Volvo South Africa is gearing up to launch its V40 Cross Country locally in March. As a novel means of creating some pre-launch excitement for the vehicle, Volvo took a handful of journalist to Sweden so that we could get a feel for the car… on ice.
Having already been taken in by the stylish look of the standard V40, it has to be said that in Cross Country guise the V40 looks even better. Among the most striking of this model’s visual cues are a ride height raised by 40 mm, a more aggressively styled front end, chunky body cladding, roof rails, LED daytime running lights and a honeycomb mesh grille. The interior isn’t vastly different from that of the standard V40. The V40 Cross Country features additional chrome trim and “mood lighting” that adjusts from red to blue, depending on the interior temperature. Alternatively, the driver can choose from other light- and digital display-related mood themes.
In all honesty, this “driving impression” isn’t going to give you a very good idea of what to expect road manners-wise when the V40 Cross Country is launched locally. But it did give us a good opportunity to get a feel for the car’s handling characteristics, as well as getting the measure of its AWD system.
We were given the keys to the range-topping T5 petrol model that draws its power from a 2,5-litre unit that develops 187 kW and 400 N.m of torque. On paper, the T5 boasts impressive credentials with a claimed zero to 100 km/h sprint time of 6,4 seconds. There was never really the chance to get a feel for this model’s on-road driving capabilities, but from what I could gather after my brief stint on the slippery Swedish roads, the engine’s power delivery is smooth and gear changes from the six-speed automatic are quick and well matched to the engine’s characteristics.
Having never done anything like it before, it’s fair to say that I was nervous about the ice driving and I didn’t know exactly what to expect. There were two track layouts for us to conquer on the day and each one highlighted different aspects of the V40 dynamic repertoire. Slipping and sliding was inevitable, but as soon as I thought I was losing the car, I got off the throttle, let the traction control do its thing (thankfully, it’s a system that is unobtrusive and doesn’t make you feel “nannied”) and waited for the front end to grip before powering out of the corner again. The power kicks in almost instantly and you have to be careful not to push the throttle too deep into the corner you’re currently tackling because the next bend is on you in a flash and before you know it, you have to jump on the hard-biting brakes and make good use of the electric power steering and to get the car sideways around the bend. This was especially the case when the car was switched into its more aggressive Sport setting, which allows for a more playful rear end and less intervention from the traction control system.
Every now and then, I ran out of talent and realised that barreling too quickly into a corner turned the V40 into an impromptu snow plough. Thankfully, the V40’s AWD system managed to extract the car from the snow and back onto the track… most of the time. Other times, the V40 had to be hooked up to a V60 and towed out of the snow bank. Even so, it was a ton of fun.
With all that snow and ice and tyres suited to those conditions, it’s difficult to tell just how the V40 will acquit itself on South African roads. But it’s safe to say that Volvo has managed to do away with the notion that its cars can’t be fun and good looking. In my opinion, the Cross Country, with its more rugged and adventurous appearance, is better looking than the standard V40 and quite a fun car to drive… on ice and in snow, at least.