Driving the Volvo XC40 Recharge Ultimate for the first time... fast, but frugal
Originally sold as an expensive dual motor model, it is now being joined by a more justifiable single motor version that promises a journey of 260-miles from a single charge.
ONE SUV, THREE CHOICES
Diesel aside, the XC40 is sold with conventional petrol, plug-in hybrid and full electric powertrains – and it is the latter we are focusing on here. Initially the XC40 Recharge only had a powerful dual-motor set-up but the introduction of an entry-level single-motor model changes all of that.
And despite barely being a few months old, a raft of software up-dates have already been signed off for this particular version, chiefly upping cooling efficiency for the same floor-mounted 69kWh battery.
All told, it boosts this SUV’s quoted 259-mile range to a competitive 289-miles. Whereas the dual-motor configuration might well be considered unnecessary given it has an eye-watering 402bhp and too much performance for a chassis leaning towards relaxation and not racing, bosses at Volvo reckon paring the tech levels back a tad will make sense to a greater number of buyers.
XC40 RECHARGE AT A GLANCE
In comparison to all-wheel-drive dual-motor XC40s, the front-wheel-drive gains an extra trim level taking the total to three. The starting point is ‘Recharge Core’ (£45,750), moving up to ‘Recharge Plus’ (£51,750) and finishing at ‘Recharge Ultimate’ (£55,050).
Performance-wise, the trio are very evenly matched as they have a total power output of 228bhp and an identical 99mph top speed.
The same also applies when the time comes for owners to juice up the battery: 150kW DC rapid charging comes as standard and allows for 0-80% to be achieved in 40 minutes or a more leisurely eight hours if a home wallbox is being relied upon.
Slow though the latter may be, it should still be quick – and convenient – enough for an overnight refill to be achieved. And, of course, being an electric car, the XC40 Recharge relies on regenerative braking that is selected via the central infotainment system and is switchable between coasting to a single one-pedal driving setting.
NO DESIGN REVOLUTION
Like many internal combustion engine cars and their electric-powered siblings, there is often very little to distinguish the two – and the same goes for the XC40 Recharge. The main visual difference is the front grille – or lack thereof.
As there is no engine to cool, this space is occupied by a useful 31-litre carpeted ‘frunk’ where charge cables can be stored as opposed to taking up space in the boot as is the way with some of this car’s rivals.
Other defining aspects is ‘Sage Green’ or ‘Fusion Red’ metallic paint and unique 5-spoke alloy wheel designs measuring 19- or 20-inches. Every car has LED headlights, auto folding heated door mirrors, roof rails and a power-operated tail-gate which is upgraded to a handsfree initiated system on mid-spec models in addition to LED driving lights.
Plump for ‘Ultimate’ and a headlight cleaning system on top of premium paint is thrown into the bundle. Whichever of the three you end up choosing, a stand-out design is guaranteed.
A STAND-OUT CABIN AS WELL
Volvo hasn’t attempted to reinvent the XC40 Recharge’s interior, instead relying on the strengths of the petrol and plug-in versions with the odd change here and there. Some of the materials are constructed from recycled plastic bottles and whilst that might conjure negative connotations it shouldn’t as materials are first class and the level of fit and finish typically bulletproof.
Across the board a 9-inch portrait-style central touchscreen that relies on Google software and a 12.3-inch driver display are to be found; both screens are intuitive and quick enough and the former gives the option of using either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto but considering how slick it is, we would have to question why anyone should feel the need to.
Despite ‘Ultimate’ trim’s high list price, you do get adjustable heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a novel 360-degree parking camera system, Harman Kardon stereo with 12 speakers, and a powered tilt and slide panoramic sunroof.
FAST BUT FRUGAL
Out on the road, the XC40 is easily one of the comfiest ways to travel from A to B. The raised ride height and lofty driving position combine with the large windscreen to provide a commanding view of the road ahead, and the quietness of the e-motor only reinforces the car’s relaxed nature.
As mentioned earlier in this review, the XC40 Recharge has a commendable turn of pace that can pin you in your seat if you push the accelerator into the floor. Gear changes from the automatic transmission are seamless and the manner in which this Swedish SUV ride and handles never but fails to impress.
True, there is some lean in the corners despite the battery’s positioning ensuring a low centre of gravity, and although active dampers on dual-motor examples are replaced by less sophisticated passive springs, Volvo’s clever chassis engineers have worked their magic to keep the suspension compliant in almost every situation for an incredibly supple ride owners will love.
A 150kW rapid charger can take you to 80% for 180-miles of driving in roughly 40 minutes. Owners can maximise the energy in the XC40 Recharge’s battery by relying on the ‘Range Assist’ app which helps drivers with smart energy management and advice on driving efficiently. A range optimiser is another useful tool that can adjust the climate control to minimise energy consumption.
Built on Volvo’s ‘CMA’ platform, practicality in the XC40 Recharge doesn’t suffer by introducing a battery. Therefore, boot space is competitive at 452-litres and is supported by a 31-litre ‘frunk’ under the bonnet. Space on all fronts will please most people travelling in the back, with headroom particularly commodious. However, a pronounced floor hump is sure to annoy
On the round the XC40 Recharge’s cabin is very stylish, functional and, apart from the odd cheap plastic lower don, well-made. Every model has a long list of standard equipment, with this maxed out on ‘Ultimate’ trim as these come with 600w sound system and subwoofer, power-operated panoramic sunroof, heated front seats and a 360-degree around view camera.
‘‘Thor’ DRLs, boxy proportions and L-shaped LED tail-lights combine to give the XC40 a strong on-road presence. This is enhanced by special 5-spoke, 20-inch alloy wheels on ‘Ultimate’ Recharge cars, ‘Silver Dawn’ metallic paint, a black finish for the wing mirror caps and - if desired - the roof. Other than subtle badging and a blanked off front grille there is little to suggest that this is an EV.
PROS & CONS
- Low running costs
- Comfortable to drive
- Easy to live with
- Some rivals are cheaper
- A few scratchy surfaces
- Doesn’t sparkle dynamically
Price: £55,050 (as tested)
Engine: 69kWh battery, one e-motor
Power/torque: 228bhp/243lb ft
Transmission: Single-speed automatic, rear-wheel-drive
0-60mph: 7 seconds
Top speed: 995mph
EV range: 259-miles