There was molten lava under my feet, and it was relaxing. Harmonious, even, as it thumped gently to the music.
It wasn’t a trippy dream, but rather bright orange felt-like carpeting and a Harman Kardon subwoofer hidden behind the dashboard supplying mellow bass tones. The unconventional carpeting is the second-boldest thing about the 2019 Volvo XC40 I drove in a torrential downpour in Austin, Texas.
The wildest? That Volvo will encourage shoppers to subscribe to its new subcompact crossover, like they might to Dollar Shave Club, Bark Box, or Birchbox. Only instead of the mailman dropping off new goodies once a month, they’ll get a new XC40 every year.
There’s little conventional about the 2019 XC40, Volvo’s pint-size, $34,000 crossover—not the least of which is how many will leave dealer lots. The automaker calls its subscription plan Care by Volvo, which sounds more like hospice than a flat-rate, everything-but-gas program that runs kind of like a cell phone plan. For $600 or $700 a month, depending on which XC40 subscribers choose, Volvo handles insurance and maintenance. It’s a two-year term that Volvo will offer in addition to conventional leasing and purchasing. Subscribers can trade up (or down) for another XC40 of their choice after a year, just in case they get bored with their current one. Subscribers need only interact with dealers on the day they pick up their XC40 and to schedule a concierge to pick up their vehicle for servicing.
It’s the $700-a-month XC40 that can be ordered with orange carpeting, which incidentally is made from recycled water bottles. That’s the XC40 R-Design, and it’s a gem for far more than what’s under foot and on the door panels.
The XC40 is Volvo’s smallest crossover, but its roomy, airy interior belies its trim dimensions. By the numbers, it’s almost a foot shorter than the larger XC60, which puts it in line with rivals like the BMW X1 and Jaguar E-Pace, and far more spacious than the Mercedes-Benz GLA. The standard leather-wrapped front seats are supportive, while the $2,500-more R-Design swaps in more bolstering and suede inserts in addition to upsized wheels, navigation, and keyless ignition. That orange-hued carpet runs an extra $100 on the XC40 R-Design. It’s money well spent, and if you don’t like it, swap it out for something more conventional next year. Commitments are uncool, anyway.
Rear-seat passengers are treated to plenty of room, as long as there’s no middle rider. The city-oriented XC40 is narrow, meaning three adults can’t sit abreast in the back seat. Behind the rear seat is about 16 cubic-feet of cargo storage—enough for a Target run, but not for a cross-country move.
A vertically arrayed, 9.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment serves as the XC40’s nerve center. It’s canted slightly toward the driver, and its software reacts quickly to swipes like a tablet. That tech story continues in the instrument cluster, a 12.3-inch LCD unit that’s standard on all XC40s.
The Harman Kardon audio system on the options list provides crisp, warm sound with an unusual footnote: there are no speakers taking up valuable real estate in the door panels.
Sound instead comes mostly from behind the dashboard, and that opens up big storage bins in the doors.
That’s all part of the smart thinking that Volvo has baked into the XC40’s interior with its unusually large number of useful storage bins and pockets. Now it’s not where to put your phone, it’s where did you put it?