Luxury Cars

2023 Volvo XC40 Recharge First Drive Review: EV SUV is petite, potent and unpretentious

After years of sprucing its plug-in hybrid powertrains, Volvo is leaping into the electrical car house with each ft. However somewhat than attempting to make an immense splash within the deep finish, Volvo elected to begin with its entry-level autos – the 2023 XC40 Recharge and its mechanical twin, the C40. Worry not. Whereas they could be small, they’re charmingly mighty.

Volvo was so looking forward to us to pattern the XC40 Recharge that it truly loaned us a 2022 mannequin for the aim of this writeup after saying its deliberate updates for 2023 XC40 lineup. The adjustments are of just about no consequence within the context of this overview, as most of them serve to catch the usual XC40 as much as the Recharge mannequin, which was already geared up with Volvo’s newest goodies, together with Google’s new Android Automotive infotainment suite. There are some aesthetic updates (ooooooh, new fog gentle trim!) however nothing actually noteworthy.

Whereas the XC40 is supposed to enchantment to a extra crossover-minded purchaser, it and the C40 are just about similar. Whereas Volvo gives pared-down variations of its EV powertrain in different markets, America will get solely the “Twin” variants of every, named thusly for his or her pair of electrical motors. Nope, no bargain-priced FWD-only fashions right here. From the $54,645 (vacation spot included) base mannequin on up, you get 402 horsepower, 486 pound-feet of torque and all-wheel drive.

It being a Volvo, every thing inside is somewhat bit completely different (maybe only for the sake of being so) however with out being Saab ranges of bizarre. Take the time-tested strategy of turning the automotive on, for instance. There isn’t a key nor begin button; Volvo’s electrics are simply on by default. If you happen to’re within the automotive and the hot button is current, you’re stay. Put it in no matter gear you want and set off in your means. While you’re executed, put it in park, get out, lock the door and, ought to you could or need to, plug it in.

Whereas that will appear superficially unconventional, it’s essentially a really Volvo factor to do. There are those that select to imagine that Tesla deserves credit score for normalizing minimalism in automotive interiors. That’s a neat concept, however Volvo’s been doing it higher for longer — and never as a disguise for being low cost. Eliminating the on/off change appears very on-brand for an organization whose cabins have lengthy resembled that one part of the Ikea maze the place the school youngsters can’t even afford to window store.  

If something, the XC40 Recharge and the C40 each lean somewhat too far in that course. The 2 are just about indistinguishable from the within, which is neither right here nor there, however frankly it could be good to see a bit extra of the refined flex Volvo has historically displayed in its cabin supplies and design. The electrics come off a bit underspecified and barren by comparability. The usual XC40 will get a go at $38,000; north of $50,000, not a lot.  

Underway, the XC40 prompts flashbacks to Autoblog’s now-departed long-term S60. Newer examples of the T8-powered mannequin are actually marketed beneath Volvo’s electrical “Recharge” sub-brand (a nod to the truth that just about something with a plug qualifies as an electrical automotive for the needs of most world authorities rules) and for higher or for worse, the affiliation is greater than nominal. Each provide crisp, pressing acceleration; snug, well-isolated cabins; and competent however not significantly aggressive dealing with — extra on that later. The massive distinction is that there’s no coarse, twice-force-inducted four-cylinder beneath the XC40’s hood threatening the serenity of your cruise; simply two mighty highly effective electrical motors.

That’s a superb steadiness for a luxurious car, which is exactly the place Volvo leans. Polestar exists for a motive, proper? However as fast as even mid-tier electrical motor acceleration could be, there’s a priority that they’re able to outrunning their very own chassis, so to talk. Just like the S60, the XC40 Recharge carries its heft gracefully, however that may catch you out in the event you get somewhat too daring. In each circumstances, their straight-line velocity suggests a efficiency pedigree that their brakes aren’t actually ready to deal with.  

What qualifies as “mid-tier” on the earth of electrified energy? Attempt a 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds. Yeah, this ain’t your grandpa’s Volvo. That is an empty nester’s grocery hauler with the accelerative capabilities of a midrange pony automotive and a 70-0 stopping distance that may very well be put to disgrace three-row, body-on-frame SUV. Let’s be clear; that’s an EV downside, not a Volvo downside, nevertheless it’s illustrative of the broader challenges concerned in assembly the expectations of EV consumers (and perhaps a number of spoiled journalists) who nonetheless have Plaid expectations to go along with their in any other case argyle sensibilities.  

Put one other means, Volvo is coping with the basic tuner’s dilemma on a mass manufacturing scale. Like your goofy neighbor’s V8-swapped 850, the XC40 Recharge has far more energy than it must carry out its supposed mission. If you happen to look strictly at its straight-line efficiency, you’d assume the Volvo might dangle with a BMW X3 M, and it’s simple to be lulled into driving it like one.

For instance, what occurs while you encounter some corners. The XC40’s model of “competent” dealing with must be contextualized a bit. The “XC” in its title is Volvo shorthand for “cross nation,” so irrespective of how conspicuously hatchback-like it might seem, that is being marketed as a CUV. Although solely a hair increased off the bottom than the C40 “coupe”, the XC40 feels extra upright and carries extra weight up prime in its more-pronounced roof. It leans with even a touch of steering enter and in the event you take it too sizzling right into a nook, its nearly-5,000-pound curb weight turns into quickly obvious. It’s a straightforward mistake to make and also you’ll most likely solely make it as soon as — hopefully with none significant penalties.

After a while within the XC40, the worry that electrified automobiles will normalize cheap-looking interiors fades. The inside is without doubt one of the XC40’s greatest attributes, even when a tad too minimal. The priority that persists is how shortly they may normalize quick acceleration. Electrical automobiles symbolize a paradigm shift in how we contextualize automotive efficiency. 20 years in the past, efficiency like this in a luxurious SUV would have been reserved for the elite. Now, it’s yours for just a few grand greater than the typical transaction worth of a brand new automotive.

As hefty as these electrical Volvos could also be, the true elephant within the room is (and shall stay, at the very least for the short-term) Tesla. The Mannequin Y Efficiency gives measurably extra energy and the Lengthy Vary completely spanks the Volvo in one-charge driving distance (318 miles to 223); even the sporty Polestar 2 with its dual-motor powertrain gives 246. Neither the Volvos nor Polestar boasts a Supercharger community, both. However Tesla’s current spate of worth hikes have lifted the Mannequin Y out of discount territory. Certain, you’ll get extra, however you’ll be paying a $20,000 premium (at the very least) for the pleasure.  

On the different finish of the spectrum, Hyundai and Kia provide Ioniq 5 and EV6 variants that creep into the XC40’s worth bracket. Although providing superior vary and comparable 0-60 instances, the Volvo’s 82-horsepower and 40-foot-pound benefit make it that a lot punchier when passing at velocity, the place energy issues greater than absolutely anything else. Till the Mercedes EQB arrives (we’ll be getting our first drive within the coming days), the XC40 will not have a direct rival, which means comparisons for now would be the imperfect kind seen above.

This is probably not grandpa’s thought of a Volvo, nevertheless it positive is mine. It’s energy with out pretension and luxurious with out largesse. Just like the S60 we loved a lot, the XC40 bears the issues one would count on from an early effort, however the shopper who can stay with its disappointing vary figures will discover the XC40 Recharge’s brisk acceleration and basic Volvo sensibilities equally endearing. Disgrace it’s so heavy.

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