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HomeLEISURE DRIVEVOLVO XC40 D4 AWD R-DESIGN: Sun, Snow & Chilled Vibes

VOLVO XC40 D4 AWD R-DESIGN: Sun, Snow & Chilled Vibes

Perched high above the African plains, in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, Afriski Mountain Resort is Africa’s most unique winter destination, and host to the continent’s most distinctive music festival – Afriski Winterfest. BERNIE HELLBERG JR headed south in a brand new XC40 D4 to experience the fun of the festival, and the thrill of the drive.

In early June 2018, ‘WinterFesters’ from across South Africa and Lesotho made their way to the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, hyped-up on adrenaline from the drive up the newly-completed Mahlasela Pass, and into their choice of accommodation ranging from mountain-top chalets, apartments to backpackers, at the one and only Afriski Mountain Resort.

Driven joined in the fun, with the latest and, in our opinion, one of the greatest Scandinavian cars of the modern era.

HOT WHEELS

Volvo XC40

The Volvo XC40 has not only attained critical praise the world over, here in SA it’s still a hot topic for anyone looking to buy a premium-minded compact crossover. It’s so hot, in fact, that Volvo Cars South Africa quite literally ran out of stock within two months of the car’s arrival.

Getting our hands on a test unit posed quite the challenge, but with its great looks, and considering how much we liked the car at its local launch (read our review in the May 2018 edition), we pulled out all the stops to make it happen.

Knowing that we were on our way to test the XC40 in the closest conditions on our continent, that remotely resemble Sweden, Volvo made the (almost) range-topping D4 R-Design with all-wheel-drive available for the journey.

Being right at the top of the pile (at R639,200), means that our XC40 tester was kitted out with almost every bit of Swedish safety tech and driving aides imaginable. Heated (and cooled) electrically-adjustable front seats, multiple airbags, City Safe autonomous braking, Pilot Assist, 360o cameras with birds-eye view, and an immersive Bowers & Wilkins sound system controlled via the brilliant tablet-style infotainment system.

All set for a great road trip, we set off towards the Freestate town of Bethlehem, gateway to the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. With most of the road consisting of freeway driving, the XC40 soon settled into a perfect rhythm, returning a palatable fuel consumption just shy of 7.8-litres/100 km. Despite a few stop/start delays, and the sharply increasing altitude beyond the Caledonspoort border post with Lesotho, the D4’s 2.0-litre turbodiesel performed brilliantly, remaining under 8.5-litres/100 km throughout the journey.

#WINTERFEST IN AN XC40

Volvo XC40

With fresh snow sprinkled across the mountains, and Southern Africa’s top artists in the line-up, a jam-packed Winterfest kicked off the 2018 winter season – three months of skiing and snowboarding fun at Afriski Mountain Resort.

By day, festival goers brought the slopes to life, with first-timers and seasoned pros making the most of the daylight and free snow gear rental for the whole weekend. But once the boards and skis were packed away for the day, it was time for some Après Ski activities – the ice-cold mountains (and some ice-cold Maluti Lagers) setting the scene for new friendships to be formed and new memories to be made while watching top artists perform on various stages around the resort.

As the temperatures dropped, so did the beats, as music lovers joined the evening’s warm-up session over a delicious meal at Skybar – Africa’s highest restaurant – with the likes of Simone Govender, 4AM, and Will Rayz wooing the crowd. A powerful line-up of DJs including Black Sparrow, Skye, Mocheques, and Easy Freak, brought Gondola Café (at the base of the snow white slopes) to life from 9 o’clock till late.

Along with artists from across Southern Africa, Winterfest also hosted Lesotho’s very own Leomile, who had her own thoughts on what makes Afriski WinterFest so different, “The location of it. Not only are there amazing musical acts, but you get to enjoy it all at high altitude, the ever-present probability of snow is also exciting.”

OPEN SEASON

For the Afriski Winterfest Season Opener, there was an all-star line-up featuring Rubber Duc, Albert Frost, Gunshot Blue, and headline act, Jack Parow. Although the last day was a little cooler than the previous two, Jack Parow’s high-energy show got the crowd warmed up. Jack Parow’s top tip for keeping warm in the chilly mountains, “Jagermeister and brandy… lots of it!”.

The curtain came down in style on the final day, with a champagne-drenched main stage show and the traditional “Ski Burning”. Dressed in Basotho gear, Afriski veterans performed the ritual under the clear starry sky, chanting into the chilly night, sacrificing the skis to the fire, and bringing Winterfest to a close.

LAST WORD

Volvo XC40

In our opinion, the Volvo XC40 is currently the shiniest jewel in the crown of Volvo’s increasingly sophisticated local line-up of SUVs and crossovers, risking to be dethroned only by the XC60, which launched here recently.

Offering an excellent blend of style, exclusivity, and innovative tech, it gets our nod as the ideal road-tripping crossover for the sophisticated set, and might yet become the next breakthrough model that Volvo Cars South Africa has been hoping for after the runaway success of its bigger XC90 sibling.

Report by Bernie Hellberg Jr & Afriski Mountain Resort | Images © Bernie Hellberg Jr (TCB Media)

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