2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design – Bottom Line Review

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design: 21st century Nordic luxury Thor's Hammer design meets Millennial active personal ute expectations, with a $37k starting MSRP

(Contributing Editor: Susan Frissell)

Swedish Fish are a colorful fun candy goodwill ambassador from a land whose rugged landscape is less than colorful but begs adventurous exploration. Examining the piscine shape, then biting into starch gummy texture rewarded by a fruity sweet rather than a pickled herring flavor is a youthful pleasure.

With no kettle of boiling fish and potatoes upscent and a colorful Lava Orange cabin in sight, Roadblazing.com was set to feast on the all new 2019 Volvo XC40 cute ute sports activity vehicle from the Swedish carmaker.

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WHAT: 2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design subcompact sport activity vehicle, on the Swedish automaker’s Scalable Product Architecture.

Standard Power (T5): transverse intercooled turbocharged 2.0L DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 = 250 hp/ 258 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm + 8-spd. torque converter planetary transmission w/ shift paddles +  Haldex IV all-wheel drive.

Front-wheel drive exclusive XC40 T4 = detuned 187 hp/ 221 lb-ft powerplant

(A) STYLING (DIFFERENCE): At least a galaxy away from the last sensuously stodgy 40-Series sub-compact Volvo sedan offered in the U.S.

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design: Thor’s Hammer LEDs alter from white DRLs to amber directionals

Cues in Baby Bear’s genes inherited from Mama Bear XC60 and Papa Bear XC90 Low slung hood pours over into fender, w/ wider split twin side valleys;  Defined muscle = pronounced mid fascia and fully scooped coke bottle door cheatline;  R-Design rugged = Darkened grate version of wide hexagonal grille matching contrasting  dark roof, pillars, full lower body cladding; Inboard arrow shaped slim wrap-around LED headlamps; “Thor’s Hammer” alternating white DRLs/ amber flashers;

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design: LED “Thor’s Hammer” alternates from white DRL to amber directionals as wing mirrors fold upon comfort access lock / unlock

 Dark contrast roof spills partly into C-pillar, delineated by exagerrated Hoffmeister kink,

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design: Two tones of Crystal White Metallic and darkened spill-over roof = floating roof.

 Deep liftgate adopts cheatline Kammback bulge;  Trademark long “S” LED tail-lamps follow from the roof spoiler down to the mid tailgate cheatline, wrapping into the rear quarters;  Slightly beveled part dark clad svelte bumper cover carries license plate in octagonal bezel; Sizeable hockey stick shaped lower corner reflectors; are followed, by twin chrome tetrahedral exhaust outlets.

Summed-up: Lithest of Volvo SUVs also looks meanest.

WHY: Whole lotta’ personality and ute from a compact Volvo

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Spring 2018

WHERE: Volvo new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Ghent, Belgium

WHERE TO: standard (in U.S.) Haldex all-wheel drive, e-varies front/ rear traction from 90/ 10% – lockable at maximum 50/50%, rear e-clutch differential limits the slip; Selectable and Driver customizable Off-Road modes aided by ABS descent control; 8″ clearance = Inclement weather beater & light off-roader;

HOW ROADWORTHY: Long pedal travel to reach meat of waste gate driven variable scroll intercooled turbocharged boost is tantamount to “turbo lag;” Thereafter the 8-speed Aisin automatic seems bent on smooth B-lines to the higher (read most efficient) gears.

-1 Joystick toggle center console transmission position shifter frustrates attempts at quick getaways from Park: Not that remembering to depress the separate console flush mount P button when parking is any easier. Such efforts generate a stern “Depress brake pedal before shifting,” warning in the gauge cluster.

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design: Toggle joystick style transmission shifter & console Park switch frustrates; Lower center stack wireless device storage accomodates

Quick Haldex IV grants some understeer , then intervening with a maximum 90% torque split the rear open differential with ABS vectoring; Fish Splashing: powerplant noises = guppy mating calls

Compliance = just this side of acceptable for a luxury cute ute;  Slightly stiffer R-Design damping & immense 20″-inch wheels emphasize more road imperfections; High center of gravity + short wheelbase emit greater sense of sway, while inert steering feel hampers turn-in sharpeness; The stiff structure can’t be faulted;

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design: $800 1″-inch “upgrade” to 20″ alloy wheels makes a taut independent suspension overly so, w/o improving steering feel

Utterly reliable Pilot Assist 2 semi-autonomous Level 2 driving, offers competent lane control even on freeway bends; Brake pedal effort seems wooden but slows impressively; -1 Low speed steering squeak

HOW FAR: 24 combined miles per gallon; 430 highway miles

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: 5 Occupant 2+3 seating

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design: 60/40% reclining, split folding rear seat backs w/ power under-hatch release

For Comparison’s Sake:

  • 106.4″-inch Wheelbase: 1.3″ > BMW X1, 3.0″ < Cadillac XT4
  • Maximum cargo capacity: 18% < BMW X1, 8% < Infiniti QX30
  • 2nd Row legroom: 3.4″ > Cadillac XT4, 1.0″ < Jaguar E-Pace, 0.9″ < BMW X1

