Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric Review: Not your typical Volvo

Words by Joel Foo; Photos by Horizon Drivers' Club
14 Mar 2022
 

The XC40 Recharge manages to retain all the factors that made it a great family crossover, but with dizzying acceleration and pace

It feels like Volvo has come almost full circle in terms of falling in and out of being the cool car of choice. What followed Roger Moore’s P1800 were cars that were seemingly designed with set squares and rulers – stuff that one’s geography teacher would be most at home with. Ever since the introduction of the floating centre console in the early 2000s and 'Thor’s hammer’ headlamps with the S90, it looks as if the Swedish marque has been granted a breath of fresh air, and has become a brand that has gained much needed recognition amongst the younger crowd. 

The XC40, now in Pure Electric, BEV, format, successfully carries on the lineage of cool Volvos that have passed through the ranks from what is now approaching two decades since the dawn of the brand’s transformation. The absence of a front grille, or one with a cover for that matter, has managed to make what is a fairly traditional, upright crossover shape look sleeker, and a tad more interesting. Its Sage Green coat – a Recharge-exclusive paint option – coupled with subtle badging on its C-Pillar and rear, enables this BEV to set itself apart from its ICE siblings in a distinctive but yet understated fashion.

Although the XC40 appears to be on the beefier side in pictures, it actually has a rather compact footprint when viewed in the flesh. Lengthening its wheelbase to reduce its overhangs allowed the designers in Gothenburg to maximise cabin space and increase its agility around town. Despite its high-riding position, the XC40 never felt too large or too difficult to maneuver through the tightest of multi-story carpark ramps. 

On the road, the XC40 performs very similarly to its ICE siblings – steering could be said to tend towards the lighter side, but is sufficiently precise for overtaking moves and sweeping bends. Owing to its height and softly sprung suspension, the XC40 leans noticeably into corners. However, there was never an occasion where we felt the car lose grip, perhaps owing to its wide 235/45 and 255/40 tyres on the front and rear respectively. 

Together with its 20-inch diamond cut rims, its ride is firm, but never harsh. Where the wide rubber pays most dividend though, is in helping put its 408bhp down onto the road. With a combined 660 Nm available on tap from its twin motors – one at the front and the other at the rear – acceleration is leaps ahead of its closest sibling, the T5. From the get go, the XC40 Recharge accelerates like a docile and refined luxury crossover – it is only when you bury your foot to the floor, where you’ll be startled by its ability to complete the century sprint in 4.9 seconds. Surprising, as its turn of pace is not what one would have expected from a sensible Volvo.

Despite the XC40 sharing a similar drivetrain to the Polestar 2 which we covered recently, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the equally mad 850R of the 90s. I guess it is the package which the Volvo comes in, that sets it apart from the Polestar – whilst one is a sleek European take on an EV, the XC40 Recharge is the more utilitarian alternative, with a higher roof line and a squared off hatchback. 

The sensibilities continue on the inside. With its large and almost flat load bay, this XC40 is no different from the petrol-powered versions that we have all been used to. What is different though, is its seamlessness of operation – with sensors to detect your presence on the drivers’ seat, all you have to do is shift it into Drive and off you go. For most drivers, we would suggest sticking to the regular 2-pedal drive mode as the single pedal mode might take some getting used to. This can be adjusted through its large iPad-like centre control panel, which is powered by Android Automotive OS (a Volvo-first). Wired up to Harmon Kardon’s 13-Speaker premium sound system, it sure sounded as if ABBA was performing live whenever a hit of theirs came up on shuffle. On the whole, its interior is classic Volvo and very Scandinavian – it feels solidly put together, with the right amount of luxuries (we particularly like the fabric-lined door bins which prevents unnecessary rattling) and an optimal level of minimalism applied. 

Conclusion

Despite the Volvo being just an electrified version of the existing XC40, in EV form, it manages to somehow freshen up a model line that has been in production since 2017. It retains all the factors that made the XC40 a great family crossover, but with dizzying acceleration and pace. Priced similarly to peers such as the Mercedes Benz EQA and Lexus UX300e in its class at $272,000 (as of Feb 2022), the XC40 yet offers more than double the amount of oomph. It is a pity that EVs are taxed according to power output here on our island – barring which, the XC40 would have been the top pick.

In Summary

We Like

Unexpected pace in a crossover form-factor, practical and spacious and yet premium-feeling cabin. Harmon Kardon’s Premium Sound System

We Don't

One-pedal drive takes some getting used to, annual road tax

Verdict

A strong contender amongst its peers – well worth the annual tax if pace and excitement is something you can’t live without in a family crossover

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