The Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin AWD looks like an SUV, however under this boxy exterior lies a party trick: an all-electric powertrain with very rapid acceleration.
Volvo has been ‘electrifying’ its model range for a number of years now, but with plug-in hybrids rather than pure EVs, and – excluding the Polestar brand – it’s taken until now to bring an all-electric model to market, but this is now here in the form of the XC40 Recharge Twin. If you’re looking for an electric compact SUV, should this be near the top of your list?
The pure electric XC40 Recharge Twin has a 78kWh lithium-ion battery and two 204hp electric motors giving a combined total of 408hp and all-wheel drive.
Externally, it looks like any other XC40, apart from the blanked off grille; design is a subjective thing, but we’re personally not wild about the resulting visual appearance. Many manufacturers appear to have a challenge with what to do with the grille when converting a petrol car to an electric car, and seemingly Volvo is no exception.
The XC40 looks like a boxy Tonka Toy SUV, and one benefit of this is that with the back seats folded down the interior space is like a small van. Boot space is 452 litres with the rear seats up, and 1,328 litres with the rear seats down. There’s also a 31-litre luggage compartment in the front of the car, which is ideal for storing the charging cables.
The XC40 Recharge Twin also has a (braked) towing weight of 1,500kg.
The interior is also pretty much identical to any other XC40, which overall is a good thing, as the dashboard design and the materials have a premium feel.
The Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin AWD looks like an SUV, and Volvo has engineered SUV genes into the driving experience, as it feels like an SUV should – the steering has decent weight to it, and the suspension provides a comfortable ride quality on most road surfaces. However the car can crash into potholes, and this is likely to be the result of the large alloy wheels and low profile tyres.
When you set off from standstill, acceleration initially feels like a very gentle affair. This first impression could easily lull you into expecting a laid-back Volvo driving experience. But if you need to overtake something in a hurry and you floor the accelerator pedal you’ll make forward progress in a very rapid and unexpected way. This two-tonne SUV has a 0-62 mph time of 4.9 seconds – something that you certainly wouldn’t have expected from a Volvo a few years ago, unless it was the Volvo 850 Estate Touring Car.
The XC40 Recharge doesn’t have a choice of drive modes, yet it would be useful to select between Comfort, Sport and Eco settings.
All-wheel drive transfers the 660 Nm of torque to the road, and the grip is excellent (and very reminiscent of the Polestar 2, which the XC40 Recharge shares a platform with).
So the XC40 offers comfort, rapid acceleration and high levels of grip. So is this a sporty Sports Utility Vehicle? Well, not really. The handling is comfort-focused rather than sport-focused, and the 2,113 kg kerb weight doesn’t help with agility.
But for most driving – excluding precise high-speed cornering – the XC40 is very capable, being a quiet, refined and enjoyable mode of transport, and this also applies to motorway driving.
Apart from the shock of the acceleration, the XC40 also delivers another surprise. This is the first car we’ve ever driven – petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric – that doesn’t display the driving range. Yes, you read that correctly: this is a battery electric car that doesn’t show you how many miles of driving range you have. This is despite the driving range probably being the most important piece of information for an electric car driver.
The XC40 does provide a battery percentage read-out, but if this says 100%, does that mean 100 miles or 200 miles of range? The display shows the range when you get down to 25% battery charge, and at any point you can ask in the in-car Google assistant how many miles you have remaining, and she will tell you – if you ask in the correct way. We find the omission of a range read-out very surprising and we would expect this to appear sometime soon via an over the air update.
Most interior controls are accessed via the central nine-inch touchscreen. Controls on the touchscreen have been commonplace in many new cars for a number of years, and whether this is user-friendly depends on how much button-pressing the driver needs to do. With the XC40 the good news is that the central touchscreen home page is split into four sections (for the satnav, radio/media, phone and the Google Assistant), and then climate information is permanently displayed at the bottom. This means that just one press allows you to view a map (which has very clear graphics, and it helpfully shows traffic jams). And there’s even a separate, traditional dial for the volume (and, while we’re on the subject, there’s even a traditional gear lever, which again is a good thing, as this is becoming increasingly rare).
However despite the good news above, there can still be quite a lot of button-pressing to adjust the heating and ventilation, and to swap between radio and media. The voice control system is supposed to help with such tasks, but our experience is that you can’t rely on that.
There’s no start/stop switch; when you get in the car you switch the car on by selecting a gear. We’re not sure about this approach, as sometimes you want the car on without selecting a gear.
If you leave the radio on when you leave the car, it doesn’t automatically come back on when you start the car – you have to press a button to do this. Yet the car seems to switch the heated seat and steering wheel on for you automatically, so we’re not sure why it can’t do this with the radio.
It’s a bit of an initiative test to find how to switch off the lane departure warning system, which is done via the settings ‘cog’ symbol in the bottom right-hand corner of the touchscreen.
The Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin AWD has an official combined electric driving range of 257 miles (WLTP). This is less than the 300 miles range that many car buyers say they want from an EV, and is less than some rivals.
So what about the real-world range? As explained above, the XC40 Recharge Twin doesn’t display a driving range on the dashboard. However if you ask the Google Assistant, you’re generally told that the car has 180 miles remaining when fully charged.
You can recharge the XC40 Recharge Twin in as little as eight hours using the on-board 11kW (AC) charger. If you use a 150kW (DC) fast charger, the car can be recharged to 80% capacity in just 40 minutes.
The Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin has so far only been available online, from £619 per month for the First Edition model as tested, via the Care by Volvo Fixed subscription package. This is based on 36 months and 6,000 miles per year, and doesn’t include insurance, although this can be added. Care by Volvo Flexible offers an open-ended three-month rolling contract rather than the ‘Fixed’ three-year contract, but costs more per month. Volvo says that it expects 95% of retail customers to access the car via the Care by Volvo subscription service.
However, as we publish this review, you can now buy the three versions of the XC40 Recharge Twin outright with cash, with prices just announced, as follows:
XC40 Recharge Twin AWD: £49,950
XC40 Recharge Twin Plus AWD: £52,950
XC40 Recharge Twin Pro AWD: £56,700
The XC40 Recharge Twin Pro AWD is effectively a direct replacement for the First Edition car that we tested.
The normal financial incentives for battery electric vehicles apply, including a rate of just 1% Benefit in Kind for company car drivers for 2021/22.
Our test car included pack options of Driver Assist, Lounge, Climate, Versatility and Power Seat. It also had a Heat Pump, which aims to provide better cabin heating without excessive draining of the battery.
The pure electric Recharge Twin is also all-wheel drive, thanks to its front and rear electric motors.
Just a note on the name of the car to try and avoid any confusion. Volvo used to call its plug-in hybrids ‘Twin Engine’ – ie. there was a petrol or diesel engine and an electric motor. The company is now calling the pure electric XC40 ‘Twin’, so don’t think that this Recharge Twin also has twin engines, but you can buy an XC40 petrol-electric plug-in hybrid, as well as a petrol model. The XC40 Twin was previously called the ‘P8’ which people could have been interpreted as signifying a petrol model.
The Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin AWD is practical and comfortable, and it’s also a very competent and refined car, with surprising levels of acceleration and grip. Also surprising is the lack of a range read-out, which we see as one of the most vital items of information for an EV driver. The XC40 Recharge also isn’t cheap, with our test car coming in at around £60,000 – even though Volvo says that very few people will pay cash for it, choosing instead to take out a subscription. For this price it would be good to have a driving range of at least 300 miles rather than the official 257 miles, but at least there are no tailpipe emissions, so helping in the fight against climate change and air pollution. The Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin AWD is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.