by Gerhard Horn
Volvo is a bit late to the EV party for a brand that prides itself on being innovative; no matter, because the pure electric 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge is set up perfectly to dominate an entire segment. As the name suggests, the Recharge is based on the XC40, which is a great place to start. This compact crossover has already won numerous awards, including European Car of the Year. Its combination of comfort, practicality, and quality means it doesn't have to back down from competitors like the BMW X1, Audi Q3, and Mercedes-Benz GLA - our only criticism of this exceptional little car is the strained powertrain, which makes the standard XC40 the perfect candidate for electrification. The resulting Recharge has two electric motors driven by a floor-mounted battery pack, producing an astounding 402 horsepower and 486 lb-ft of torque. With specs like these, it's clear Volvo has the Tesla Model Y and the Ford Mustang Mach-E in its sights.
The Volvo XC40 Recharge is an entirely new all-electric model based on the XC40, and also has the title of being Volvo's first-ever fully electric car. To make it, Volvo essentially removed all the ICE components from the XC40. This isn't some quick-fix, hatchet job, however. The XC40 has all the hallmarks of a great EV, including a floor-mounted battery pack and an electric motor bolted to each axle. The XC40 Recharge also has the honor of being the first Volvo model to feature the brand new Android-powered software for the infotainment system, which allows for over-the-air updates à la Tesla.
See trim levels and configurations:
|R-Design P8 Electric||
Single Speed Automatic
When a manufacturer launches its first EV, it wants to make a splash. Porsche designed an entirely new model, and Ford did the same, even going as far as exploiting its most valuable nomenclature. Volvo doesn't seem too worried about making a big fuss. You could walk right past the Recharge without noticing the slight differences between it and the standard little SUV.
The exterior changes are incredibly subtle and include a blocked-off front grille as there is no engine to cool down. There are also Recharge badges on the flanks and tailgate, and model-specific 19-inch alloy wheels. Active LED headlights are standard, as are the signature Thor's Hammer daytime running lights and a panoramic moonroof. We love the subtle styling, but we're not so sure it will go over well with the hardcore EV crowd - the only thing an EV driver loves more than their car is letting other people know they drive an EV. It's like CrossFit and veganism, but with cars.
The XC40 Recharge shares most of its dimensions with the standard XC40, with the main difference being curb weight. The gas-fed XC40 maxes out at 3,837 pounds, while the dual electric motor and battery pack increases the curb weight of the XC40 recharge to 4,741 lbs. This crossover may have a compact footprint, but it weighs more than the non-hybrid XC90, and that's a much bigger SUV.
Overall, this compact crossover is 174.2 inches long, around 65 inches tall, and 80.1 inches wide, with the mirrors folded out. Ground clearance is significantly decreased from the 8.3 inches of the standard model, offering only 6.9 inches thanks to the battery in its belly.
Volvo calls the Recharge's engine the P8 AWD. It has two electric motors, each driving an axle. These motors are driven by a 78 kWh lithium-ion battery, resulting in a massive power output of 402 hp and 486 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is your standard single-speed, and top speed is limited to 112 mph as with all current Volvo cars. In case you were wondering, the EV motors are spinning at 14,000 rpm at top speed. Since you're only allowed to do 85 mph legally in some parts of the USA, that's perfectly adequate.
The XC40 Recharge runs a permanent electric all-wheel-drive setup. The motors aren't connected, but the power is normally split 50/50 between the front and rear, though the car's brain can shift torque instantly depending on driving conditions. The power output might lead you to believe that it's stupid fast, but the Recharge is not that kind of car. The claimed 0-60 mph time is 4.7 seconds. Before modern EVs, that used to be fast, but in a world where a Tesla Model S Plaid can get there in less than two seconds, we need a new set of guidelines. Still, the Volvo XC40 Recharge SUV has instant EV shove. No matter what the speed, you always have immediate feedback from the twin electric motors. It's a tenth of a second quicker to 60 than the Model Y Long Range but the Model Y Performance is comfortably faster. Volvo says the 2021 XC40 Recharge can tow up to 2,000 pounds. That's not much, but it's something.
The Recharge has lost none of the XC40's primary handling and driving characteristics in the electrification process. You can tell it's a heavy car when you're pushing on, but using it as a hot hatch is neither pleasant for the driver nor the vehicle. Instead, you should treat it as a luxury compact crossover that just happens to be quick off the line, and nothing more. Simply revel in the plushness provided as standard. This SUV effectively neutralizes the effect of scarred surfaces, keeping the occupants from being disturbed. In corners, the level of grip is excellent but you can feel the body leaning and the steering remains vague. Still, it's the feeling that this is a serene, quiet luxury cruiser that you remember most.
