BizRadio chats to Thegandra Naidoo about the new Volvo V40 T4 and the dangers of worn shock-absorbers on your vehicle.
On the road with Volvo V40 T4 Cross Country – taking the battle to the Germans…
Back in 2012 Volvo launched the Geely funded V40 that left the motoring media with an impression of what the Swedes were really capable of with the right funding and management. Now we’re seeing a new model joining the Swedish line-up. And it is comforting affirmation that the days of angular brick-styled Volvos are well and truly over. The V40 is a crossover vehicle that finds itself somewhere between a hatch and an SUV. This latest model from Volvo features several new design cues that hint at what we’ll see in models down the line.
ROAD: Thegandra Naidoo in coversation with BizRadio’s Grant Jansen
Podcast | Click HERE to listen
Like the V40 that came before it, this model takes Volvo’s new design language to the next level. While the front fascia bears some resemblance to the S60, the V40 has a more pronounced snout and is flanked by carefully sculpted headlights that seem to blend into the bodywork.
From the rear, the V40 looks like something out of Babylon 5 with its two tone tailgate that harks back to the C30. Pleasing to the eyes are also the rear three quarter panels with the integrated tail lights and high shoulder lines that tapers towards the front.
The Cross Country version tested here comes with silver roof rails, integrated daytime running lights and chunky black plastic bumpers that add to its tough looking exterior. To further enhance its ‘soft-roader’ image, the ride height has been raised 12mm compared to the standard V40.
The V40 rides on some rather lovely 17” alloys painted in gloss black with bronze inserts colour coded to the exterior. This gives the V40 a rather sporty disposition despite the placid badge on the front grille.
In the V40, Volvo has taken the opportunity to revamp a large portion of the interior and introduce new features that will see it trickling into other Volvos in the near future. The interior build quality has also been elevated somewhat with the new features.
While it is widely known that Volvo possesses some of the best seats around, they haven’t rested on their laurels and introduced a new seat design in the Cross Country version. The new seat seemingly moulds itself to your body contours and supports you where you need it most. Part of the Cross Country package, the driver sits 40mm higher for a more commanding view.
The dashboard instrument cluster has seen a complete revamp from the older chrono-inspired variant. And they’ve opted to go completely digital with a high-res TFT screen that reminds us of the one in the million dollar LFA. With this virtual dash, the display changes accordingly to different driving modes.
Most interesting is when the instruments are backlit in red when you engage sport mode where a power indicator on the left of the speedometer shows how much power you have and how much is in reserve. Much like the same system used in a Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Another simple but innovative feature is the frameless rear view mirror design that brings a marked improvement in elegance and visibility.
The rear seat in the V40 is reasonably spacious and taller passengers will have ample legroom without any indication of claustrophobia. Being a crossover, there is ample luggage capacity at 335-litres with the seats upright. More space can be availed by folding the rear seats and to accommodate longer cargo, the front passenger seat can be folded flat.
After the success of the V40 T4, it’s not surprising that they’ve brought in this turbocharged 1.6L variant. Under the bonnet resides a similar T4 unit that churns out 132kW and 240Nm of torque. Power is helmed by a six-speed manual gearbox in the standard V40 T4 and is just as creamy smooth here.
While those figures aren’t going to be winning any races at the lights, it does make the 1.4 ton V40 sufficiently brisk with a 0-100kph time of 8.7 seconds and a 200kph+ top speed.
Despite all the tough bits, the V40 is more of a “soft-roader” considering its FWD setup. Only the larger 187kW 2.5L T5 variant will come with an AWD system.
But what the V40 comes with is the Ford Focus derived dynamic chassis that Volvo says focuses on driving dynamics without compromising comfort. On this rare occasion, the marketing jargon isn’t…well just jargon.
Diving into bends with great aplomb, the stiff chassis settles in nicely while the reasonably quick steering rack accurately guides the nose towards the apex. This we attribute to the Ford Focus suspension geometry underneath which makes the V40 one of the best handling Volvo in recent times. However, over exuberant throttle input in the bends will result in a certain amount of torque steer. On the road, the chassis continues to maintain its composure with a supple ride that is neither jarring nor uncomfortable.
