Since it bought Volvo in 2010, China's Geely conglomerate has spent $12 billion on assorted accessories that the Swedish automaker could wear to The Profit Prom.
These include a new assembly plant near Charleston, S.C., fresh engines and platforms, and a bevy of new models, the latest of which is the 2019 Volvo XC40.
The XC40 is Volvo's third SUV and its smallest. It is also the company's first venture into the compact crossover segment, the U.S. market's fastest-growing species.
From its snazzy design and two-tone paint jobs to a no-hassle subscription plan that lets you sign up for the car on the internet, this all-new machine seems determined to shed Volvo's practical professor image and embrace Gen Y.
The new Volvo, which I drove in two forms during a recent press introduction, proved more than just a pretty face and a shot at a plan that covers everything from the car's cost to insurance for 24 months for as little as $600 a month. It also proved solid, quiet, and lively; had nice handling; and was just a pleasure to drive.
The XC40 is the first Volvo to be built on its new small-car platform called Compact Modular Architecture, which will be used on subsequent 40 Series cars. It is also employed in a crossover fielded by Geely's premium Chinese brand, Lynk & Co. Indeed, the savings contributed by that sharing help keep costs down for the XC40, which provides a lot of standard gear for the price.
The price starts at $32,500 for the front-drive XC40 T4, and at $35,200 for the all-wheel-drive T5. The T4 won't be in showrooms until this summer. As a result, the T5, which will be available in late March, was the model I drove at Volvo's show-and-tell.
There are two significant mechanical differences between the T4 and T5. First, of course, is the T5's all-wheel-drive system, which functions essentially as a front-driver on dry pavement, then transfers up to 50 percent of the engine's power to the rear wheels when surfaces get dicier or aggressive acceleration is in order.
The other difference is engine power. Both models utilize a two-liter, turbocharged four. But the turbo in the T5 is a brawnier boy that engenders 20 pounds of boost instead of the T4's 14.3. The result is 248 horsepower and 258 pounds/feet of torque instead of the T4's 187 horses and 221 pounds/feet of torque. I don't know what the later-arriving T4's 0-to-60 times will be, but it's not going to be close to the T5's snappy 6.2 seconds.
Because it would be more fun and better in the snow and ice, I think the all-wheel-drive T5 would be worth the extra $3,000 for a lot of Philadelphians.
I tested the T5 Momentum ($32,500) and the sportier T5 R-Design ($37,700). Both were as well-appointed as they were quiet and comfortable. The R-Design, with its firmer damping and spring rates, cornered a bit more adroitly, and looked the playful part with its blacked-out roof, grille, and mirrors.
In addition to its good looks and roominess, the T5's interior evinced a concerted effort to maximize storage space and minimize clutter. As design manager Anders Gunnarson put it, "We carved out as much space as we could for storage." An example: By relocating the speakers in the door panels, the designers were able to create huge storage bins.