- Very fast and handles well
- Plenty of space for passengers and cargo
- Pro version is extremely well equipped
- Middling range
- Twice the price of basic petrol and diesel XC40so
- Typical square Volvo looks
Range (WLTP): 257-260 miles Top Speed: 112 mph 0 to 60: 4.7 sec Cost/Mile (@14p/kWh): 4.2-4.25p
Volvo’s plug-in hybrids have garnered an enviable reputation for providing performance rather than just low CO2 emissions. In fact, its PHEVs are some of the fastest around. So it is a bit surprising we are only now seeing an all-electric Volvo, particularly when you realise the company is part of the same group as Polestar. Well, the wait is now over because at last we have Volvo's first BEV, the XC40 Recharge Twin AWD.
This is another compact electric SUV, and it’s based on the same platform as the diesel and petrol XC40 models that were launched in 2018. However, the XC40’s Compact Modular Architecture was always intended to have all-electric options, so this is no compromised fossil fuel car with an electric drivetrain shoehorned inside. There was meant to be an all-electric version, it has just taken three years longer than the ICE versions to arrive.
Price and Options
The car we were sent for review was actually the 1st Edition, which is what you will receive if you ordered months ago but is otherwise now sold out. However, it is being replaced by the top-of-the-range Pro trim level, which has virtually identical features. Beneath this is a Plus version and the entry-level version, which doesn't have any special name.
As we mentioned earlier, Volvo is part of the same group as Polestar, and this has been handy for the XC40 Recharge Twin AWD, because it has borrowed the drivetrain from the Polestar 2. This is a powerful dual-motor setup with 408hp and 660Nm of torque. The battery is the same 78kWh size, too. This perhaps shows that full electrification was never just an afterthought for the XC40.
The basic XC40 Recharge Twin AWD costs £49,950, the Plus £52,950, and the Pro £56,700. This is a lot of money when you realise that the basic petrol XC40 is half that price. However, the all-electric XC40 is also significantly faster than other versions and is really the top of the range. It should also be viewed as a competitor to the Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes EQC, both of which are much more expensive.
In fact, both these cars start at nearly £10,000 more than the top-of-the-range Pro XC40 Recharge Twin AWD, let alone the base version. The Tesla Model Y could come and undercut everything, but it won't be in Europe for at least another year. So in this comparison the XC40 looks like better value. Volvo also doesn't expect to sell the XC40 Recharge Twin AWD predominately outright, but via its subscription service, which costs £649 a month for the base car and £749 a month for the Pro.
The kit level of the base vehicle is pretty good as standard, including a powered tailgate, keyless entry, cruise control, rear parking sensors and tinted rear windows. The Plus version adds front parking sensors and a rear parking camera. You also get a heat pump and heated front and rear seats. The Pro version, like the 1st Edition we reviewed, adds a panoramic sunroof, 360-degree parking camera, adaptive cruise, some extra safety features and Harman Kardon premium sound.
It also adds attractive 20in diamond cut alloys, where the base car and Plus only have 19in wheels. The basic colour is black, and there are five metallic options for £585 extra, including the Fusion Red of our review sample, which is the only one that isn't rather sober. Crystal White and Sage Green premium metallic options are £850 extra. However, with the Pro you can get any of these colours included in the price.
Likewise, all the interior options are included with the Pro, or with the other two trims you can get leather for £900 or a nubuck textile/nappa leather combo for £650. The other major options is a retractable tow bar for £1,175. Our review car didn’t include this, however.
The Volvo XC40 has been quite popular since its launch, and the PHEV-version was the number one seller in Europe in March. So you are quite likely to have seen one of the ICE XC40s on the roads, and the Recharge Twin AWD isn’t that different in appearance. The most obvious variation is at the front, where there is a solid panel rather than a grille air intake. There’s still a narrow gap at the bottom for cooling ingress.
In other words, this car looks essentially like any Volvo SUV, which means quite boxy. Some people find this appearance a bit boring, but it’s a classic look that means business. The styling is not exactly futuristic, but that could be to your taste, and you may also like a Volvo that just looks like a Volvo.
We particularly like the red colour car we were sent. The little black spoiler at the top of the rear provides a subtly sporty look, and the black roof also adds some class, while the plastic wheel arches, and plastic bottom side sections, give a rugged feel. This is a four-wheel drive car, after all, and it even has an off-road mode. The sunroof on the Pro adds additional class. Overall, it’s a matter of taste whether you like the XC40’s looks. We do, you might not.
Our review car had the Charcoal Leather interior, while the basic seat material is textile, and there's a mixed nappa leather, vinyl and textile option too. The front seats are very comfortable and will be great for longer journeys. The headroom is also great. With the Pro and Plus, the seats have a complete set of electric adjustments, and a memory function with two slots. They are heated, too, although again not in the base trim level, just the Plus and Pro.
