CAPE TOWN – Volvo has long been admired as a pioneer of automotive safety, producing stout, sturdy motor vehicles. The 240, for example, is widely considered to be one of the most reliable cars ever built, with some examples racking up mileages in excess of 1 million kilometres. Very impressive, but those longing for a bit more excitement in their European sedan went to Alfa Romeo or BMW instead.
That all changed in the mid-nineties, with the introduction of the T-5R. Marketed as a limited edition model of the 850 executive saloon, this seemingly innocent Volvo packed a meaty 181 kW and 340 N.m of torque under its square bonnet, giving the civilised Volvo performance to snap at the heels of a BMW 540i.
Since then, the T5 badge has become synonymous with a quick Volvo, the subtle two-letter badge enough warning for many a hot hatch driver. Of course, the “5” denoted how many cylinders were under the bonnet, with the C30 and second-gen S40 T5 remembered fondly by enthusiasts, utilising the same five-pot as Ford’s Mk2 Focus ST.
While bigger Volvo models are available with the T6 and T8 engine option, the top-of-the-range XC40 is equipped with the T5 engine. No longer denoting a five-cylinder engine, the T5 badge now means the XC40 is fitted with a 2,0-litre turbopetrol that sends 185 kW and 350 N.m of torque to all four wheels, via an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Despite the lack of a five-cylinder soundtrack, the XC40 T5 travels rather quickly for a 1 738 kg SUV. On our test strip, it dealt with the 0 to 100 km/h sprint in 7,78 seconds. Not blistering, but pretty brisk. More impressive is the broad rev range in which the maximum amount of torque is delivered; all 350 N.m of torque is available between 1 800 and 4 800 r/min, making for fuss-free overtaking.
So, like its forefathers, this T5-badged Volvo is rather lively when pushed. Even so, the XC40 is no one-trick pony, offering superb levels of comfort. The seats, for example, are very supportive and offer a number of electric adjustments to allow you to dial in your ideal driving position. Despite the seemingly compact exterior dimensions, the baby XC offers up a decent amount of leg- and headroom in the rear. Measuring 320 litres, the boot is practically sized and extends to a cavernous 1 168 litres with the rear seats folded down.
Overall, the interior is a very pleasant and luxurious place to spend your time. Unlike many of its competitors, the XC40 approaches luxury from a minimalistic perspective, doing away with many physical buttons in favour of a touchscreen. The Volvo Sensus Connect infotainment system houses many of the functions, such as the climate control, driver-assistance systems and media options. While the cabin is clutter-free, the touchscreen does take some getting used to. The simple act of adjusting the temperature or fan speed requires a dive into the infotainment system. This is distracting and not nearly as user-friendly as physical climate controls.
Aside from that, the cabin feels solidly constructed, with soft-touch materials in abundance. The switchgear that remains feels nicely damped and is a joy to use, with simple tasks such as turning the volume down being a treat for the senses.
The ultimate treat, however, is in the way the XC40 T5 drives. Mimicking its bigger brothers, the XC40 displays exceptional road manners. It rides well, even with the larger 20-inch alloy wheels fitted. It’s not perfect, the suspension at times being caught out by ridges in the roadway. In the heart of winter, Cape Town’s wet roads are no match for the four-wheel drive Volvo. Through bends, the premium SUV inspires confidence, providing high levels of grip and remaining composed and sure-footed.
Overall, the XC40 T5 pays honour to the badge affixed to its rear. Not only is it a classy-looking small SUV, it manages to be comfortable and entertaining to drive, while offering one of the best interiors in its class. Still, we are left wondering whether there is more value lower down the range, with the T3 and D4 derivatives. While the aforementioned models make more financial sense, the T5 R-Design could be a compelling purchase for the individual who requires their premium midsize SUV to have both a bit of badge cred and some straight-line poke.
FAST FACTSModel: Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
Price: R736 450
Engine: 2,0-litre, four-cylinder, turbopetrol
Power: 185 kW @ 5 500 r/min
Torque: 350 N.m @ 1 800 - 4 800 r/min
0-100 km/h: 7,78 seconds (tested)
Top Speed: 230 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 7,70 litres/100 km (claimed)
CO2: 164 g/km
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Maintenance Plan: five-year/100 000 km