Given that Volvo’s Drive-E 2.0-litre diesel engine has shown something of a vulnerability on mechanical refinement when we’ve tested it in the current-generation XC60, XC90 and S90, there’s a pleasant surprise when you start it up in the XC40.
A slightly grumbly oil-burner, squeezed into an even tighter space, leads to a low expectation of engine isolation here.
And yet the XC40 is, somehow and most of the time, as hushed and smooth a diesel-powered compact SUV as you’re likely to find. Its engine is a little bit noisier than some when starting from cold and when working hard, granted, but it settles down at a cruise very demurely and, in our test car, allowed the XC40’s cabin to be fully 2dB quieter than that of an X1 at both 30mph and 50mph. Traditional Volvo customers will like that about the car, you’d imagine, just as comfort-motivated premium SUV buyers ought to respond to it.
However, Volvo has also plainly come to understand that ploughing its own furrow with the driving experience of its cars doesn’t excuse it from the need to also make them just as responsive and strong as their rivals in outright terms. The XC40’s slightly laid-back accelerative step-off is one of the dynamic hallmarks of a car that offers no apology for its pragmatism.