The dramatic V40 R-Design is the closest thing Volvo has to a “GTI” right now. It wears a special colour called Rebel Blue, which is like a Swede mix of electric blue and pastel blue, but more importantly in the local context, the “electrical pastel” paintwork isn’t too close to Comfort-cab blue for comfort.
The car also sports an R-Design bodykit, complete with 18-inch “diamond-cut” alloy wheels, a rear diffuser and a prominent pair of exhaust tailpipes.
Under the bonnet is a turbocharged 1.6-litre T4 engine that develops 180bhp and 240Nm, but this particular test unit is equipped with an optional tuned ECU from Polestar (a Swedish firm that makes Volvos go faster), which boosts the power to 200bhp and the torque to 285Nm, without affecting the car’s original consumption and emission figures (according to Polestar). There’s also a claimed 0.3sec improvement in the century sprint timing.
On the move, the oomph builds up strongly as the tachometer needle swings upward, but there isn’t much energy at low revs and the engine isn’t exactly rev-happy. It sounds deadpan, too, but it’s strong enough to keep the traction control occupied when accelerating aggressively on an uneven surface. The Powershift 6-speed transmission is very smooth for a dual-clutch, but also rather slow in its gearchanges, even if you work the “plus/minus” lever yourself (sorry, no paddle-shifters even in this sporty number).
The R-Design package can include a stiffened chassis, but it wasn’t specified for our test car. It already rides firmly, transmitting every blacktop bump to the bums of the driver and passengers, and there’s plenty of road noise on the highway, so it’s probably a good thing that the Volvo dealer didn’t go all the way with its rebellious blue product.
The V40’s sticky 40-profile Michelin Pilot Sport 3s grip the tarmac tightly, but the steering isn’t sharp enough by hot-hatch standards, and the large diameter of the steering wheel doesn’t help.
The rest of the cockpit doesn’t really help the car’s “GTI” cause, either. The R-Design upholstery, console inlays and sport pedals are designer, not racer, items and the only flash of racy red is when you put the nifty digital instrument cluster into its Performance configuration.
However, the aforementioned shortfall in sportiness doesn’t detract from the usual Volvo virtues of great front seats, clean ergonomics, super kiasi safety features and excellent equipment, all of which are present and accounted for in the V40 T4 R-Design.
This article was first published in the September 2013 issue of Torque.
2013 Volvo V40 T4 R-Design 1.6 (A)
ENGINE 1596cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 180hp at 5700rpm
MAX TORQUE 240Nm 1600-5000rpm
GEARBOX 6-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 8.5 seconds
TOP SPEED 225km/h
CO2 EMISSION 143g/km