Way back in 1994 Toyota became the first vehicle manufacturer to introduce a "Light Sports Utility Vehicle" to the world in the shape of its RAV4 (Recreational Active Vehicle with four-wheel Drive) and since then several others have joined the party, with each trying to outdo the rest - and now Volvo has taken it even further by crossing a station-wagon and hatchback with an SUV and dubbing it the V40 Cross Country.
It can certainly get a move on.
The CC, as it is commonly referred to, is pitched against the likes of Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester and Mitsubishi ASX and just on looks alone the stylish Volvo spins dirt on their windscreens.
There are14 models to choose from, priced between R319,900 and R419,800. Four are oil-burners and the rest are petrol powered. There is also a choice of three engines. Only three T4 versions have manual gearboxes and the rest, including all T5 versions, offer only automatic transmissions.
Fast enough to end up having to have a quiet but costly chat to 'Your Worship'
I recently spent a few days in the company of a T5 and enjoyed its looks, confident handling and comfortable ride, all of which are better than any of its competitors.
Considering its high riding, Constantia off-roader pose, the spirited power delivery from its five-cylinder 2.5 engine comes as a pleasant surprise. It kicks out 187kW and 360Nm (from as low down as 1800 rpm) which is good enough to squirt from 0 to 100km/h in just over six seconds and from there not too much time will pass for it to reach its top speed of 210km/h and secure you a free ride in the back of a police van.
The CC is a quiet, comfortable, well-insulated cruiser that will happily accommodate four biggies and their luggage on the long run from Cape Town to the Addo Elephant Park and back.
The living quarters are comfortable, Volvo quality, with safety features galore, and seating etc fully adjustable to fit tall and graceful Penny, to short(ish) Henrie.
It also maintains composure through the corners with little tendency to lean. The steering set-up is not exactly razor sharp and the rather olde worlde wagon-sized steering wheel should really be binned for something smaller and more stylish.
The auto cog-swapping is smooth and fairly quick and is well-suited to perform under pressure and to handle slow-moving stop-start traffic. The high position of the front seating makes for good all-round vision. Volvo has always been good in the lights department and the V40 is no exception. They are particularly good on unlit country roads at night.
One size fits all... well many sizes, to fit all...
The cabin design and lay-out is both pleasing and functional and well-designed seating makes it easy to find a comfortable driving position to suit individual leg and girth sizes (of particular importance in our household where Madame is of the sky-scraper variety whereas I am of "portly short' stock).
The CC models have the same sleek appeal of the V40 sedans but with cosmetic touches of designer stubble and faded jeans to hint at its off-road prowess. Sadly I didn't have a chance to go and play in the dirt, sand and mud with the CC, but those who have done so say it is more than capable, even when the going becomes quite challenging.
To help it in the rough its ride is 40mm higher than the standard V40. It also wears bigger takkies which go well with its contrasting sills, rear bumper with an integrated skid plate, honeycomb mesh grille and upright DRL lights.
What really impressed Henrie's wife and her lady friends was the “cool” different mood light options designed to create a strangely pleasant “theatre lighting” feel.
The living quarters of this five-door five-seater are premium class and I really like the stitching on the leather seats which match the Raw Copper paintwork of the CC launch models. The leather seats come in five different options, including a two-tone alternative and even one styled as "Sporty Ruggedness".
The seating is versatile and the 40:60 splitting rear seats also have fold-away head rests. There is also an option of an "extra floor" for the load compartment and the front seat can be folded forward to accommodate long objects.
Not short on safety features
Volvo built its reputation largely on safety and the CC has a host of protection features, including 7 airbags, Hill Descent Control (on the two flagship All Wheel Drive models only) and Hill Hold.
Sadly only the two most expensive CC's come with All Wheel Drive although nice-to-haves across the range include a number of smart storage compartments for CD's, sun glasses and other smaller items; a connector for either USB/iPod or AUX, depending on which audio system is selected, a fully adjustable driver armrest and a glove compartment with "cooler" functionality.
What really impressed my wife and her lady friends was the "cool" different mood light options designed to create a strangely pleasant "theatre lighting" feel. A special red-to-blue setting can be selected to adapt the lights to the interior temperature and there are also a number of other special mood settings from which to choose.
Coming soon to a snob school near you...
The new Volvo C40 Cross Country may well have established yet another new challenge to the cross-over segment by offering the combination of station-wagon practicality, zippy hot hatch performance, classy family saloon comfort and off-road playability in an elegant and ruggedly refined manner.
Don't be surprised to see one of these V40 CC's in the near future dropping children off at the gates of a snob school on a Monday morning with two Labradors sitting in the luggage compartment and a good layer of gravel dust and dry mud splattered on the Cross Country's usually gleaming bodywork.
Make mine petrol, please
Footnote: After writing this article I also got to spend a few days in the cabin of the oil-burning D4 model which at R368,200 for the Excel specification and R382,100 for the Elite version is among the higher-priced CC's.
Purely on a personal taste basis I would usually prefer a petrol gurgler to a diesel but this D4 really impressed, particularly with its enormous low-down grunt. With all of 400Nm stepping into the action from as low down as 1,750rpm this CC pulls like a proverbial steam train. What's more it will do the mandatory 0-100km/h dash in just 8.3 seconds.
The price might be a bit steep but if you are a diesel fan, take the D4 for a spin. It could be a costly exercise because it is really one of the nicest of the CC bunch and it has a definite charm which is very difficult to resist...
The prices of all the CC's include a five-year/100,000km maintenance plan.
Volvo V40 Cross Country Exclusive | Comprehensive Review | Autocar India
Fifth Gear - Team Test - Volvo V40 (HD)
Volvo V40 Cross Country D4 - Test Drive and Review
Bizcommunity.com motoring editor Henrie Geyser () has worked as a journalist in Cape Town, London and Windhoek for the Argus Company (now Independent Newspapers) and spent 12 years at The Cape Argus in Cape Town. He then owned and ran a public relations consultancy for 13 years. He joined the online publishing industry through iafrica.com, where he worked for five years as news editor and editor. He now freelances for a variety of print and online publications, on the subjects of cars, food and travel, among others; and is a member of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists.
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