The big news in this section is what Volvo calls One Pedal Drive. It has to do with the regenerative braking, which, rather refreshingly, only has two settings. It's either on or off, and that's it. When it's on, the braking power when you lift off is quite strong. It took us around two days to build up the confidence, but the resulting deceleration is strong enough not to use the brake pedal in certain conditions. You only use the brake pedal those final few yards to ensure it comes to a halt. If you buy one of these, this driving style will become a habit within weeks. We love using it in the city but prefer to have it off on the highway.
According to the EPA, the pure electric Volvo XC40 Recharge is capable of 85/72/79 MPGe city/highway/combined. The claimed range on a full charge is 208 miles, significantly down compared to the Model Y. The latter can do between 303 to 326 miles, depending on the trim.
The Model Y also has a charging rate of 250 kW, while the most the Volvo can manage is 150 kW. That means it takes around 40 minutes to charge the battery from zero to 80% at a DC fast charger. This isn't ideal, considering most modern EVs can do the same in 15 to 20 minutes.
Charging at home is better, however. Using a three-phase 11 kW wallbox, the Volvo adds around 32 to 37 miles per hour. This method will require eight hours for a full charge for a totally depleted battery. However, keep in mind that you're not going to deplete the battery every day, and most of the time, it will be charged from around 40 or 50%. It's the same recharging schedule you follow with your phone. Does that ever go down to zero completely?
The electrification process has no impact on interior space. It fits in nicely in the compact crossover genre, offering plenty of room for a family of four. In the front of the Recharge, passengers get 40.9 inches of legroom and 39 inches of headroom, while rear passengers get 36.1 inches of legroom and 39.1 inches of headroom. The interior can be quite dark because of the black upholstery and thick C pillars, but the standard panoramic moonroof does a good job of brightening things up during the day. The spacious cabin is enhanced by attractive charcoal nubuck textile Nappa leather upholstery.
As mentioned before, going electric has not harmed space. The Volvo XC40 has 16 cubic feet of cargo space to the top of the rear seatback, 20.4 cubes up to the headliner, and 46.9 cubest when the rear seats are folded down. Since there is no engine up front and the electric motor is mounted low down, you now get a frunk. The XC40's frunk is less than one cube in volume, however. Still, it's a usable space that didn't exist before, and it's big enough to store all the bits you need to recharge at work.
Small items can be stowed in a standard glovebox or under the armrest where there is a sizable bin. Door pockets all around are deep and large, and can hold water bottles. There are two cupholders up front for your Chai Lattes, and two additional in the back of the rear-seat armrest.
The Recharge sits at the top of the XC40 range and is equipped with an extensive array of comfort and driver assistance features. It gets keyless entry and drive, heated, power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control, and an all-new 12-inch digital instrument cluster. The latter has three display mode options. The Calm mode is minimalist, supplying only vital information, while the Navi setting provides step-by-step navigation instructions. It also has a Car-Centric mode, which focuses on the driver assistance systems. For example, when you're using Pilot Assist, it will display the car from the top and the lines it's detecting on both sides. Speaking of driver assistance features, the Recharge has many such as forward collision warning, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, and cross-traffic alert.
Volvo has retained the minimalist interior design it created but is now updated for better performance. The Recharge has a nine-inch touchscreen interface with four vertical blocks and traditional button shortcuts underneath the screen. Volvo's older system was starting to show its age, and to make the new system feel more like a smartphone, Volvo did something brilliant. It actually turned to a smartphone developer for help. Oh, happy day. The new touchscreen runs Android Automotive OS, developed by Google. That means you have access to Google Maps, Google Assistant, Google Keyboard, over-the-air updates, and the ability to download more car-related apps from the Google Play Store. In case you're an Apple person, don't worry. The system is compatible with the iPhone as well. A 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system including a subwoofer is available, but the standard eight-speaker system works just fine. As expected, Bluetooth connectivity is included too.
We have to applaud Volvo for this smart move. Switching between a phone and a car interface has never been easier because they function in the same way. Here's a tip for every other manufacturer: If you want your infotainment systems to work as well as smartphones, go to the guys who design and develop smartphones.
Volvo is quite confident in this product, as the electric motors are sealed-for-life and completely maintenance-free. It makes perfect sense since all Volvos are limited to 112 mph, in which case the Recharge's motors are only spinning at 14,000 rpm. To ICE enthusiasts, this might seem high, but it's still way below the threshold. This doesn't mean that the XC40 is without problems. It has been recalled once this year for a high voltage disconnect that may result in a loss of power. This isn't nearly as scary as it sounds - it's just a microprocessor that may reset itself, causing the high voltage system to shut down for safety reasons.
