MY LIFE WITH VOLVOS & THE XC40
By Mr Rational
I woke up one fine morning and told myself I deserved a nice little petrol-powered SUV as another daily driver. A convenient excuse, I know. Nothing more than RM6,000 for monthly payments. So I went out to look at the Mazda CX30 and CX5, trying very hard to ignore their relatively anaemic engine options, having been dead spoilt by the joy of a Golf Mk6—when it did not break down. Way within my budget but they both spoke not to me. Not even a whisper that could have perhaps cajoled a test drive. If there was no jinba-iitai when I sat stationary, why should I even care for a run around the block? I came back depressed.
Why not something from Mercedes or BMW with that budget? You see, for years I had been finding the design languages of Stuttgart and Munich to be incomprehensible. There was always something that put me off at the get-go of every introduction of a new model. Both design departments have been behaving like musicians at the advent of the synthesizer for far too long. I mean, what’s the fascination with larger and larger nostrils, Munich? And one could be forgiven for thinking Stuttgart had long diversified to eye candy and bling-blings. So the Mercedes GLC300 AMG Line with 258bhp/370nm at circa RM357,000 and the BMW X3 SDrive30i M Sport with 241bhp/350nm at close to RM350,000 never made it to my still empty shortlist, and I was desperate as the tax holiday drew nearer to its end.
Ah, the new Toyota Harrier! 170hp/203nm for RM259,000. Made me even more depressed when I sat in the cabin looking at the sad state of Japanese SUV design. Say what you like but the Koreans have made far greater strides. Then the Lexus NX with 204bhp/243nm for RM371,000. Not much better than the Harrier, through my eyes. Failed to spend more than 2 minutes on their website. Depression set in again.
Then somehow I remembered my Nordic roots—I pretty much grew up with Volvos.
My commerce teacher, Mr Singam, drove a white Volvo 122 and parked it on the lawn with no one ever daring to come close to it. He was Liam Neeson in Taken.
As a child, I often puked in a Volvo 144 when my father navigated windy roads on our family road trips. My brother and I would use the rear foot wells as our playground and once figured we could possibly get into the boot from the rear seats. These are the same two boys who reckoned a sliding door should be opened from both directions and made it so, to the chagrin of their father.
Later on, the Volvo 244GL came along. From 85bhp/152nm to 110bhp/185nm in those days made a memorable upgrade. I call it memorable because of an incident involving my father jamming the brakes at full force which got my brother flying from the rear seats to the centre console, cracking the plastic façade with his forehead. We left the crack there until the day we disposed the car, probably 20 years later. My brother still made it to medical school, given that head start.
I received my first speeding ticket in a Volvo 850GLT on the day I passed my driving test. Taking it to its limit in no time with 168bhp/220nm on tap was truly worth being flagged down by the cops, although on hindsight I do not recommend any new or experienced driver to do that ever on public roads. I was young and foolish.
Fast forward to 2022 and with the tax holiday deadline looming, Volvo came into my sights. After days and nights of online research, I finally found myself sitting in a stationary 2022 Volvo XC40 AWD T5. It was undoubtedly jinba-ittai as I ran my eyes and hands all over the XC40. There was no need for a test drive. This was it, the XC40 in Black Stone. I was estatic to be back at the gates of Valhalla. The Valkyries summoned my bankers and the rest, as they say, is history. Listed at a little over RM230,000 with the tax exemption, it was an absolute steal for probably the last pure ICE vehicle Volvo will ever produce in Malaysia.
The XC40 drives like a dream. Never lethargic with your input on the pedals, loves uphill stretches and hugs bends better than the Care Bears. The steering reads the road quite nicely for you. Braking performance is better than the X3, though squeaky at times, of which you will need to watch Porsche’s little documentary on why squeaky is okay. Turning radius is excellent as with all Volvos past and present. Its handling reminds me of the Golf although the higher centre of gravity betrays the reality of its genre. Raring to go when you wind up the revs, and especially sweeter if you had told your wife you were going to check the tyres at your friendly Volvo SC last week when in fact you went for a RM5,000 Polestar engine remap that pushes maximum torque to 400nm.
