For the longest time now, Volvo has singularly been juxtaposed against the German big three and it’s always managed to hold its own. You’d think it’d be hopelessly outgunned in the battle of superlatives that are par for the course with premium European cars, but somehow it never is. No it’s not a part of the cheerleading squad; it’s the quiet girl by the bookshelves – layered, inventive and infinitely more engaging. Ever the advocate for sensible, book-friendly people, I’ve always loved Volvos. Not just because they’re all about being safe and sensible – a lot of that is marketing drivel, but because they’re so understatedly pretty and because it takes a more practised eye to truly understand their appeal. Which is why I quite fancy the V40. Just the V40, thanks. All the cladding that comes with the V40 Cross Country is very un-Volvo.
I particularly like the new V40 R-design that was recently launched in India along with a base Kinetic model (which happens to be the most affordable Volvo in the country). The V40 R-Design reeks of the Swedish beauty gene. It’s lithe, agile and in Polestar blue, quite striking. A long, swooping bonnet with slender A-pillars and large overhangs followed by a broad muscular rear; it passes the whole ‘looks fast even when it’s still’ test with even the most casual glance.
The V40 R-Design gets the same D3 four-cylinder diesel engine as the Cross Country. The 2.0 litre turbodiesel makes 147 bhp along with 32 kgm of torque. Entering the cockpit is a more novel experience given the sportscar-like low stance of the car. It’s a sturdy, well-insulated cabin that surrounds you with all-black leathers and a very sporty instrument cluster. The multi-media unit might be a bit small, but this is a well-equipped, ergonomic centre console. Absolutely nothing in the cabin is low on quality.
The car moves ahead with remarkable urgency but the initial bit of turbo-lag makes it all a bit non-linear. Make no mistake, it’s quicker than all of its contemporaries in India, higher on torque and power as well. It packs the same 6-speed automatic transmission as the Cross Country, which, when slotted into ‘S’ mode allows the engine to rev all the way to 5000 before shifting up. It’s got a meaty mid-range, best experienced in the manual mode, which admittedly isn’t as slick during downshifts as its rivals but still manages to be rewarding enough.
The suspension setup is on the stiffer side, so it makes the car incredibly poised around corners with its wide rear tyres making it immensely tractable, despite the long wheelbase. It’s a big, imposing car – longer or as long in profile as some mid-size sedans, however the visibility up front is quite good, even though you’re placed rather low – an attribute that unsettles most drivers in India for some reason. The view at the back is quite restricted thanks to those muscular C-pillars, but hey it looks really good, so you’ll just have to rely heavily on those OVRMs.
Since Volvo was quick to grasp the idea that we’re all just a perishable, pulpy mass of organs with a flimsy crust, both the models come with 8-airbags, traction control and ESP as standard. This makes the V40 the first in its segment to pack a pedestrian airbag. The base Kinetic version costs Rs 24.75 lakh (ex-Delhi) while the R-Design which gets a panoramic glass roof, sharper alloys etc costs Rs 27.7 lakh.
It’s a refreshingly wholesome car, this. What’s most likeable about the V40 is that it’s a bit more of everything. It’s resolutely premium, efficient, protective and fast while being priced rather competitively. It’s all things Volvo. There’s a petrol model that’s supposedly on its way. Here’s me rubbing my palms with glee.