Yes, yes, yes, oh yes: tech, comfy seats, great ride, smooth predictable handling.

Oh dear me, no: the Satnav’s diabolical input and snail-like speed.

If you could have any features you want in a car, what would you choose? I’ve always fancied a champagne bar, or the shoe shine machine, or the cappuccino maker. A quick look at the inclusions in the V40 reveals a shedload of goodies in the top model. There is even a world-first pedestrian airbag which pops the bonnet up about 15cms and deploys the bag faster than you can say, “oh crap”. However, that’s only the last resort, because the V40 will have slammed on the anchors. If it detects an object in front of it thanks to the cameras mounted in the windscreen, the computer nannies react far faster than a real person can to avoid collisions.

Before I get too carried away, I’d like to spend a few moments on the sexy-as-hell gym-fit bodywork. The V40 drawings looked positively scrumptious with its low sexy front end sweeping gracefully up to a pert cheeky bum replete with a striking set of LED tail lamps. Unusually, the metal looks as good as the drawings. Given the right promotion, it’s just the kind of style that will capture the eye of a well-heeled homo. I say well heeled because Volvo is a premium brand and it has a premium price, and there is no point pretending otherwise. It hasn’t had the cash lavished on its advertising like Mercedes and BMW has. As a consequence people still say “Gee Volvos sure have come a long way. They aren’t frumpy any more”. I get cranky when I hear that.

I asked one of these well-heeled homos if he would swap his brand new 320d BMW for the Volvo. Despite the fact that he was once a V50 owner, he merely snorted at me and said “no” through gritted teeth. I’ll bet the story would be different if the Volvo badge was a three-pointed star, right?

The V40 looks classy. It’s just the kind of possession that would be coveted by friends. You would keep the garage warm and cover her in a doona so bit of stray dust didn’t damage the duco. You see, Volvo meant to make the top-of-the-line V40 a cross-over type SUV, but they accidentally created a stunning hot hatch to be the envy of anyone with a brain. In a car the size of Ford’s Focus, with which it shares a platform, the V40 has a stonking 187KW five cylinder turbo petrol to shift the move to 100 in a mere 6.1 seconds. It sounds hot, too. There is a low steady burble, especially when started on a cold night, which could easily be a small V8. It rises to a raspy crescendo as the stiletto is mashed mindlessly to the floor. The power shift (one of those double clutch auto thingummies) shifts smoothly in auto and uber-snappily in sport mode. You’re not exactly pinned to your seat but it is fun.

There are far too many features to point out so I’ll stick to a few highlights: the headlights of the cross country steer around corners as you direct the steering wheel; the rear light cluster is LED; the steering will pull slightly to the left or right if it thinks you are wandering off track; the steering wheel vibrates if you cross a line without indicating; you’re warned if you venture too close to a car in front; the brakes activate under 30km/ph if a collision is detected; the auto headlights switch on at dusk and between high and low beam all by themselves; the cruise control keeps distance with the car in front and brakes if you get too close; the parking is automatic if you wish; and road signs are read by a camera and the speed limit displayed in the centre dials. The list goes on, but you need to pay extra if you want smartkey start.

The impeccable cabin has been thoughtfully designed by someone who cared what the driver is looking at. The centre dials consists of three tasteful LCD screens on which any kind of info can be displayed.

The steering sharpens up in sports mode, but is still not quite the scalpel-like instrument of the EVO X. Nonetheless it is a joy to whip around country lanes, but there won’t be much serious off-roading. I’ve no doubt the AWD could handle it, but the tyres and the lack of proper ground clearance would leave you marooned up to your knees in muck at the merest hint of rain. No, treating her like a hot hatch is a vastly superior option. Only the EVO or Focus ST will give you a sharper experience in the off-road class.

You’ll need to hand over considerably more cash if you want a Mercedes, BMW or Audi and none of those come close to the delectable exterior of the V40. Nor will they have the safety gear included as standard, and only the V40 has a smart pedestrian airbag to cushion wayward heads. If badge-engineered desire is motivating you, then the Germans will probably win out. For the rest, Volvo means safe, secure, reliable motoring enhanced by decades of innovation, safety and tasteful Scandinavian design. I was one who was concerned that Volvo’s new Chinese owners might knobble the company but it seems they are allowing the Swedes to do their own thing.

Contrary to popular belief, the auto parking doesn’t stop you from banging into something. As the wheel spins one way then another, you watch the screen and mirrors as normal. When you hear the beeps, or the camera screen shows you’re close, gently push the brake down and shift into D. The system tells you when the maneuver is complete. Some dopes have been known to bang into vehicles behind or in front because some people need to be spoon fed.

The only thing I would change is the horrible satnav. There is no touch Screen so details are input by a rotary dial or multiple presses of the alpha-numeric key pad buttons. It’s slow, imprecise and very trying on the nerves. Switching between the inputs is painfully slow and mistakes happen as a result. You find yourself inputting the same details again if you miss a letter by accident.

We managed to pack four lanky lads into the V40 but those in the rear were tallish and would have had a hard time with much more than a quick airport run. One commented that his knees were around his ears, and the conversation plumbed the depths of depravity from then on. There is plenty of space for bits and bobs for a long weekend and if the highway stints are anything to go by, a road trip would be a doddle. It would easily pass the “Two Small Bags” test and the picnic basket/gingham cloth test goes without saying. If your friends don’t like knees around ears, they can find their own bloody way to the bloody air-bloody-port.

One regret is the AWD is only available in the T5. I think it’s a missed opportunity in the lower models.

So impressed am I that I hope to have the chance to put some kms on a future test. Until then, I’d happily commend the V40 to anyone who’ll listen.

I’d like to see a rally version. I’m sure EVO and WRX would shake in their mastheads at the thought of Volvo challenging them.

Would I buy one? A resounding yes, with knobs on.

Price: from $47,000 to $60,000 (approx)

Engine: 2.5L turbo petrol 5 cyl, 187ke, 360Nm

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Volvo V40 Cross Country safety cell gaycarboys

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