The central console has a couple of cupholders and a wireless phone charging cradle, which we're pleased to say is standard across all cars in the range. There are a couple of USB ports here as well. Under the armrest is a cubby, and there's a small addition place which is great for leaving your phone in if you don't want to charge it, or documents you want to keep handy. The glove compartment is decidedly small, however.
The Pro’s panoramic sunroof has a slightly odd touch-control system to open the blind and draw back the glass. It wasn’t obvious how this worked initially, but once we figured it out, we found it operated well.
The back seats are pleasantly spacious too. There is plenty of knee room and a reasonable amount of head room. Two adult passengers of average size or even over six foot should be okay in the rear. There are three rear seats, although, as usual, the middle one is much narrower. If you only have two rear occupants, you can pull down the central seat back to make an armrest with a couple of cupholders.
Rear seat passengers also benefit from their own air conditioning vents, and underneath a circular cover can be found a couple of USB-C ports for charging their devices. The Plus and Pro cars have rear heated seats that rear passengers can operate, although the base XC40 doesn't have this. The rear seats have ISOfix points, and so does the front passenger seat.
Storage and Load Carrying
One of the reasons you buy an SUV is for cargo capacity, and the XC40 is also well endowed in this area. Even the base car gets an electric tailgate, with a hands-free system where you kick under one corner to open. We found this to be somewhat finicky, although all these systems are. Once the boot is open, there’s plenty of space inside, with 452 litres of space to the glass line, and 578 litres to the roof, which is around the same as the VW ID.4. However, there is also a small space under the boot floor, which could accommodate a small extra bag of shopping.
Drop the rear seats forward, which offers the usual 60/40 split, and you get 852 litres to the glass line or 1,328 litres to the roof. With the Pro version of the car, the headrests pop out of the way automatically. This ensures they clear the front seats, and also leaves a little space in between so you could slip a slim item in there as well. We used the XC40 to transport a teenager back to university, and it had more than enough space. The boot floor is entirely flat, too, which is great for longer items.
In other words, although the boot isn’t huge, it will be big enough, and the base size without the rear seats down will be adequate for a weekend trip away with four adults. There’s also a small frunk under the bonnet, ideal for keeping your charging cables. This is presumably where the petrol or diesel engine would go on some versions of the XC40, and it’s great to see Volvo has made use of this for extra space with the Recharge Twin AWD.
The XC40 has a very standard car control system, which is hardly different from the fossil fuel versions of the car. That will be good news for anyone looking to have a smooth transition to EVs. One more advanced feature, however, is how the XC40 Recharge Twin AWD starts. You simply sit down, push the brake pedal, select drive, and off you go.
The steering wheel is standard Volvo, with cruise control buttons on the left plus more general media and menu controls on the right. There are conventional lights and windscreen wiper stalks. The seat and steering wheel need careful adjustment to make the dashboard display fully visible. This is partly because the speed display is quite far to one side and can be obscured by the side of the steering wheel.
The drive controls are operated via a control akin to a gearstick. You pull this back for drive, push forward for reverse, and there's neutral in the middle. A button is used to engage park, which also engages the parking brake with no separate control for this. This car doesn't have different power modes, either, or extra levels of regenerative braking, although there is a single-pedal driving mode. The system allegedly works out power delivery for best performance or economy automatically. There are a few physical buttons for music control and demisting front and rear screen, but most of the air conditioning controls are on the central touchscreen.
The XC40 used to get a lot of criticism for the antiquity of its infotainment system, but the latest versions now have a new version based on Android Auto like the Polestar 2's. However, the interface design isn't so graphically oriented as Polestar’s, and there's a physical home button at the bottom, which calls up your favourites list. We much prefer this. You can also see the air conditioning controls at the bottom at all times, no matter what else is onscreen, which we also prefer to the Polestar 2’s approach.
You press a quartet of squares to get to a menu with more functions, including the Play Store where you can download extra apps. The XC40 also has Google Voice control, which works okay for some things, particularly navigation, but we wouldn't use it all the time. Press the cog and you get to the settings, which are extensive – such as toggling one-pedal driving and lane keeping. You can also easily set charging limits. There are sound controls, connectivity options, and the ability to customise the home screen.
Particularly handy will be the option to create different driver profiles, which you can then connect to each key fob. This means multiple drivers can use the car without having to fiddle with the settings each time they swap over. We also like the fact that the Recharge Twin AWD comes with four years of data connectivity as standard across the range – three years more than Tesla currently offers.
