I recently had the chance to check out the all-new Volvo XC40, which is a weird small luxury SUV. I highlight this fact because most small SUVs aren’t especially weird: The Lexus NX, the BMW X3, the Audi Q3 … they all just seem like smaller versions of each brand’s regularly-sized SUV. But not the XC40. The XC40 is smaller … and weirder.
Naturally, I love it. I love interesting cars, and the XC40 is surely that; it’s also a return to form for Volvo, who famously made weird and interesting cars for decades before switching to more mainstream stuff in the last few years. It’s worked out well for Volvo, and sales are way up — but I love the quirky, old-school Volvo, and the XC40 is a throwback to that era.
I borrowed this XC40 from Volvo of Escondido, which is an excellent Volvo dealership here in the San Diego area, and I especially wanted this one because it has an orange interior. And I don’t mean it has a saddle brown interior that looks orange in some light. I mean the carpet, the floor mats and the door panels are bright freaking orange, Cheeto orange, Dorito orange, the kind of orange where you’re eating Cheetos, and you could legitimately wipe your hands on the door panel and no one would notice.
This is just the beginning of this thing’s quirks.
There are many more, of course. One is that it’s offered with a different-colored roof panel than the body. Another is that it’s offered in a robin’s egg blue color that looks so unusual and strange for a small luxury SUV (naturally, I love that color, too). There’s also the fact that Volvo ditched the traditional subwoofer in favor of one powered by air (don’t even think about asking me for specifics), which frees up enough space in the door panels for a laptop. The engine cover isn’t plastic — it’s foam. There are credit card holders in the interior, so you can just stick your credit cards inside them for safe keeping. There’s a cloth that comes with the car, designed to be used for wiping down the center screen, with directions printed on the cloth for how to operate the screen. There’s a trash can. Yes, an actual, removable trash can. There’s a grocery bag hook attached to the dashboard right above the glovebox. I could go on.
But I won’t because you can watch the video, which details all the quirks — for now, I’ll move on to the driving experience. Here’s the basic rundown: The XC40 drives very, very well. No, it isn’t fast; this isn’t a Mercedes-AMG or BMW M-tuned SUV, after all. And no, it doesn’t handle like a sports car. What I mean by "very, very well" is that it’s comfortable, you sit high up (Volvo says it has the highest ground clearance in its class), the acceleration is excellent, and the technology is great: The XC40 I drove was equipped with Volvo’s Pilot Assist feature, which steers the car for up to 13 seconds, while also accelerating or braking based on the traffic in front. It works wonderfully on the highway, especially in traffic.
Simply put, this car is filled with weird quirks, but the driving experience isn’t one of them; instead, you get the XC40 and you get some weird, funky stuff along with it, but you also get a regular, traditional small luxury SUV driving experience with no real drawbacks. It’s the perfect situation: Normal and nice on the road, funky when you look down and see the orange carpets.
As a result, I love the XC40, and I love just about everything it has to offer — from the weird quirks to the great technology to the handsome styling to the strong driving experience. If I were buying a compact luxury SUV, the XC40 is the one I’d get — probably in that robin’s egg blue color. And I’d be thrilled with the fact that my small crossover is one of few that’s truly distinctive from the pack of other small crossovers that are all starting to look roughly the same.
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