The XC40 has an extensive warranty. You get a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, a four-year/50,000-mile powertrain warranty, and an eight-year/100,000-mile battery warranty. As a bonus, Volvo also includes a three-year/36,000-mile scheduled maintenance plan.
The NHTSA has not had the opportunity to review the Volvo XC40 Recharge for 2021, but it has been to the IIHS for a thorough inspection. The review resulted in a Top Safety Pick + award, which is the highest rating a car can achieve. There are also no limitations on this award, and no optional extras are required.
In terms of safety gear, Volvo doesn't shy away from adding everything as standard, which means the XC40 Recharge has collision warning and avoidance, oncoming lane crash avoidance and mitigation, lane-departure warning and a lane-keeping aid, run-off road protection, automatic post-crash braking and door unlocking, fatigue alert, road sign information, blind-spot assist with steer assist, cross-traffic alert with auto-braking, and rear collision mitigation. Optionally, you can add a 360-degree surround-view camera system and the Pilot Assist system with adaptive cruise control.
We're slightly confused about the XC40 Recharge's existence, considering Volvo created an entirely different brand for EV vehicles. The XC40 Recharge costs the same as the Polestar 2, yet it's not nearly as accomplished, but more on that later. The price of the 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge is on the high side. We know EVs usually carry a premium, but it's hard to ignore that the Ford Mustang Mach-E starts at a significantly lower price.
In isolation, it's a great car. The XC40 is good, to begin with, and with an EV powertrain, it's even better. We love the one-pedal driving, but most of all, we like the fact that it just looks like a normal XC40. A lot of ICE loyalists are put off by the EV attitude - that holier-than-thou, look at me, I'm saving the planet mentality. Volvo is also guilty of this. The marketing strategy is based on zero emissions, which strictly isn't true. There isn't a single car that's emissions-free, and the USA really should implement a more extensive harmful emissions rating, starting with the very first piece of nickel mined to make the battery. But this car is perfect for the individual that wants to move over to an EV without making a big fuss about it. Despite intense competition, it has a premium badge, a lovely interior, and an impressive list of driver assistance features.
To start, the price of the Volvo XC40 Recharge is $55,085 MSRP , excluding the $1,095 destination fee. Being a pure electric vehicle, the XC40 Recharge qualifies for a federal tax credit of $7,500.
There is only one model, but it is worth looking at the options. You need to add $695 for a decent metallic color. Volvo offers four optional packages, but since the Recharge is already well equipped, we'd only add the $1,300 Advanced Package, which includes headlight cleaning, Pilot Assist Driver Assistance with adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera system, a 12-volt socket in the trunk, and wireless charging. This takes the total up to $57,080.
The Volkswagen ID.4 is the perfect example of how mass production is reducing the cost of EVs. The ID.4 is similar in size to the XC40, yet prices start at $39,995. The upcoming top-spec AWD Pro S (Statement) will start at $48,175. We opted for the AWD model for two reasons. It increased the performance by adding an electric motor, and it gives the ID.4 a tow rating of 2,700 lbs. That's quite a bit more than the Volvo's 2,000 lbs rating. The ID.4 also has a 30.3 cube trunk, nearly doubling the Volvo's 16-cube trunk.
You do lose out on power, however. The Volvo's 402 hp and 486 lb-ft output trumps the dual-motor ID.4's 302 hp/330 lb-ft. On the flip side, the ID.4 AWD comes with a 230-mile claimed range, beating Volvo's 208 miles. Our road test of the ID.4 earlier this year also showed that the ID.4 doesn't discharge as quickly as VW suggests. We estimate the AWD model will sprint to 60 mph in roughly 6.5 seconds, but that's hardly the point of these cars. We're just happy the EV contenders are flooding in, giving US consumers more options to choose from. The ID.4 is more affordable and was designed to be an EV from the beginning. We'd save ourselves a bundle and get the VW.
The Model Y Long Range is more affordable than the XC40 Recharge, coming in at $53,990. The Performance Model retails for $60,990 - both cars are in the same ballpark as the Recharge. Performance-wise, the Long Range takes 4.8 seconds to get to 60 mph, which is a split-second slower than the Volvo. The Performance gets there in 3.5 seconds. Range-wise, Tesla has all its competitors licked. The Long Range will do 326 miles, while the Performance will do 303 miles.
As we know, Tesla continues to struggle with quality. It was easy to forgive when it was the leading player in the segment, but the rivals came in hot and heavy. The legacy manufacturers are still not there range-wise, but they know how to put a car together correctly. The question you have to ask yourself is whether you prefer additional range or quality? When spending this much, we prefer a quality product and that's why we'd choose the Volvo.
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