The Volvo XC40 Recharge isn’t cheap for a small SUV but it does offer a dynamic drive, fairly decent range and beautiful design.
Volvo has made the headlines recently with news that it plans to become a fully electric car company by 2030, phasing out any models with an internal combustion engine, including hybrids. Having seen a fast growing demand for its electrified cars – becoming the number one premium brand when it came to share of sales of chargeable cars in Europe and in the US last year – Volvo is confident that the market for conventionally powered cars is a shrinking one.
As well as moving towards full electrification, the brand is acting now to be carbon neutral by 2040. In the shorter term it’s aiming to reduce their lifecycle carbon footprint per car by 40 per cent between now and 2025 and plans to have climate neutral global manufacturing by the same year, as well as 25 per cent reduction of C02 emissions relating to global supply chain and overall operations (including car production and logistics). It’s also aiming for at least 25 per cent of the plastics used to be made from recycled material – which is the most progressive move out of any premium car maker.
It’s certainly doing its bit to fight climate change, and it even became the first manufacturer to implement global traceability of cobalt used in its batteries by applying blockchain technology. While it’s aiming to tick all the boxes when it comes to sustainability over the next few years, it has aspirations to be at the forefront of transformation to electrification and 2021 saw the first of an upcoming family of fully electric cars from the Swedish car brand – the XC40 Recharge, the overarching name for all Volvos with a plug. We get a Twin Pro on test for a week to see what it’s like.
The company’s first electric car is based on a state-of-the-art, all-wheel-drive powertrain known as the P8 with an output of 408hp. It reaches 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds which is impressive for a compact SUV that weighs over 2220kg, and will top out at 112mph, but it’s the instant torque of 487lb ft that really surprises you. It certainly managed to prime a few words out of my ordinarily teen of few words step son!
Being electric it also offers the benefits of regenerative braking and it allows for one pedal braking which is stronger than the Tesla Model 3 yet still as smooth. The drive too, is very refined – with linear acceleration and power that is instantly distributed between the rear and front wheels for maximum traction and stability. No sign of wheel spin here. By adding a battery under the floor of Volvo’s best-selling XC40 it’s actually helped to lower the centre of gravity, stiffen the body and give it an even weight distribution – it also helps to reduce road noise apparently.
The downside? It adds half a tonne more than its combustion engined brother, but that doesn’t stop it being dynamic – not a word we’d usually put with SUV. McPherson struts and coil springs make up the front suspension while there’s a multi-link set-up at the rear and it makes for a well-damped, comfortable ride that’s also nimble round the corners, hiding its weight extremely well. It’s a highly competent, composed family SUV that also allows you to have fun on the country roads and attack the straights with comical gusto!
It’s also very straight-forward to use – even my 70 something father – a lifelong Volvo fan could work it out, once he got over the fact it had keyless entry and no start button. He was also blown away by how silently it glides off and how I didn’t have to use the brake pedal, not even once. It’s a shame the One Pedal Drive system has to be activated by going into the settings menu, rather than via a button on the centre console or a stalk on the steering wheel, as it’s a little distracting while driving. It will at least stay switched on once activated. It’s here where you can also set the steering feel to firm (which is so much sharper and weighted than the standard calibration), and turn on the speed limiter, adaptive cruise control and pilot assist (although the advanced driver assistance aids are available on the steering wheel). Unlike most EVs there are no myriad of drive modes apart from off–road, and if you’re buying it for that reason alone then you might want to know the wading depth drops in the electric model.
As with all cars – both conventionally powered and electric, a heavy right foot and sustained motorway driving will drain the range. During our test we achieved an average of 43.1 kWh/100 mile which isn’t particularly economical, but when driving sensibly we halved that figure putting real-world range nearer 200 miles rather than the claimed 256. It’s no match for the 329 miles of the smaller Model 3 Long Range or Volkswagen ID.4 with 323 miles but it’s on a par with most other rivals. Find a 150kW rapid charger and the 78kWh battery will recharge from zero to 80 per cent in 40 minutes or using the onboard AC charger takes as little as 8 hours to reach full capacity.
We have few complaints about the XC40 Recharge but the biggest one is the range indicator – or lack of. It is only shown in the driver’s information display once the battery gets to 25 per cent charge and below. To be fair you can say “Hey Google, what’s my remaining range?” and the car will tell you how many miles you have left, but, even so it seems like a bit of an oversight when every other car we’ve tested tells you how many miles you have left at all times, rather much like the tried and tested – and very much essential – fuel gauge in an ICE vehicle!
The P8 Recharge costs from £49,950 – almost half the price of a Tesla Model X, £15k less than the Mercedes EQC and Jaguar I-PACE, while the Audi e-tron comes in at just over £62k. That said it is double the price of an MG ZS EV, while the Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia e-Niro, Skoda Enyaq iV and VW ID.4 all come in under 35k. Interestingly the closest matched SUV in terms of price point is the Mustang Mach-E, but we’re yet to properly review that.
If you don’t feel like parting with £50,000 up front, it is the first Volvo to be offered exclusively online direct from the manufacturer on a subscription type package. Care By Volvo delivers huge value whereby for a flat monthly fee (with no deposit) you get the car, plus servicing, maintenance, wear and tear cover, road tax and 24/7 roadside assistance, you even have the option to add insurance. An entry-level XC40 Recharge P8 is £619 per month on a fixed 36 month contract (with an allowance for 10,000 miles a year) or £769 per month on a more flexible three-month rolling arrangement, which is comparable to the PCP monthly finance costs of premium rivals.
Being an EV, there are huge ownership savings – there’s no road tax to pay, it cost far less to recharge rather than refuel and with less components to go wrong, it requires less frequent maintenance – as such servicing is recommended at two-year/18,000 mile intervals. Unfortunately insurance premiums are higher for electric cars and the XC40 Recharge sits in group 32. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you should also know electric motoring is extremely favourable for company car users who only have to pay one per cent in business car tax for the 2021/22 financial year, rising to two per cent after that.
Designed by Brit Ian Kettle (who went on to pen for Tesla shortly after it was revealed in 2018) the Recharge looks identical to its equivalent ICE XC40 which is no bad thing as it’s a handsome car. The only features which marks out its green credentials is the obligatory blanked-off body colour grille, Recharge branding, charging port, bespoke alloy wheels and new exterior hues – including the Sage Green of our test car which proved to be a Marmite colour but I loved it.
The star of the show inside is the 12.3 inch driver’s information display and brand new 9 inch infotainment touchscreen powered by Google’s Android operating system, which is fully integrated with Volvo On Call functionality enabling you to control various car functions remotely, and also acts as an emergency assistant and tracking service. The home view shows the major functions including navigation, media, phone and the most recently used app, with the car’s heating and ventilation controls at the bottom (as well as app view, camera view and settings). It is the first screen shown when the display turns on but is accessible at any time by pressing the rectangular button underneath it. The configurable tiles are easy to operate and the graphics are crisp and clear.
Another first for Volvo are over-the-air software updates, which include new features and improvements to the car’s infotainment and propulsion systems. The latest software update for example was to the car’s main electronic systems – increasing charging speed and improving the driving range.
It’s better screwed together than Tesla’s models and the quality of the materials and trim are all typical of Volvo – durable but elegant, and the styling is very, well, Swedish. By that I mean minimalist, so if you don’t like to delve into an infotainment touchscreen to adjust things like interior temperature or change the radio station, it’s not for you! It does at least have one of the most advance voice control systems of any car – simply say ‘Hey Google’ or ‘Okay Google’ (or press a button on the steering wheel) and it’s ready for your commands.
