A trip to the Midwest as winter settles in requires a vehicle that can handle all that cold weather intends to dish out. That’s why we were so pleased to be partnered with the 2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Inscription for a recent trip between Chicago and Indianapolis, the latter site of the annual Performance Racing Industry (PRI) trade show.
The PRI show is an annual necessity for this writer/photographer, as motorsports entities gather to show off new products, introduce new partners and simply celebrate the close of another year of racing activity, whether on dirt or paved circuits.
It’s a three-hour trip each way from Chicago to Indy, more than sufficient time to get to know a vehicle. During the stay in Indy, this Volvo remained inactive and we used alternate ways to get to the city’s close-in convention center. So the long rides were our sole opportunity to get to know one another.
The XC40 is Volvo’s smallest cross-over vehicle (CUV). In T5 AWD Inscription get-up it’s also the top of the model lineup. Stubbier than either the XC60 or XC90, XC40 retains the Volvo grille and vertically articulated rear lamps that allow most anyone to recognize its lineage. There are so many CUVs available today’ it’s quite nice that Volvo continues to show personality and somewhat quirky styling on its exterior.
Under the hood lies a turbocharged, inline four-cylinder 2L direct injection engine with 248 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque at 1,800. Redline is 6,000 rpm. An 8-speed Geartronic automatic transmission with start/stop gets the XC40 up to speed precisely and there are three driving modes from which to choose: comfort, eco and dynamic, along with dynamic chassis settings. The tach layout changes for eco mode, removing the tachometer to favor ecological displays.
Steering is by an electric power unit that feels precise to the touch and truly responsive; MacPherson strut and multi-link suspensions are fully independent, while this model has all-wheel-drive with instant traction, nice in the Midwest winter (we escaped snow but not cold). Michelin 235/50R all-season rubber is fitted on 19-inch twinned, five-spoke black and polished alloy rims that aesthetically matched the Denim Blue metallic exterior.
Volvo did a great job on the interior of this CUV and, for 2020 there are upgrades from last year’s model. Like every other 2020 Volvo, all XC40s have a standard 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster together with the vertical infotainment screen at the center of the cabin, which has multiple posits one can swipe through. The near-white interior is lovely but does attract dirt; near-white carpeting in the door well panels is likely to get filthy quickly, even as it houses cup holders (there are two more at the central tunnel).
Navigation is standard on this vehicle, which has a starting price of $36,695 including destination fees. There are a ton of options fitted to this 2020 Volvo SC40 T5 AWD Inscription that heighten the cost to $47,395.
The $6,750 Inscription features include two-zone climate control, eight-way power lumbar front seats with dual memories for the driver, auto dimming interior and exterior mirrors, blind spot monitoring, steering assist and cross-traffic alert with auto brake, bright integrated roof rails, lovely, light-colored driftwood inlays about the cabin, dual bright tailpipes, front and rear park assist, a great hidden storage compartment under the driver’s seat, Homelink and compass in the rearview mirror, a special Inscription front grille and embossing on the C-pillar, high level interior illumination, keyless entry with hands-free power liftgate, a fabulous laminated panoramic moonroof with power sunshade (the roof tilts but does not slide), LED front fog lights, manual driver and passenger seat extensions, metal front tread plates, metallic paint, an Orrefors crystal gear-shift knob, power folding headrests, power retractable outside mirrors, a removable, folding load cargo floor with grocery bag holders and the Sensus navigation program, stainless steel cargo scuff plate and helpful wireless charging pad.
But wait – there’s more. Volvo charges $1,400 for its advanced package of headlight cleaning system, pilot assist (a driver assistance system that works with the adaptive cruise control), 360-degree surround-view camera and fully active bending LED headlights. The wonderful heated front seats and heated steering wheel carry a $750 fee, while the park assist pilot costs $200. There’s an $800 charge for the upgraded alloy rims and tires (from 18″ standard) and $800 for the orchestral 600-watt Harman Kardon premium audio.
That’s a lot of stuff for the money and, with all of it integrated, the result is a very fine driving experience. It was strange, at first, negotiating the glass shifter as gears are selected by ratcheting fore and aft. Park has a separate button and the driver can select manual; there are no paddle shifters. It felt like all the elegance was integral on this Volvo; nearly all of the options, save for the pilot assist, felt natural. When activated the pilot assist allows hands- and foot-free driving using the adaptive cruise control. We’re not quite ready for that experience.
Mileage is pretty darn good for this 3,805-pound five-passenger CUV. Rated at 22/30/25mpg and requiring premium fuel in the 14.2-gallon tank, the 2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Inscription did better than that, having been through its break-in period and having more than 6,500 miles on the odometer. As usual, we rushed down to Indy and mileage was a hair over 25mpg, but on the rebound, with a single refill our mileage edged closer to the 28-mpg level. BTW, there is no fuel filler cap to lose.
In order to use the available Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, one must use the cables provided in the central, closed storage area; there are a pair of USB outlets at the base of the central stack, together with the wireless charging pad, which is a win-win situation. The slightly leftward-leaning infotainment center, Volvo’s Sensus Connect, is a bright, nine-inch touchscreen. It controls just about everything except the gearshift and, while the menus are arranged pretty sensibly, the small touchscreen icons aren’t intuitive to use over the road. Syncing the phone, thankfully, was a simple affair.
It was easy to hide all our travel necessities under the hands-free rear hatch, which has a suitable cover. The 20.7-cubic-foot storage area at the rear can extend to 65.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded via the 60/40 split. The hatch is accommodating, beautifully finished and able to hold well more stuff than we were able to accumulate during this short trip. Rear seat passengers, in addition to having air flow, can use a single 12-volt plug installed for the purpose of activating their technology.
This trip was too quick to truly get acclimated to the 2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Inscription, but the short time we spent together was terrific. Volvo’s smallest CUV has many competitors in the US marketplace but few have the elegance, performance and individuality one finds in this Volvo. We’d like to spend a lot more time driving an XC40 – maybe Volvo will allow us that pleasure?
By Anne Proffit