Volvo has been on a roll of late with the 90 Series vehicles, ushering in a new era for the Swedish automaker. The S90, V90 and XC90 have all been well-received and put the automaker back in the black with an operating profit of almost $485-million in the first quarter thanks to surging sales in Europe, Asia and North America. The Concept 40 is important step in the company’s rebirth — the lastV40 wagon sold well in Canada, so it will be a big boon for both the company and its dealer group.
Starting with a completely blank computer screen gave the designers and engineers a free hand in dreaming up what will eventually become staples in Volvo’s expanding lineup. The company showcased two versions of the Concept 40 — the Concept 40.1 and Concept 40.2. The 40.1 speaks to the XC40 crossover. The 40.2 previews the S40 and/or V40, looking strikingly like it has been given Volvo’s Cross Country look as it rides tall for a car.
Both the Concept 40.1 and 40.2 have a sharp look that features Volvo’s new trademark Thor’s Hammer LED daytime running lights. From here back, the Concept 40s ditch the boringly boxy look that typified the company for so many years – this not your father’s Volvo – and replaces it with something that has some very real promise. Both are stunning-looking vehicles that challenge the segment norms.
However, as with all concepts some things will change. The ultra-thin mirrors and door handle treatment will have to make way for something more realistic, but the rest of it is entirely feasible from a production standpoint. This would include the oversized 40.1’s Pirelli P Zero 255/45R20 tires and 255/35R20 the 40.2 was wearing.
The one styling cue that will most assuredly not change is the grille. It mimics the look that dominated the original P1800 and was updated for the Volvo Concept Coupe shown in 2013. Versions of the theme also front the new S90, V90 and XC90.
As with its larger siblings, the 40 Series will arrive with a completely new platform — the Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), a platform that was co-developed with Geely, Volvo’s Chinese parent company. As with the 90 Series’ Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), the CMA can be stretched and/or widened to accommodate different vehicle and powertrain formats.
On that note, Volvo promises an interesting mix of powertrain choices — three- and four-cylinder turbocharged engines, as well as diesels, although this was quickly ruled out for North America. The three-cylinder turbo pushes 180 horsepower, which is plenty for a compact sedan. The more intriguing engine is the 2.0-litre turbo-four — it is basically the same engine as powers 90 Series vehicles, meaning as much as 316 horsepower. Slide it under the hood, tweak the suspension and Volvo could legitimately stick a Polestar badge on the back S/V40. When I mentioned this to one of the engineers he could hardly contain himself — his broad grin and smiling eyes spoke volumes.
Another powertrain choice will be the Twin Engine T5 hybrid. The turbocharged three-cylinder engine, an electric motor, a new seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission and power electronics reside under the skin. Meanwhile, the 9.7 kWh lithium-ion battery is housed in the central tunnel, where it does not eat into the cargo space. Volvo says the combination will generate a net system output of around 250 horsepower, which makes sense given the 180-horsepower from the engine and 74 horsepower generated by the electric motor.
The latter is also used to start the engine and harvest waste energy through regenerative braking. Finally, the battery will give the 40 Series an electric-only driving range of 50 kilometres. The hybrid will be joined by a fully electric version with a targeted driving range of 350 kilometres.
The reason for the electrified versions is simple: Volvo says it wants to have one million electric cars roaming the globe by 2025. That might be considered a tad optimistic were it not for the manner in which the XC90 T8 hybrid has been embraced.
The cabins were mock-ups, but the 40 Series will feature many of the items found in the 90 Series models such as the iPad-like infotainment system. Naturally, it will come with all of Volvo’s safety features and one technology that will eliminate the “I’ve locked myself out of the car” moments. The owner simply texts the digital key to a phone and, using a Bluetooth connection, it will unlock the car and allow it to be started and driven. Now that is a “smart key.”
The arrival of the 40 Series is important, as it gives Volvo an Audi A3-like challenger in the form of the S and/or V40. The XC40 crossover will do battle with the likes of the Audi Q3, BMW X1 andMercedes-Benz GLA. The 40 Series models will launch in 2017, followed by the all-electric variant in 2019.