Performance and Driving
Volvo has been creating wolves in sheep’s clothing for a while now, with innocuous family cars that are devastatingly quick, and the XC40 Recharge Twin AWD definitely fits that category. That 408hp, 660Nm drivetrain is hugely potent, providing twice as much power as the VW ID.4 Pro Performance, for example, in a car of similar weight. This drivetrain delivers 0 to 60mph in just 4.7 seconds, which is phenomenal for an SUV. It isn't as fast as the Polestar 2 with the same motors, and a couple of tenths of a second slower than a Jaguar I-Pace, but it's faster than a Tesla Model Y Long Range.
In other words, this car is brutally quick in a straight line. You need to pay attention not to break speed limits in the XC40 Recharge Twin AWD, because even when already at motorway speeds it can accelerate fast. Although the top speed is limited to 112mph, there's still plenty of torque available above 70mph, which makes exceeding the speed limit accidentally quite easy.
Volvo's Compact Modular Architecture may be designed for fossil fuel drivetrains as well as electric, but it still keeps the batteries below the floor, so the centre of gravity is low, making handling well balanced for a tall, 2.1-ton car. It doesn't corner like a Tesla Model 3, but this is a fast and fun car to drive, considering its size. That huge torque and acceleration are addictive, but the XC40 can also deliver its power smoothly, so you can glide around city streets. The suspension is firm but the ride still comfortable. Overall, it delivers a great driving experience. The Tesla Model 3 is better, and the Jaguar I-Pace also a little better, but you won’t have any complaints about the XC40. We found it very engaging and pleasurable to drive.
Range and Charging
One area where the XC40 does fall behind some of the competition, however, is in range. Although 257 miles of WLTP range (260 for the basic model) is good, you can get close to that from the latest Renault Zoe, and cars based on Volkwagen’s MEB platform such as the ID.4 are going well over 300 miles now, for less initial outlay. The Jaguar I-Pace also boasts 292 miles of WLTP range. However, the Mercedes EQC and Audi e-tron are significantly behind.
So the Volvo sits somewhere in the middle of the pack, although the Tesla Model Y will have more range too when it arrives in Europe. However, the XC40 is still a credible choice for longer distances, because its range is supported by DC charging up to 150kW, which can replenish 80% capacity from empty in just 40 minutes. We tried charging the car from 23% on an IONITY charger and it averaged 110kW for a long period. AC charging is supported up to 11kW, which takes 7 hours for a full charge. On a typical 7kW home box it will be more like 11 hours.
So while this car won’t be a Tesla-beating mile muncher, you can definitely use it for much more than rapid family transportation about town. We went from London to Loughborough and back in a day and it coped perfectly fine with the journey, although we did need a charge along the way. Thanks to the 150kW DC, it wasn’t that onerous.
With a 14p per kWh supply, the XC40 costs 4.25p per mile, which is a little on the pricey side but not outrageous. The Audi e-tron and Mercedes EQC are more expensive to run. The car comes with a basic three-year, 60,000-mile warranty. The battery has a typical eight-year warranty, for up to 100,000 miles. However, Volvo doesn’t specify any capacity percentage. The 1st Edition is in insurance group 42, which is quite high, but no surprise given the level of performance available.
Volvos have always had a reputation for safety, and the XC40 Recharge Twin AWD is no exception. The 2018 petrol and diesel cars are five-star NCAP rated, with particularly high scores for keeping occupants safe – very Volvo. We don’t know if this extends to the electric version yet but see no reason why not as it’s the same platform. There is plenty of safety tech on board as well. As standard, there is pedestrian and cyclist detection, forward collision warning, and auto braking. You also get lane keeping and mitigation, road sign detection and display.
The Plus version doesn't add any extra features, but with the Pro edition you get the Driver Awareness pack. This includes blind spot detection, steering assistance, and cross traffic alert, as well as rear collision warning and mitigation, which not many cars we have tested have. The 360-degree parking camera with the Pro version is absolutely brilliant, giving you a birds-eye view of the road beneath and all around the car filling the entire central screen, making it extremely easy to parallel park as well as position the vehicle perfectly inside the lines either side of a space.
The Pro version’s adaptive cruise control is also excellent. The other two versions just have regular cruise control. The adaptive version also includes mild autosteering. You have to keep your hands on the wheel, but this car will corner for you on motorways – great for boring average speed zones. It’s one of the best implementations of this we’ve tried.
|Price:||Basic car – £49,950; Plus – £52,950; Pro – £56,700|
|Range (WLTP):||Basic car – 260 miles; Plus – 258 miles; Pro – 257 miles|
|Charge time (7.4kW):||11 hours|
|Charge time (11kW):||7 hours|
|Charge time (150kW, 80%):||40 minutes|
|On Board Charger:||11kW|
|Cost per mile*:||4.2-4.25p|
|Wheels driven:||All wheel drive|
|Cargo:||578 litres; 1,328 litres with rear seats down|
*based on electricity costs of 14p per kWh