• The XC40 is smaller and funkier than the XC60.
• The XC60 is more luxurious than the XC40.
• Both vehicles are very appealing with an emphasis on safety and style
Cars and SUVs from various brands tend to follow a Russian nesting doll approach — each is basically the same thing but scaled up to size with extra equipment and refinement to boot. The 2019 Volvo XC40 and the 2019 Volvo XC60 go about things a little different, and as a result, they offer luxury crossover shoppers a refreshing variety of choice when perusing the local Volvo store.
Let’s take a look at both of these compact SUVs to showcase how they’re different, how they’re the same and which might be better for you.
As its higher number would suggest, the XC60 is the bigger vehicle. It’s 10 inches longer and 3 inches wider, with a wheelbase that’s nearly 6 inches longer. That’s a considerable difference. It also weighs at least 530 pounds more.
The XC40, however, is actually just as tall as its big brother. This most obviously affects interior space, but it also contributes to noticeably different exterior proportions and, therefore, styling. Whereas the sleek XC60 very much plays by the same stylistic and proportional playbook as the even bigger XC90 — it’s just scaled down — the XC40 is taller in appearance and upright. It’s almost toylike and has just a touch of Volvo’s old boxy wagons.
The XC40 is also available with a contrasting roof — be it white or black, depending on the main color and trim level — which is other styling flourishes that speak to its more fun, youthful nature. The XC60 is more refined and grown up. They’re different, but to our eyes, both are attractive.
Despite the sizeable exterior differences, the Volvo XC40 isn’t that much smaller inside. Thanks to its height, the seats are a bit higher off the floor, allowing for the back seat to only trail the XC60’s legroom by 2 inches. In fact, it’s actually within an inch of the even bigger XC90’s second row. The XC40’s second-row headroom is a bit more than both its SUV siblings.
On the other hand, the XC40’s is narrower and, therefore, has less shoulder room. You’ll be less likely to fit three people across in the back seat. There’s also less cargo space, which is where the XC60’s extra length really comes into play. Maximum cargo capacity is 63.3 cu ft. versus the XC40’s 57.5 cu ft. Both are average for their respective segments.
In terms of style, both are stylish and clearly hail from the same brand, but the XC40’s more upright dash design and bin-packed center console lend it a more utilitarian appearance that skews toward the funky side. You can actually get a dark orange carpet in the R-Design model, which is odd but very cool. By contrast, the XC60 is more elegant and refined, with upper trim levels that can be outfitted with swankier materials and high-end luxury car features like massaging seats.
Despite these clear differences, you get the same vertically oriented touchscreen in both (see below) and most of the same switch gear, and although some of the XC40’s plastics are of a seemingly cheaper quality than the XC60’s (especially in the center console area), the differences aren’t huge.
The XC60 is mechanically related to every 2019 Volvo with the number 60 or 90 in its name. That includes the bigger XC90, and as a result, it shares the same basic suspension and chassis design. The engine lineup is the same as well.
The XC60 T5 is the base model and comes with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that’s turbocharged to produce 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, which is a competitive amount for the segment. Front- or all-wheel drive are available, and like every XC60 and XC40, an excellent 8-speed automatic is standard.
The XC60 offers two powertrain upgrades, both of which are AWD only. The T6 model has basically the same engine that’s uniquely turbocharged and supercharged to produce 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The XC60 T8, meanwhile, is a plug-in hybrid that boasts 400 hp yet can return a mile-per-gallon-equivalent rating of 58 MPGe with 17 miles of all-electric range. If you’re looking for either a performance-oriented or eco-friendly SUV choice, the XC40 can’t match those.
Now, as for the XC40, it’s in fact the first model to be introduced on Volvo’s new small car platform that will underpin a variety of future cars and crossovers intended to be a bit sharper and sportier than the 60s and 90s (not to mention smaller and cheaper).
The XC40 is available with basically the same T5 engine as the XC60, but it’s the upgrade engine here and only available with AWD. The base "T4" engine, paired only to FWD, is a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that produces 187 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque. Though certainly less than the T5, the XC40 has less weight to lug about, and given that ample amount of torque, it should feel plenty peppy around town. Is it all you really need? Definitely.
Fuel economy is 23 or 24 miles per gallon combined for the XC60 T5 and 22 mpg for the T6. The XC40 T4 gets a much better 27 mpg or 26 mpg for the T5.
Features & Technology
Just because you get a smaller, cheaper vehicle with a lower number in its name, doesn’t mean the XC40 shortchanges you on equipment. Both come standard with a power lift gate, LED headlights and driver memory settings, plus a wealth of infotainment features including the 9-in, vertically oriented touchscreen, two USB ports up front, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and satellite radio. That’s more than you’ll get in most of their respective competitors, but it doesn’t stop there as you’ll see in the Safety section below.
As for differences, on the low end of their pricing spectrums, the XC40 actually bests the XC60 with standard leather upholstery and an extra USB-C port in the rear. For its part, the XC60 gets an extra pair of speakers and dual-zone climate control (versus single). From there, the two small SUVs are largely available with the same equipment until you get to the upper XC60 Inscription that opens the door to higher-quality leather upholstery, a genuine wood and leather-trimmed dash, 4-zone climate control, ventilated and massaging front seats, a 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system and a height-adjustable suspension.
Basically, while you can make the XC40 plenty luxurious, you can’t go as far as you can in the XC60.
The XC40’s tall, narrow profile and sporty-skewing mechanical underpinnings provide it with a distinctive driving experience. Not just in comparison to the XC60, but to competitors like the BMW X2. There’s a bit more body roll than usual, and you sit quite high, resulting in a slightly more trucklike feel, but then it’s also pleasingly light on its feet, impressively composed and boasts pleasingly responsive steering. It’s unusual, but enjoyable. Our driving logbook had the words "happy, small, fun" listed.
The XC60 isn’t quite as eager to turn as its smaller sibling is. Indeed, on our mountain road test run, its suspension and steering were flummoxed by quick transitions and midcorner bumps. Our driving logbook that day notes "a bit of a mess." Away from more dynamic, and perhaps unrealistic demands, the XC60 is comfortable, quiet and refined. Its steering is fluid in its motion and requires an appropriate amount of effort. Its turbocharged power delivery is less frenetic than the XC40’s. In general, it feels like the more relaxed luxury crossover to drive.
One important note about both: Be mindful of their big wheel options, as they can seriously degrade ride comfort. The standard 18s or 19s should be just fine.
This may not come as a surprise for the famously safety-focused Volvo brand, but the XC40 and the XC60 come with a segment-leading amount of standard safety equipment. Besides a typical airbag assortment, they come standard with a forward-collision warning and automatic braking system that can uniquely detect pedestrians, cyclists and large animals day or night. This "City Safety" system is enhanced in the XC60 with steering assistance. They both also come standard with lane-keeping assist, a driver-inattention warning system, a rear collision-mitigation system (secures the brakes if it detects an incoming rear-end collision) and Volvo OnCall emergency communications. The XC60 also gets standard blind spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems, as well as power child locks — both are optional on the XC40.
If price was no object, the XC40 and the XC60 are different enough in style and driving experience that we could easily say "just pick the one you like best." Their similar features, engines and overall quality equalize what would otherwise be points of differentiation. As price is an object, however, our scales would probably tip toward the cheaper and more efficient XC40 given those similarities. It’s also important to note that it’s stronger in comparison to its direct competitors.