DETROIT — The 2019 Volvo XC40 is arguably the best small luxury sport utility on the planet but it is has one huge challenge: there aren’t enough of them to meet demand.
Volvo execs underestimated the take rate on a new XC40 subscription program, which is a sophisticated lease, and that has left dealership showrooms bare. As soon as an XC40 comes in, it goes right back out the door.
I had a 2019 XC40 Momentum which came in Amazon Blue with a white contrast roof (two-tone) and a guy in my fitness club raved about it. He loved the color, the look and the exclusivity. He said he hadn’t seen one anywhere in the city.
I test-drove the 2019 XC40 T5 which was all-wheel-drive; it had a 2.0-liter four cylinder engine that made 248 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque at 1,800 rpm. It was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
It had an EPA rating of 23 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined.
Although it may seem like a misapplication, this was a driver’s car, uh utility vehicle. The seating position seemed a bit higher than the usual for a small SUV and that gave me a more dominant view of the road and made me feel more secure than normal.
But one sight line was an area that I quibbled about. The B pillar was really wide from the inside. That obstructed me seeing what was coming from the rear right side when pulling out into traffic. I had to adjust my head or my seating position to see. It was something to get used to.
The XC40 was extremely quick. Acceleration onto local expressways was effortless. I could get up to 70 or 80 mph before I knew it. It had a zero to 60 mph time of 6.1 seconds. That’s quick for any kind of motor vehicle.
Handling was great. There were four drive modes: comfort, dynamic, eco and individual. It was on comfort when they delivered the XC40 and except for a short shift to dynamic I left it there. And I didn’t even bother with setting the power steering assistance. There were three levels.
The front suspension was a McPherson strut set up. In the rear there was a multi-link axle. Both designs saved space as well as weight and enhanced handling. I found the XC40 T5 AWD to be nimble and very maneuverable. I had to make a tight U-turn and did so easily.
From a consumer standpoint, the XC40 was about as good as you can get. It had a stop start system that was so smooth and quiet, in other words unobtrusive, that I never turned it off. That’s rare for me.
It also had keyless lock and unlock on all four doors. That’s a feature usually reserved for top level luxury vehicles. I had heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and a power lift gate.
There was blind side alert, a high definition rearview camera with cross traffic alert, wireless phone charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio, Bluetooth and voice controls.
The all-wheel-drive system sent all of the XC40’s torque to the front wheels on dry pavement. When it got slippery, which was never did during the test drive, up to half of the torque could be sent to the rear wheels. From a standstill, all-wheel-drive was utilized from launch for better grip.
The interior was spacious. Engineers developed air woofers and embedded them in the dash just below the windshield rather than in the front doors. That let them carve out the door panels for much larger storage bins. They also created concave patterned aluminum trim inlays for the dash and the doors.
The power lift gate had hands-free opening. It had a really low lift over for getting packages in and out easily. The rear headrest could be flipped forward and it allowed the formation of flat cargo floor.
The XC40 had Volvo’s 12.3 inch digital instrument display screen with navigation. In other words, it will display the navigation route in front of the driver. I won’t say pleased but it was interesting that there were four ways to tell me either how fast I was going and or when I was speeding.
With each Volvo test drive I’m getting more and more comfortable with the 9-inch touch screen or what’s known as the infotainment screen. You can swipe it just like an iPad or iPhone and all of the controls are there and can be turned on or off. No looking at a bunch of buttons or having to go through lists; all of which will take your concentration from the road.
The concave feature of the interior was taken from the XC40’s grille. It is a hallmark of Volvo and no matter what form it takes the Iron Mark grille is a Volvo hallmark. There was a clam shell hood, under-wrapped doors with scallops along the bottom and hidden tailpipes.
And there were what Volvo calls Thor’s Hammer LED headlamps and LED fog lights. There were 19-inch white alloy wheels that I didn’t like at first. They sort of looked like spinning propellers. But after a couple of days I could not imagine this Amazon Blue sport utility without them. There was also a laminated retractable panoramic roof.
The XC40 had fulling braking capability to keep from colliding with other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, large animals and oncoming lane mitigation.
The base price for my test vehicle was $35,200. But prices climbed with the $1,400 premium package. It included Pilot Assist, a driver’s aid that assists with steering, acceleration and braking. It is a hands-on-the-wheel semiautonomous driving system where the driver is responsible for monitoring the road conditions and reacting if necessary. It works on highways and at speeds up to 80 MPH, no longer requiring a car in front of it to follow. Volvo said the system is best used to reduce the stress drivers often report in stop-and-go commuter traffic.
There was also a $1,100 Vision Package that included the blind side alert, cross traffic alert, park assists, front and rear parking sensors, folding sideview mirrors and automatic dimming mirrors.
The $995 Advance Package featured the 360 degree surround view camera. LED fog lights with cornering function, adaptive LED headlights and headlight cleaning system are also included in the package.
The $1,375 multimedia package was a premium 13-speaker audio system and the navigation system.
There were five stand-alone options. The heated front seats and steering wheel were $750 and the panoramic roof was $1,200. Other stand-alone options were the white roof, the 19-inch wheels and a charcoal headliner. Add a $995 freight charge and the total came to $44,315.
What caused the supply challenge was or is Volvo Care. A consumer can find it on Volvo’s Web site and as the automaker says Click, Subscribe & Drive. In short, two XC40 models qualified: The XC40 T5 AWD Momentum is $600 per month and the XC R-Design is $700 per month. That was the cost at launch earlier this year.
It is a two year flat rate deal. After 12 months, you can upgrade to another Volvo in the program. There are no down payments, no maintenance costs and no insurance costs; all that is covered by the monthly fee. There is 24/7 customer care, concierge services including road side assistance.
There is an annual 15,000 mile allowance and coverage for wheel damage, wear and tear replacements including wipers and brakes. All of its factory maintenance is included in the package.
Care by Volvo customers will be covered under a premium personal auto insurance policy issued by Liberty Mutual. The cost of insurance is part of the subscription price and provides customers $250,000 injury protection per person and $500,000 injury coverage per accident with a $500 deductible.
And this deal can be done on the Web. A Volvo executive recently said the automaker has taken steps to dedicate more production capacity to the XC40 and he said more should be reaching these shores by January.
This is the kind of challenge the manufacturer of anything wants but I’m sure Volvo doesn’t want this shortage to last too long. Meanwhile, the automaker continues to up production of its top notch 2019 XC40.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.