Monday, 2 September 2013

REVIEW - Volvo V40 R-Design

I reviewed the Volvo V40 earlier this year, and found it a fantastic car. In petrol SE Nav spec it scored a very respectable 46/50. After a slight delay the much-awaited R-Design was launched, and I just knew I had to give one a test. I opted for a diesel this time around, for two reasons. Firstly, I think Volvo's diesel units are some of the best out there. And secondly, I imagine it will be a more common choice from people buying a V40. So how did I get on with the R-Design? Would it surpass the petrol, and live up to my high hopes for it? Read on to find out...

Looks - 10/10

As a piece of design, the Volvo V40 is simply stunning. I scored the SE Nav a 10/10 for looks, and with the R-Design added features I could have theoretically scored it a 12/10. I was simply blown away with how great this car looked. Finished in 'Ice White' with the two-tone R-Design wheels [standard are 17-inch, but my test car had the optional 18-inch versions], it makes for a viewing pleasure. It would have also looked great in 'Rebel Blue' too, or 'Passion Red'. On the outside you get the twin exhausts and rear diffuser, silver door mirrors, full body kit and a spoiler too. Optional features include the stunning panoramic roof which adds to both the exterior and interior of the V40. I like the small details on the V40 too. Take the three washer jets, for example. and lovely shark-fin aerial. It really is a perfect package, and I found myself just looking at it sat on my drive in admiration.

On the inside things are just as perfect. The materials are all of the highest quality both visually and to touch. For the R-Design you get the blue/silver/black centre console which I really liked, and the traditional blue dials have even made an appearance to the digital dashboard of the V40 which is a nice touch. The gorgeous seats have the R-Design logo stitched into them, and all the buttons feel top quality too. Everything in the V40 is where you would expect it to be, and every button does what you expect it to do. I even like the handbrake which at first glance appears to be on the wrong side of the centre console. However, considering you don't need it when you set off- thank the hill start assist for that one- it's nice to have it a bit out of the way so you can actually have a drink in the drinks holder. The cabin of the V40 is such a lovely place to be, and the ambient lighting can also be
changed to suit your requirements.

Handling/Performance - 10/10

As mentioned earlier, I opted for a diesel. It was a 2.0-litre, 5-cylinder diesel too, which meant it had the Volvo 'warble' I've grown to love over the years. As it was a D4, there was 177PS and 440Nm of torque on tap, and that makes for a 0-62mph dash of 8.2 seconds and top speed of 137mph. Not too bad at all, and the in-gear acceleration is even better. There's always the power to overtake the car in front, and most of the time you needn't even drop a gear. The V40 pulls and pulls and pulls, in every gear, and then cruises with ease on the motorway. At 70mph the engine is barely ticking over, and at 80 doesn't even break a sweat. The diesel is quiet and refined, and has that wonderful noise when you put your foot down.

The handling of the V40 was something I was curious about. With a large diesel powerplant up front I was concerned it would become too front-heavy and this would translate into understeer and take away your confidence of being able to categorise the R-Design as the sports car it looks to be. Thankfully, the boffins at Volvo have performed some wizardry with the V40, because it was one of the sharpest, grippiest, and thrilling cars I have ever driven. I found myself taking corners I drive regularly at speeds I would never attempt, and there was still no drama. On an A-road the D4 is a dream, because there's plenty of power to pull you between the bends, and then fantastic handling to get you round them. I don't think I once found anything close to the V40's limits, and for a large diesel this is almost unheard of. The steering is perfectly weighted, the ride stiff but not uncomfortable, and the driving position perfect. The V40 fills you with confidence, and is definitely as sporty as it's looks suggest.

Economy - 10/10

The advantage of the diesel engine in the V40 is the economy. Volvo have been making their engines more efficient in recent years, and the D4 unit in my test car benefited from start/stop technology which helped to make the CO2 emissions a mere 114g/km. To put that in perspective, that's 2g/km less than the CR-Z hybrid I recently reviewed, and means road tax is a mere £30 (free first year). This makes taxing your V40 a pleasure, and if you are a business owner then you'll keep more of your hard-earned pounds in your payslip every month. Combined fuel consumption is 65.7mpg which is remarkable for a car of this size. Obviously, the way you drive will affect how close you get to that figure, but even driving it with some urgency will result in a consumption figure around the 50-mpg mark, and you can't really ask for much more than that.

Practicality - 10/10

The V40 can add practicality to the list of things it does exceptionally well. For starters, the cabin is generously spacious for all passengers, and in particular the rear passengers will experience superb comfort. The boot is rather generous, too. As mentioned earlier the driving position is perfect, and the car is as relaxing to drive as a mug of Horlicks. It won't actually put you to sleep of course, but it will ensure you arrive at your destination free of stress and fatigue. To live with the V40 was a dream, and that was just for a week. Over a longer period I would imagine you'd grow to love the V40 even more.

There is also a wide range of technology, and various options available with the aim of making life behind the wheel even more effortless. My test car was even able to parallel park itself, which-despite my initial pessimism- proved to be rather impressive. It also had blind spot warnings, radar guided cruise control, lane departure warning, bluetooth, memory drivers seat and the panoramic roof which has an electronically-operated blind on it. To be perfectly honest the V40 would be great without any of these gadgets, but if any of them take your fancy then go for it!

Fun - 10/10

I have always said the greatest feature a car can have is the ability to put a smile on your face. It doesn't matter how the car does this, but any that does is good. The V40 manages this in so many different ways it isn't even possible to score it less than perfect, and in case you haven't noticed that theme has been recurring throughout the review. Every time you see it parked up, you get the satisfaction of knowing you can get in it and go for a drive, and you'll find yourself wearing a smug smile. Once you get inside and set off on the drive, you'll be beaming from ear to ear, and pretty soon your face hurts. And the best thing I found was when people ask what you drive, and you say "Volvo" the look on their face will be one of "Should have got a BMW... blah blah..." and that will make you smug once more, because their narrow-mindedness means then won't even begin to understand just how good the V40 is. And it will make you want to punch the air with joy when the same person joins you on a drive and suddenly goes rather quiet.

Concluding Remarks

So, for only the second time in as many years, a car has achieved a perfect score of 50 for review. It's a score saved only for the best of the best, and should give you an indication of just how good the V40 is. I really urge each and every one of you to go out and have a look at one. If you want a more rural model, got for the V40 Cross Country. If you want the sportier version, go for the R-Design, or if you fancy something else, go for any model in the range. There's a host of petrol and diesel engines to choose from, and enough options to boggle your mind. So how best to sign off this review? Well, that's easy. The V40 R-Design- driving perfection. 'Nuff said.

Total Score - 50/50

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