 during a launch event in Austin, Texas, splitting time between T5 AWD Momentum and T5 AWD R-Design models. The compact crossover is quite sprightly, with eager acceleration and nimble handling. There’s little turbo lag, and ample power to merge onto highways. The transmission willingly kicks down when you need a burst of speed for passing (or fun). Selecting "Sport" mode tightens up throttle response nicely and lets the transmission hold gears a few revs longer. The only slight letdown in the XC40’s ride is a slightly harsh suspension, especially when encountering sharp bumps. A dynamic suspension option will follow later in the model year and might be worth waiting for if you live in a pothole state.
Trim Levels and Prices
Two models have been announced at launch: the T4 FWD and T5 AWD, with three trim levels for each: Momentum, R-Design and Inscription. The T4 FWD Momentum starts at $33,200; the T4 FWD R-Design starts at $35,700; the T5 AWD starts at $35,200; and the T5 R-Design starts at $37,700. Inscription prices have not yet been announced.
The Bottom Line
The 2019 Volvo XC40 enters an increasingly crowded field of premium compact crossover vehicles. Some very good SUVs vie for attention here: the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Infiniti QX30 and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class among them. Care by Volvo may be a differentiator for some buyers — it has certainly piqued our interest.
To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.