I’m not normally into designer labels – I don’t care whether my T-shirt was made by Stella McCartney or Stella in Mansfield – but there is one item of clothing about which I admit to snobbery. I absolutely will not wear jeans unless there’s a little red tab that reads ‘Levi’s’. I know it’s petty, but I should say this is absolutely not about showing off when I’m crawling around baggage reclaim at Luton airport. And yes, that happens more often than I’d like. Instead, I wear Levi Strauss’ denim because nothing else fits me properly. You can bang on about the merits of M&S jeans until you’re blue in the face, but nothing moulds to your legs like a pair of Levi’s.
The other great thing about Levi’s is the fact they can be worn almost anywhere. Particularly if they’re black. Wear them in the back streets of Moss Side and nobody bats an eyelid. After all, they’re just jeans. But if you wash them and wear them to an ambassador’s tea party where everyone recognises quality when they see it, they think you’re wealthy and successful – even if you are pushing the smart-casual dress code ever-so slightly. But hey, that just makes you a little bit edgy and interesting. In short, they’re the perfect choice for everyday legwear.
Now, I know the last few paragraphs sound like an advert for denim (other trousers are available), but there is a point to this. Because this month I realised that Volvo is the automotive equivalent of Levi’s. With an XC40 on your driveway, you can go absolutely anywhere you want without worrying about how you’ll be perceived. Park in one of the rougher parts of Bristol and you don’t need to worry about whether the car will be there when you get back. Rock up at a snazzy hotel and the receptionist won’t scoff when they tell you how much dinner is going to cost.
XC40s – and Volvos in general – seem to strike that perfect balance between being classy and smart without ever appearing chintzy or vulgar. Unlike an Audi or a Range Rover, nobody drives a Volvo to shout about their wealth. They drive a Volvo because it’s quiet and restrained and serene. And that makes it somehow acceptable to everyone. I’ve been abused in everything from Fords to Ferraris, but nobody – whether they’re in a brand-new Rolls or a 20-year-old Renault – makes rude gestures at Volvo drivers.
But while I may be enjoying an insult-free life in the XC40, not everything is hunky dory. Our R-Design Pro car comes with enormous 20-inch alloy wheels, and they spoil the ride somewhat. I suspect the weight of the batteries doesn’t help, either, but smaller-wheeled petrol versions ride more smoothly. I’m also finding fault with the touchscreen. Not because it isn’t smooth or responsive – it’s fine on that front – but because Apple CarPlay and Android Auto weren’t included in the price (It’s a £300 optional extra). Yes, it’s a first-world problem and I’ve still got the Bluetooth system to pair up my phone to, but Android Auto is just better. It gives you access to enhanced navigation systems and more control over the media you play. After years of driving Android Auto-enabled cars, I didn’t realise how much I’d miss it.
Date arrived 1st April 2021
Economy (On test) 39.5mpg