At last, a chance to try our Volvo XC40 in the snow
A rare snow-day in the UK, and a chance to see how the XC40 handles the white stuff.
And I’m delighted to report the XC40 copes with every assignment Britain’s snow-clouds can throw at it. Unfortunately, what with Britain firmly in its ‘essential travel only’ period, and no local farmers requesting my assistance to rescue a stuck bullock from a storm-drain, those assignments are limited to ‘driving slowly to the supermarket’ and ‘driving slowly back again’.
Even so, there’s no arguing with the way the XC40 handles its challenging brief, expertly juggling petrol and electric power to dispatch the tricky, slippery ‘Tesco car park exit ramp’ with ease.
So, no, not the most taxing of sub-zero workouts. But there is, nonetheless, something reassuring about the XC40 in the snow, despite the fact the plug-in hybrid version doesn’t even boast four-wheel drive.
I’m sure much of this is psychological. When I was growing up, my parents had Volvo estates. Battered, third-hand, cavernous breezeblocks. Mostly 240s, mostly beige or burgundy. I loved those things. They felt indestructible, thumpingly functional: like every component had been engineered to work at minus 30 degrees while wearing a pair of, I dunno, whaleskin gloves or whatever it is they wear in icy climes; like they could survive attack from an enraged territorial elk without so much as a scratch.
Now obviously I have no idea whether this was actually the case – it doesn’t often reach minus 30 degrees in West Cornwall, and there’s a notable shortage of elk – but the notion that Volvos are winterproof, essentially unbreakable, has stuck with me for the last three decades or so.
Of course, if a year is a long time in showbiz, three decades is an eternity in cars. (And, thinking about it, my parents’ cars weren’t even new 30 years ago. Call it four decades.) Volvos are very different now (for starters, the company’s undergone at least two changes in ownership). Cars are very different now.
In truth, I have no idea whether the XC40, or any other Volvo, will survive a lifetime in the Arctic Circle better than, say, a BMW or a Honda or an MG. Having crossed the Alps in a monster blizzard in a Nismo Juke a few years back, I can report that even the unlikeliest modern SUV is capable of handling a surprising amount of snow. Maybe they’d all be just fine.
So maybe it’s mere association, maybe it’s just the chunky design cues, but still, the XC40 does feel like it retains some of Volvo’s traditional let’s-go-skid-around-a-frozen-lake-until-we-crash-into-a-snowbank heritage. This feels, in sort, like a solid SUV.