Despite the incredible dynamics, Volvo hasn’t forgotten its roots in safety and this car is filled to the brim with safety. It gets the latest version of its City Safety auto braking system that has upped its operational speed at 50kph in the current version.
Other systems include blind spot indicators that show a blinking light if a vehicle is detected in your blind spot.
If you find yourself in a tight spot, the Park Assist Pilot will do parallel parking for you. We tested the system out during our drive. With the system activated, you drive along the parallel parking lots until the system picks up a lot that it finds suitable (about 1.2 times the car’s length).
Once a lot is located, an audible signal will alert you. The system then takes over the parking by manoeuvring into the lot automatically without your input. But it is still good practice to hover your feet over the brake pedal as this can be quite a hairy experience from the driver’s point of view as the system seems to cut it pretty close to the surrounding cars.
The R344 000 price might seem a bit steep but it’s fair for the level of specification. The price also includes a service plan.When the Volvo V40 was launched last year; it gave the world a preview of what Volvo was truly capable of in the dynamic department. While the V40 is probably not too impressive off-road, on asphalt however, it is a polar opposite and is easily one of the best handling if not the best handling cars in its segment.
On the road assistance – Dangers of worn shock absorbers
When last did you check them? Do you even know where they are on your vehicle and what they actually do? Don’t feel bad, very few people know much about shock absorbers or dampers as they should be called as they damp out the excessive spring movement. Without shocks you would not be able to keep your car on the road, and would spend a great deal of time pacifying carsick passengers.
TECH: Thegandra Naidoo in coversation with BizRadio’s Grant Jansen
Podcast | Click HERE to listen
A shock absorbers main function is to prevent excessive spring movement and in so doing keep the car’s tyres in contact with the road enabling you to keep control of it. Because of this it is a safety critical item, but most people are not aware that it is. Because shocks are generally unseen items and they wear down so slowly that drivers grow accustomed to the ride and amend their style of driving to compensate for it, shock are not replaced when they should be and 1 in 4 cars on our roads are driven with worn shocks!
Not only are worn shocks life threatening, they can also cause costly repairs and maintenance on your vehicles. If you are running a vehicle that is doing fairly high mileage, not replacing worn shocks will cost you a lot more money by having to replace worn tyres that have only lasted 25 000km, or mountings, tie-rod ends and ball-joints that have all been damaged by the excessive spring movement.
THE DANGERS ARE:
- POOR ROAD HOLDING: Worn shocks are unable to keep the tyre in contact with the road or even out excessive spring movement and the car become more difficult to control on the road and a danger to the driver, passenger and other road users.
- WORN TYRES: With the worn shock not being able to keep the tyre in contact with the road, it bounces on the road causing worn flat spots on the tyre which reduces the life of the tyre by a huge margin – expensive.
- POOR BRAKING: When a car brakes with worn shocks the tyres tend to bounce causing the tyre to loose contact with the road and extends the stopping distance by an extra 2.6m from 80km/h in the dry ! This could be the difference between hitting someone or not. ABS braking systems are even more affected.
- AQUAPLANING: Normally this happens when there is some water on the road and your car’s tyres are worn, as you go over the film of water the tyre lifts off the road and you have complete loss of control. The same thing can happen if you have worn shocks – Even if your tyres are in good condition!
- COMPONENT WEAR: Due to the extra movement of the suspension with worn shocks this causes other suspension and steering components to wear out quicker – expensive.
- HEADLIGHT DAZZLE: Your car will bounce more causing the headlights to blind oncoming traffic – dangerous.
- FATIGUE: With the long distances we have to travel in South Africa it’s easy to tire on long journeys, this is made worse when your car’s shocks are worn as you now have to concentrate more on keeping the car on the road (even if you are not aware that you are doing it), this tires you more easily – dangerous.
Gabriel recommends that motorists visit reputable fitment centres that are equipped with shock testing machines to give them a report on their shocks.
Thegandra Naidoo? A motoring journalist. He has a decade’s experience in the automotive industry and is best known for his technical knowledge of cars. He has worked on various local television productions and co-presented a motoring feature on Kaya FM a few years back. He currently holds the position as Features & Online Editor for Automotive Business Review. He is currently completing a mid-career Honours in Journalism and Media Studies degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. Thegandra is a FULL member of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists.