Car review: Together in electric dreams with Volvo XC40 Recharge

By Steve Berry

WELCOMING a Volvo into my life has always been a moment of joy. Always stylish, always clever and always a calming, relaxed and stress-reducing driving experience.

However, the fully-electric XC40 Recharge model was causing me some concern as I eyed it up on my driveway. Not because I doubted the Swedish manufacturer’s ability to produce a class-leading EV, but because I doubted the local charging infrastructure was up to muster and this could create its own stress.

Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin

Of course, if you were to invest in a fully-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, the chances are you would also have a home-charging unit installed which makes life much simpler. Volvo offer the NewMotion Home Charge Point for around £500, fully fitted (standard installation).

So, infrastructure worries aside, what do you get for your £60,300 (or £799/month)?

And yes, that’s a lot of money for a mid-sized family SUV. However, this is the price of the range-topping Pro model (now called ‘Ultimate’) which boasts twin motors, AWD and every conceivable toy in the shop. It’s blindingly fast too with a 0-62mph time of under five seconds.

If frightening the bejeezers out of your passengers and/or joint-account holder isn’t your thing though, you could opt for the single-motor, FWD, entry-level XC40 Recharge Core for just £45,750 (or £669/month). It’s still very well specified though and definitely no slouch.

In between sits the XC40 Recharge Plus for £51,750 (or £719/month) which can also be had with the twin motor option for £57,000.

A word of warning though. At the time of writing there were no new XC40 Recharge models available for immediate purchase. All carry a 12-month waiting list – an unfortunate situation that you’ll find with almost every premium EV manufacturer at the moment. Blame the global pandemic aftermath and consequent microchip supply problems.

Whichever model you choose though should be worth the wait. The Volvo XC40 Recharge is a fine-looking SUV that manages to stand out from the plethora of vehicles designed around a similar brief: A family SUV that’s big on space and practicality without being cumbersome around town.

However, it’s the interior that really sets the XC40 Recharge apart from its rivals; it’s such an airy, minimalist and pleasant place to be sat. My range-topping model felt every bit as special as rivals such as the Audi E-Tron and Jaguar I-Pace with only the Tesla Model 3 feeling more minimalist – but less stylish.

The only problem I had with such a clean looking dash was having to poke at the infotainment screen to change temperature settings – although having Google Assistant onboard means you can simply use voice commands.

The heated, fully-adjustable electric front seats feel plush and comfortable in Connect Textile/Microtech Upholstery – or “part (faux) leather” to you and me.

The steering wheel is also heated and looking through it you’ll notice the fully digital instrument display is of a higher resolution than supplied to non-EV XC40s.

The 9-inch, centrally mounted, portrait screen is also of excellent quality with crisp graphics and excellent response times. It’s the same system as in the Polestar 2 and provides super-easy access to Google Maps and many other downloadable apps. It can look a little cluttered at first but time with the system soon lets you navigate around with ease.

As well as a useful 360-degree view to help with parking, you can allow the car park itself through Park Assist Pilot which provides both 90-degree and parallel parking.

Visibility all-round is very good from your driving perch and even the over-the-shoulder and rear window views are decent enough for you not to be relying on parking aids most of the time.

The cornering function of the LED headlights help at night, as does the auto main-beam function – but don’t expect fully-adaptive headlights – which is a little annoying at this price-point.

In the rear you’ll find enough room for a couple of adults and decent head a leg room – even with the panoramic sunroof that equips top models. Any central passenger has a large hump to deal with at their feet though, so although three adults can easily fit side-by-side, you wouldn’t want to journey too far. A couple of kids will have space galore.

While those up front get a handy pop-out rubbish bin between the seats and extra storage under their seats, rear passengers get good sized door bins and cupholders in the central armrest.

Boot space is good at 452 litres with a large underfloor space also available. Access is good too with no awkward shapes to contend with and no lip either, so sliding larger items in is a doddle.

Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin

Out on the road the Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin Motor is well-mannered, sophisticated and refined – or a complete beast when you want it to be. A quiet beast, but a beast nonetheless.

With the front and rear motors providing all-wheel-drive as well as 408 bhp and 660 Nm of torque, the XC40 Recharge Twin will hurl you, uncompromisingly, toward the horizon very quickly indeed. A 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds feels much quicker from behind the wheel.

But most of the time you’ll be simply wafting along in relative silence and all will seem good with the world.

The ride is very good indeed – even on this model’s larger 20in tyres – with almost all road imperfections being dealt with easily and without fuss. There is no adaptive suspension option but I don’t think the XC40 needs it. Just select “Normal” mode for a relaxed drive and all you have to do is steer.

You don’t even need to move your feet around either as this automatic Volvo has the best “one-pedal” driving I’ve experienced. If ignoring the brake pedal sounds a little crazy to you then you won’t be alone. However, I was sceptical at first too. Lifting off the accelerator to brake may sound reckless but I swear, it takes about five minutes to get used to. And once you have you wonder why on earth you should drive any other way. It adds a whole new element of relaxation to driving – as well as recouping energy back into the battery every time you lift your right foot.

Volvo say you can expect a range of around 260 miles (slightly more with a single motor, but not much) which should be more than adequate for most people. I found that a full charge indicated just 190 miles of range – which was disappointing – although this was on cold spring mornings in Scotland with temperatures hovering around 2-3 degrees.

A home charging unit will take around 12 hours to charge to 100%. But that’s from 0% and you’ll probably never need to charge from empty. More likely you’ll be “topping-up” when you arrive home so only a few hours on charge will be the norm.

When out and about, if you can find a 150kW fast charging station, then you can charge from 10-80% in less than 30 minutes. But good luck finding one at the moment. All I could find was 7kw Charge Scotland public charging points which came with their own problems – mainly the abysmal app that you need to access them, along with inconsiderate non-EV drivers taking up the parking bay.

The XC40 Recharge also comes with a domestic, 3-pin charging cable. I used it to charge from 20-100% and it took 24 hours. As I said earlier, a home-charging unit is essential. The 3-pin charger should be left in the car and used only for emergencies.

Any negativity surrounding ownership of ANY electric vehicle (with the exception of Tesla who have an excellent network of dedicated fast-chargers) is down to the infrastructure rather than the car itself; and to be honest, it is only the longest of journeys that may cause concern. 99% of the time range-anxiety won’t be a problem if you have home charger.

Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin

All-in-all I found the Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin Pro to be a class-act. I took full-advantage of the pre-heating function on the cold-mornings and full advantage of the twin motor power when on quiet dual-carriageways. The one-pedal driving mode is something I miss already, along with the XC40 Recharge’s quiet, cossetting comfort. As you would expect from Volvo, the list of safety features and accident mitigation systems is comprehensive.

It delivers in many ways – it’s just a pity you will have to wait for it to be delivered to your dealer. I’d get your order in now.

RATING: *****

AT A GLANCE: Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin Pro

OTR Price: £60,300
Engine: P8 Pure Electric
Power: 408 bhp
Transmission: Automatic
0-62mph: 4.9 secs
Top Speed: 112 mph
Range: 258 miles
C02: 0 g/km

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