A Volvo is not for those who need to compensate their ego with a badge that shouts, “Hey, I’m rich!”, if you’re buying new or, “I like people to think I’m rich”, if you’re buying used. You’re better off then with a German marque if classy minimalist design, best-in-class performance and incredible value proposition are not your criteria. The XC40 is rather like that bespectacled guy in the gym sans rippling muscles pushing the whole stack of weights while some of the cars mentioned are Dwayne Johnson wannabees who attract girls I would never have coffee with.
Don't ask me about NVH. I'm medically certified as half-deaf. If poor NVH bothers you, turn up the music volume and play those pumping bass lines with your windows down to show off the really great stock sound system that comes with the XC40, which includes a subwoofer that's installed above the centre console. I kid you not. I often find people niggling about NVH akin to cycling enthusiasts spending tons of money shaking off 20 grams from their Trek Madone 7-Diamond when they can just eat their wife's cooking and drop 2 kgs in 3 days. So please don't expect me to tell you "the cabin exhibits some 26.55Hz rumblings when the car travels over 4.967mm gravel ...". The NVH in the XC40 is good. Quite good actually. I can speak with my wife in the car without shouting. Okay?
Can it climb Genting? Hello, 253bhp/350nm, and 400nm if you went to check your tyres at the SC.
Anyway, this is not really a car review. I'm not going to bluff you with stuff I googled up. When my SC says, "Your spark plugs have failed and need to be replaced.", I'm the kind of “car enthusiast” who will ask, "What are spark plugs?". Okay, that's a myth. When you send your car to the SC because your dead spark plugs are preventing your car from starting, your SC will give you a list of things to change that will make you RM6,000 poorer, after which they may actually find the problem with the spark plugs.
My favourite part of the car? Most definitely the 19-inch rims. They are by far the most beautiful I have ever seen in my life. I plan to frame them up when the time comes. It is amazing that Volvo offers such a beauty when the rim design on every other Volvo model currently sold is downright ugly like that woman who saved up money from young to buy a diamond ring. Okay, she’s uglier.
While the XC40 gulps about 15 litres per 100km for typical town driving and has all the bells and whistles of a nice car such as ADAS and really comfy electric seats for the front, here are some stuff no proper XC40 review will tell you:
If you always da-bao assam laksa, you will be utterly amazed at what Volvo’s CleanZone air purifying technology can do. Not some hype in the brochure, you’ll see. You will usually experience the awful stale smell of whatever you brought into the car in the previous drive but you will not trace a whiff of it with CleanZone.
Many car designers don’t consider how liam your left thigh and knee can be, especially after futsal. Volvo has thoughtfully lined the left wall of the driver foot well where your thigh usually rest with felt material. This same area in my other cars are lined with disgusting sweat marks all the time so kudos to Volvo, really.
The XC40 is truly made with the Malaysian psyche in mind. Concealed hooks in all the right places to hang your kopi-o ping.
There is also a removable tong sampah in the front centre arm rest that is so nice I could not make myself put any rubbish in it.
Most, if not all of you, will be wondering if I was deranged to have chosen an XC40 over a GLC or an X3. You see, I don’t care about badges. I never buy clothings with brand names emblazoned on them. I use a cheap RM5 plastic pen instead of Mont Blancs which frankly, leaks more than it writes. I wear a G-Shock on most days. And fans of German marques will likely say the resale value of Volvos is pathetic. If you didn’t know better, resale value is a myth told to you by new car salesmen and propagated by the masses. Come face to face with a used car dealer reeking of a chimney and reality sinks in. Yes, your X5 is supposed to be worth RM200,000 after 5 years, says who? Perish the thought that Japanese or German cars have better resale value. We’re all played by the system. Don’t believe me? Bring your 5-year-old nice car to the used car dealer and he’ll mumble something about your model being problematic and very little people will want to buy it, blah, blah, blah and then suddenly your hallowed resale value flies out the window.
The XC40 is probably a car that does not usually get into most shortlists. Only when you come face to face with it that you start receiving irresistible messages in Norse Code to your head and heart. This car is really for the rational mind who appreciates quiet, understated elegance. Quite like a super nerd who’s really out of this world in bed.
I always had something that I hated about every car I’ve ever owned but for the first time in my life, I love everything about the XC40. From the choice of the system display font to the sound of how the door closes and the feeling of being like Tom Cruise in the cockpit of an F-18 whenever I start the car. Or maybe I just racun sendiri. With everything said, the Volvo XC40 AWD T5 is not a perfect car. It does not have a built-n Nespresso machine.
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