CAN WE TALK about sport modes? Broadly speaking, these fall into two types: those that affect the suspension settings and those that don’t. These overlap almost perfectly with the respective Venn diagram of those sport modes that are worth having and those that are complete junk.
The XC40 T5 R-Design on our fleet doesn’t have adaptive suspension and therefore I hadn’t really bothered with the sport mode, figuring that it would just ruin the throttle mapping, change the gearshift strategy to ‘perforated eardrum’ and make the steering feel as if the rack was running in Perkins Paste. Besides, I was largely satisfied with the way the XC40 would tackle a twisty road in its Comfort mode.
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Body control was well contained and the steering, gearshift and throttle never felt noticeably doughy.
So the Drive Mode button just sat there unpressed, but the longer I ignored it, the more I felt I’d devalued my service to you, dear reader, who needs to know what happens when buttons get pressed in these things. So while taking the twisty route home one evening, I decided to switch the car into Dynamic, largely so I could make snarky references in my next long-term report at how inept and comical it all was.
But it wasn’t. The steering weighted up sympathetically, so that you could just take up the strain with the weight of your arm on corner entry without it deviating too far off line, but enough to feel the tyre’s contact patch flex a little under torsion. The throttle pedal seemed to tense a little without becoming neurotic. It wasn’t a night-and-day difference, like those shots on a Light n’ Easy ad where people turn from Pillsbury-white pupae into condoms stuffed with walnuts, but it gave the Volvo the feel that it would now leap out of the blocks at the ‘b’ of the bang.
The gearshift strategy was awful, though, so if you’re going to use the Dynamic setting, make sure you click the car into manual shift mode and get tapping on the wheel-mounted paddles instead. It took us over 5000 kilometres to unlock the next level of fun in the XC40. The secret sports car in the Wheels garage continues to win friends.