HOW USEFUL: 60/40% split sliding 2nd Row cushions;  2nd Row reclining & flat fold seat backs; Remote 2nd Row power seatback release; 2nd Row center pass through;

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design: Accessing 2nd Row cargo pass-through means having to raise the center head-rest

Cargo area 12V outlet;  Power liftgate;   Folding & tethering cargo floor; Sub-cargo floor storage; +1 Ample bottom center stack wireless device bin;  Sub-front seat storage;  Deep, carpet-lined front + rear door pockets;  2nd Row side pockets; -1 Low end of class cargo capacity; -1 Thick rear pillars and small backlight make optional surround view cameras nearly imperative; Tow Rating: 5000 lbs.

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design: Cargo load floor jackknifes revealing subfloor and donut spare cover

1 No overhead console retracting sunglass bin; -1 Distant reach to & smaller glove box;

HOW SAFE: 7 airbags; Surround camera view; sonar front & rear Park Distance Control, Blind spot, rear cross traffic & lane departure warning, Auto parking brake hold; City Safety pedestrian avoidance; Auto high beam headlamps; Power 2nd Row door child locks

Partial Autonomous Driving: Pilot Assist 2; Full-adaptive cruise control; Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision avoidance braking; Active Park Assist; +1 Permits 23 seconds of hands/ foot free driving.

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design: Rear cross traffic warning, blind spot warning

Park Assist Pilot: Parallel and back-in perpendicular parking seems space locating challenged.

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design: Park Pilot assist achieved less than centered perpendicular back-in

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Supportive, 8-way power driver/ 4-way power front passenger seats, manual knee extenders, 2-setting driver’s memory; Power windows w/ full express x 4; 2-Zone auto climate control w/ auto front seat, steering wheel heating; 2nd Row privacy glass; Power retracting rear headrests; Door puddle lamps x 4; Panoramic power moon-roof;

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design: Nappa leather & nubuck cover the 8-way power heated driver’s, 4-way front pax sport seats, w/ pull-out knee extensions

Cool Gizmo(s): 12.3″-inch LCD Digital Driver Display w/ configurable LCD twin gauges Waterproof center console retracting cover trash bin;

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design: voice commanded GPS HDD native navigation features redundant gauge cluster map w/ turn auto-zoom & Pro Pilot 2 adaptive cruise control + lane keep steer assist indicators

Details Done Right:  Lava orange carpet = mimicked in door panel & pocket felt;  Aluminum steering wheel, vent, door handle, display bezels & rotary knobs;   “Cutting Edge” hyphen aluminum dash & door inlays;  Contrast stitched, perforated Nappa leather + nubuck seating; Dashboard & door panel & footwell ambient LEDs; Hood mount hanging Swedish flag.

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design: 13 speaker, 600 Watt Harman Kardon Q-logic audio

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Ordinary plastic keyless push start & drive modes switches replace XC90 hammered metal barrels; Un-lined center armrest storage bin & glovebox; Uneven glovebox door gap.

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: 9″ vertical tablet, pane-swipe, touch LCD infotainment screen, Touch script text entry; Rotary audio volume dial, selection, defroster & Home screen switches ; Voice recognition command hands-free communications w/ SMS, MMS, Email; 3-D HDD GPS navigation; Subscription based Sirius XM radio & TravelLink; Android Auto + Apple CarPlay; Sensus Connected Apps = Pandora, Google Destination, Weather, Park & Pay, Spotify, TuneIn, Yelp, Glympse, Voice record; Qi Wireless Charging; 12V x 3; USB x 1.

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design: Swipe right on the 9″ Sensus LCD infotainment display for system settings; Swipe left for apps

Audibly: 13 speaker, 600 W Harman Kardon Q-Logic = boomy bass notes bias

By Subscription: SiriusXM ( 90 days incl.);  4G LTE by Verizon;

HOW MUCH: $45,935 = as tested 2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design; $800/ mo. Care By Volvo subscription ownership

WHAT’S MISSING:  Conventional gated transmission position selector; heated rear seats

ANY COMPETITION: BMW X1: +1 engine response, handling, cabin IT; Cadillac XT4: +1 2nd Row space; Infiniti QX50: +1 Sublime cabin design; Jaguar E-Pace: +1 Cachet, available diesel; Lexus NX 300; +1 Syrupy ride

FINAL WORD: Lingonberry tangy, luxury urban handsome ute


An automotive enthusiast since an orange toy VW Beetle ended up in his playpen and following him everywhere, George Straton has been chief editor at ChicagoNow.com/Drive-He-Said automotive lifestyle blog since 2010. In 2017 George established Roadblazing.com, dedicated to accurate automotive reviews, news and road trip stories. George is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Phoenix Automotive Press Association. George also happens to be an attorney and Loyola University of Chicago Ramblers fan. Present ride: 2022 Mazda 3 Turbo AWD Hatchback.


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