In my opinion, the most beautiful Volvo ever produced, although the all-new XC 90 would give it a good run for its money… is the Volvo P1800 ES. The rather limited run (8,077 units produced) of the two-door station wagon combined the practicality of an estate with the peerless pencil lines of Jan Wilsgaard, the concept was ahead of its time… but the engine wasn’t, hence emission legislations killed it off after just two years of production.
If you even can find one, much less ‘jampi’ the owner to sell it to you then great, if not, as far as tasteful modern interpretations go – meet the Volvo V40 Cross Country (CC).
Now this may be hard to fathom at first, and if you are familiar with the 1972 original - clap eyes on how the upper regions of the grille converge at top-side of the bonnet, the grille itself that is softly rounded around the corners. The barrelled wings and round headlamps are gone – in place is a crash safe bumper that wraps around the extremities of the multi-tiered fog lamp enclosures and air vents, in the same fashion the ES’ frontal features jelled together. The most noticeable retrospective mark is the flowing greenhouse proportions and rising shoulder line that climaxes with a wavy-kink in the sheet metal of the rear doors. The P1800 ES also featured an all-glass rear hatch, modernised here with the strong composition of glass making up the rear fascia, finished off with the sexy curves of the rear boot lid and bumper.
Set against the backdrop of the customary monotony of German and Japanese sedans and hatches in the city, the Volvo V40 CC is a breath of fresh air, exhaled after a second strongly beckoned stare. And if I was going to pay the RM200,888 Volvo are asking for this car - I might as well stand out a little.
The P1800 ES’ B20 engine and relatively low production volume destined it for the gallows in 1974 - quite unlike the power plant found in the V40 CC, powered 2.0-litre inline four, turbocharged to produce 213bhp at 6000rpm while 300Nm of torque from 2700rpm. Volvo claims a 6.9 second century sprint time all the way to a top speed of 210kph. Under a careful foot – the V40 CC will consume 7.5l/100km while only emitting 174g/km CO2.
And by all accounts – the mill is as advertised, superb. Pretty much in any gear – once the tacho-needle blips past 3000rpm, the V40 piles on the revs, spread out between six-forward ratios from the Aisin Geartronic auto. The speed limit is despatched while seemingly the engine is in sleepy-mode while 140kph seems to be the sweet spot for a cruise. If the mood should take you – the V40 CC will crack circa 200kph with relative ease. The shifts are slightly clunky in first and second but otherwise power delivery is extremely smooth.
Once within the cabin, while plonked on the two-toned and soft leathers of the seats and with great visibility of the outside, one may never feel like they’re going as fast as the speedometer will state. Wind noise and tyre noise is diligently kept to a minimum while the raised (theatre-like) seating arrangement endows the cabin with a far more spacious feel than the actual confines of the cabin offers. Rear legroom can be tight for five, but otherwise, between the soft touch materials and copper-esque finish of the dash console – the experience of the V40 CC is rich and blissful.
However, if you must have one reason to take the Volvo V40 CC home, that goes beyond looks, power and the extensive safety repertoire. It’s the way this thing drives. To all expectant and current owners of Mercs, BMWs and Audis – I say with the strongest voice possible, you have not experienced everything yet, until you have driven a modern Volvo.
The nicely weighted steering runs parallel against a quick-reacting steering rack to provide a sublime sense of confidence when on a highway or even a back road. This V40 CC tracks at a straightaway just as well at 100kph as it does at 190kph and while I may appreciate slightly more nuances of feedback from the electronic steering setup – largely, pointing the V40 CC into a corner and feeling my way out is a straightforward affair. The suspension is optimised for a cruise but where I feel Volvo have done a great job is how surefooted the car feels even when pushed into tighter, off-camber corners with minimal body roll despite the raised ride height.
Beyond the traditional showroom patronage and aftermarket warranties, the Volvo V40 CC is just something that has to be experienced. It just goes to show, sometimes great cars don’t actually cease to exist – they merely leave with a blueprint to inspire the next generation. ARVIND KUMAR
SPEC: Volvo V40 Cross Country T5 Price
1984cc, 4 cyl, 16V direct-injected, turbocharged VVT 213bhp @ 6000rpm, 300Nm @ 2700rpm. Performance
6.9s 0-100kph, 210kph top speed, 7.5l/100km, 174g/km CO2