In this update to our long-term XC40, a change in scenery. Previously, our captivating crossover SUV was running up and down the West Coast, taking in the California sun and generally having an easy go of it. For the remaining months with the littlest Volvo currently in production, it'll be living with me on the East Coast, which is getting colder by the minute.
To get the XC40 out here, we first shipped it to Detroit, and it was there I met it, dropping offand downsizing into our five-passenger Volvo. I then pretty much immediately drove the 10 hours and 600-odd miles back to New York state. That isn't necessarily the gentlest of itineraries, but it sure is a great way to get real comfortable with a new car real fast.
Much of my time was spent droning along I-90, meaning plenty of opportunity to enjoy the XC40's City Safety package. The car's adaptive cruise control worked quite well in this scenario, while the active lane keep assist system likewise did a great job keeping me centered. It all meant I could sing along with John Prine to my heart's content and not worry about the car wandering while my voice was warbling away.
The XC40's ride quality on that expansive stretch of concrete and asphalt didn't prove the best, but for a small car it's more than adequate, and I didn't suffer the samethat previous testers did. I used the seat memory to keep from getting too stiff, with one setting more reclined, the other bolt upright, and toggled between the two every few hours as the needs of my posterior dictated.
With "The History of Western Philosophy" streaming away via the Audible app onand the generally high-grade materials and design of the machine around me, I was as content as a man could be after 10 hours in the saddle.
Once home, it wasn't long before plans started to come together for another trip. This one would involve dogs, boats and a bicycle, too. I'd been meaning to make a run up to New Hampshire and I'd need to bring along all that gear and more. After a call to Thule, the company was kind enough to send me all the accessories I'd need to get the boats on the roof, including towers, AeroBlade bars and a pair of kayaking saddles.
The first is the Hull-a-Port Aero kayak carrier, which is light and simple and folds down neatly when not in use to cut down on aerodynamic drag. The other is rather more substantial, but also more impressive. It's the Hullavator Pro, which I'll detail in a moment.
The Thule towers quickly attach directly to the metal on the XC40's roof rails, meaning no worries about marring the paint. Once there, the saddles simply slide on from the side. After initial assembly, the Hull-a-Port doesn't even need tools, meaning you can pop it right off again quickly.
The Hullavator, on the other hand, is a bit trickier to mount, requiring hex keys and a bit of finagling to get into place, but the functionality may be worth the extra effort. Thanks to an integrated series of springs and extending arms, this thing makes kayak loading a breeze. After a quick pull on two releases, the entire saddle pivots downward to the side of the car. There, you put the kayak in place, cinch it down with the provided straps and push it back up on the car, where it locks into place.
The integrated springs counter much of the weight of the boat, so loading my 55-pound sea kayak is something I could reasonably do by myself. It also simplifies strapping immensely. The height of the XC40 means some awkward climbing to cinch down a boat on a normal saddle. With the Hullavator, you take care of all that before putting it on the roof.
There are some notable drawbacks, namely cost ($660 for just the Hullavator, compared with $250 for the Hull-a-Port) and weight, with the contraption weighing 40 pounds before you put a boat on it. And, when rolling boatless, your XC40 will look as if it's sprung a set of moose antlers -- but given its Swedish heritage, perhaps that's not so bad.
With the rack mounted and the boats on the roof, I slotted my 1UP USA bike rack into the XC40's trailer hitch and loaded the dogs and gear into the back, and we were off into the wilderness. Mileage while hauling all that gear? Just over 23 miles per gallon, down from the 26 I'd been averaging before -- which matches the thing's EPA combined figure. Definitely a noticeable difference, but not too bad given the size of those boats hanging out in the wind.