November 8, 2019

Volvo XC40, VW Jetta GLI Return For A Replay

Some vehicles get into our hearts so much for their combination of style, technology, driving delight, and simple integration of technology that we want another review to see if we actually like them as much as we thought.  That’s how we find ourselves with the Volvo XC40 Inscription and Volkswagen GLI Autobahn.  Let’s see if they stand up to our fading memories.

2020 Volvo XC40 Inscription

The Volvo XC40 Inscription. (Provided by Volvo)

My singed memory of the last XC40 includes bright orange carpeting and contrasting color roof.  It also flashes a solidly-built little crossover that comes packed with all the safety gear and solid feel one expects from a Volvo.  Just for kicks, we decided to step up to the more luxurious Inscription edition to see how it feels without the stylish theatrics.

Its chrome toothy grille, sculpted bodysides, and upright rear roof remain, but the roof and body matched colors, giving it a more seamless style.  Active LED headlamps follow corners while 19-inch wheels keep it all planted to the road.  Family lineage is obvious, but the XC40 looks like it is seeking more youthful drivers. Understated Swedish design is evident inside with a comfortable and tech-laden cabin that’s in no way over-stated.  Heated seats and steering wheel take the chill off of frigid winters, Harman Kardon audio is nearly on par with Bowers & Wilkins systems in pricier Volvos, and wireless charging keeps devices humming.  Flatscreen instruments are crisp.  Details like driftwood inlays on the dash/doors and crystal gear selector from Swedish glassmaker Orrefores are delightful touches.

I’ve become a big fan of the large touchscreen too.  The main screen displays navigation, audio, and climate.  Swipe right to select/deselect the safety systems in one place – no buttons strewn throughout the interior.  And, there would be plenty given the XC40 has lane keep assist, rear cross path detection, blind spot warning, and adaptive cruise.  Swipe left to adjust audio and apps.

It almost goes without notice that the XC40 is well-endowed under the hood.  It runs with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder putting out 248 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque through an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive.  Volvo claims it will run 0-60 mph in a scant 6.1s.  Adjustable drive modes provide a comfortable ride, enliven the throttle for a sportier drive, or focus on saving fuel.

Most luxury automakers now have a compact crossover that’s supposed to be an entry gate to its pricier models.  Some do this well while others barely disguise the fact their luxury crossover is just a cheaper crossover with more leather.  The XC40 has its unique size and style, but is not a dumber version of the XC60 or XC90.  Its return visit reminds me of why we liked it so much the first time.  A $33,700 base price rose to $47,825 with all of the luxury gear.

2019 Volkswagen GLI Autobahn

The Volkwagen GLI Autobahn. (Photo provided by Volkswagen)

Volkswagens are not perfect, but it’s difficult to find cars that offer the latest technology with smooth engines and unflappable chassis – all in a wrapper that looks born for the Autobahn.  That’s why we keep coming back to them.  I like the Golf GTI with its convenient hatch, but many prefer sedans.  Many would prefer the Jetta GLI – especially when VW slaps the name of Germany’s famous highway upon its body.

It’s a car that feels bred for speed given its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 228 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque – all fed to the front wheels through a 7-speed automatic transmission.  Auto stop/start enables an efficient 25/32-MPG city/highway.  Step in at almost any speed and the car streams ahead without delay.  The four-wheel independent suspension provides a comfortable ride, virtually erasing rough pavement, while ready to slice through corners.  Use drive modes to adjust the chassis and throttle from Comfort to Sport.  Forward collision warning with auto brake and blind spot monitor enhance safety.

It looks the part of a stern German on the exterior given its formalish sedan body, but 18-inch wheels, LED headlamps, and red trim on the grille hint that this one might be a little more fun.  I especially like the “Pure Gray” paint that gives the impression the car was dipped in ghost clay.  Inside, heated/ventilated leather seats, dual-zone climate control, panoramic sunroof, and thumping Beats Audio system welcome long drives – as does VW’s digital cockpit that includes a flatscreen instrument display and swipescreen for infotainment.

I’ve driven many expensive German sedans that I’d love to own…until I see the price.  The GLI is the rare German sport sedan that will delight you every day…and every month when you make the payment.  A base price of $25,995 rose to $31,185 all-in.

Storm Forward!

Send comments to Casey at; follow him on YouTube @AutoCasey.

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