Underneath the XC40 Recharge is the Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) that underpins the Polestar 2, which was created to accept an electric powertrain so as to retain the XC40’s functionality. So you get the same 452 litres of boot space (including a large underfloor storage area), rear leg room is very generous and there’s ample interior storage space including larger door pockets in the absence of speakers, plus a 31 litre frunk. Innovative solutions such as a removable waste bin between the front seats, a fold out hook on the glove compartment and a boot divider for keeping bags separate and up right, together with a hands-free power-operated tailgate, are thoughtful touches in a family car. Adding further to its flexibility is its ability to be able to tow 1.5 tonnes (which is down on the other XC40s which can pull 1600-2100kg depending on what engine you go for).
Volvo has been synonymous with safety ever since it became the first car in the world to get three-point seat belts as standard back in 1959 and is the biggest sole reason my dad has always had them. When you’re traffic police you certainly get to see how their technology – like its famed Side Impact Protection System – really helps when it comes to preventing injury in the case of a crash. And when it comes to the Recharge no compromise has been made in safety with the engineers completely redesigning the front crash structure in the absence of an engine to absorb an impact, as well as creating a unique safety structure for the occupants and the battery. On the top-spec model there’s also a function that detects if the car is in danger of being hit from behind at a speed below 20mph, and will tension the front seatbelts and activate the Whiplash Protection System in the event of a collision. If the car is stationary it will also activate the foot brake in order to reduce the forward acceleration of the car.
While it may seem like a lot of money compared to its South Korean rivals it does have a decent level of standard equipment such as 19 inch alloy wheels, autofolding heated power door mirrors, LED headlights, hill descent control, ‘Clean Zone’ air quality system and pollen filter, 2-zone electric climate control, electric cabin heater and cooler, wireless mobile phone charging, cruise control and adjustable speed limiter, rain sensor automatic windscreen wipers, driver alert control, oncoming lane mitigation, plus the cables for plugging into a Type 2 wallbox or AC public charger and a normal three-pin domestic socket.
There are just three models to keep things simple. Recharge Twin, Recharge Twin Plus (£52,950) which gets you added convenience like heated and electrically adjustable front seats, a reversing camera and a more efficient interior heating system that helps to improve the car’s driving range in winter conditions, while for an extra £6750 you get Recharge Two Pro which gains 20 inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, 360 camera, driver assistance, Harman Kardon sound and panoramic roof, as well as blindspot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and a semi-autonomous driving function. The only options are metallic paint, deployable towbar, 20" wheels with 235/45 (front) and 255/40 (rear) tyres and different types of upholstery.
In terms of design, connectivity, ease of use and quality it’s definitely worth the premium over its cheaper electric crossover rivals if you can afford it of course – and we’re not sure what you’re getting to warrant paying extra for the offerings from Audi and Jaguar. The only thing the Tesla Model X has going for it is the fast and reliable supercharger network, technology and extra range (not to mention the option of 6 and 7 seats for an extra £6.3k and £3.4k respectively) but not for another £41k! So while it may seem expensive next to many rivals, the lower-spec models stack up fairly well next to similar premium alternatives.
It’s at this point we should mention the Polestar 2 again which shares much of the same technology and starts at £39,950 if you go for the standard range single motor model. It has slightly more range and while it’s slower to 62 by a few seconds it’s a lot more engaging and enjoyable to drive. So, bear in mind, sacrificing the performance, SUV body shape and size and badge snobbery could save you ten grand.
The XC40 was the UK’s best-selling model for Volvo, not to mention the best-selling premium SUV of all in 2020, and the brand expects its Recharge models to account for more than a fifth of all Volvos sold in the country. Having already announced its tripled electric car production capacity in Ghent, Belgium, with EVs due to make up 60 per cent of the plant’s production limit by next year Volvo is clearly confident about its ambitions for an ell-electric future. It will be interesting to see how it sells, but we suspect that lower spec single motor, front-wheel drive versions will be even more appealing.
Price (RRP OTR): From £49,950, £56,700 (model as tested)
Top speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 4.9 seconds
Driving range (combined): 256 miles
Charging time: 40 mins (150kW, 0-80%), 8 hours (11kW, 0-100%),
Insurance group: 42
Vehicle warranty: 3 year/60,000 miles
Battery warranty: 8 years/100,000 miles/78 per cent